More Than Kindness: The Importance of Compassion in Healthcare

Healthcare is built upon compassion and a belief system of helping others. While compassion may manifest in a variety of ways, it is understood to be among the core virtues expected from healthcare professionals. However, in an environment where burnout runs rampant, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by stress, guilt, and fatigue. The longer this lasts, the more we start to feel removed from the reasons we were drawn to practicing medicine in the first place.


This is where compassion comes in.


When most of our days are spent taking histories, doing exams, processing information, and coordinating care – it can be challenging to respond to the needs of our team members and our patients. As leaders seeking to deliver quality care, we must understand the role that compassion plays in our journey as healthcare professionals.


Why is compassion important in healthcare?

Compassion plays a crucial role in our relationships with peers and patients. Having someone to turn to through the inner struggles of self-doubt has been proven to deepen the engagement of work and align “values with professional duties, increasing one’s sense of purpose” through self-discovery¹. Compassion is also associated with improved healthcare provider-patient relationships, higher patient satisfaction, reduced patient anxiety, and improved stress response.


So how do we begin to become more compassionate in the workplace? You can start with the language you use when talking with your peers. Practicing compassionate care is all about understanding what others are going through. Here are some positive healthcare coaching tips that you can use to extend compassion to those around you:

1. Make yourself available. Presence matters. Do you find yourself with your head down all day, absorbed in your own work? Do you pay attention to the words you say and your body language? Think about how your peers and colleagues may interpret that. You come off as too busy and detached from what really matters, building your team for success. Yes, everyone is busy with their own workload, but to be an effective leader and coach, availability to your team should be at the forefront. You can’t know what’s going on or who’s struggling when you’re not present. Great leaders take notice of what’s going on around them.

2. Be mindful of your tone. Reflect on moments in your own career when you needed help and a listening ear. Your tone and the words you use affect what your colleague takes away from the conversation and how it makes them feel. Did your language consist of encouraging words that relayed compassion and made them feel heard? Think about a time when you were struggling or when you needed some words of encouragement or advice. What could your mentor have done better? Is there something you wish they would have said? Did they acknowledge how you felt? Did they make you feel better?As a leader, you can show compassion by building up your colleagues. Recognize and tell them what they do well and offer advice from your own experiences when they’re struggling. Making a person feel good about themselves and letting them know they’re doing great fosters a safe and encouraging environment. It’s a domino effect. When people feel good, they make others feel good.

3. Be in tune with those around you. Take a look around you. Notice the facial expressions of your peers. Go up to them and ask them how they’re doing. It’s as simple as that. When someone is feeling overwhelmed and they feel compassion from their peers, they are more than likely to communicate what they are going through. Good leaders take notice of their colleagues and make them feel seen and heard. 

Why is it important to show compassion?

Practicing compassion as a team improves teamwork and enhances the patient experience. When people feel good, they treat others the way they are feeling. Compassion is contagious and serves as food for the soul. It brings joy and contentment while reducing attrition. Remember that in order to provide compassionate care to patients, the team should also feel it from each other. What are some ways your team conveys compassion? Let us know in the comments below or on LinkedIn and Twitter.

¹ Gazelle, G., Liebschutz, J. M., & Riess, H. (2014, December 20). Physician burnout: Coaching A way out – journal of general internal medicine. SpringerLink. Retrieved September 26, 2022, from

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