Practicing Empathy in Your Pharmacy

You have direct patient care every day. You’re able to bring comfort to your patients in times of need through empathic care. Feeling empathy towards others allows you to connect with and gain trust from your patients even more. Plus, empathic care leads to better relationships and therapeutic outcomes along with improved patient satisfaction.

When counseling your patients, being empathic means listening to the conversation in its entirety. Hone in on the words, gestures, and feelings of your patients. Let them know you are truly hearing what they’re saying. Empathic care improves patient satisfaction, and pharmacies that practice it achieve better rapport with their patients.

Here are five ways you can show empathy toward your patients:

Show respect

Respect your patients’ beliefs, opinions, and feelings. By showing respect, you will gain their respect in return. Introduce yourself and share your role in their health care. Measure your patients’ comfort before you begin by asking, “Is now a good time for you?” Let patients know that you heard them by restating the information they shared with you.

Encourage patients to open up

When speaking with your patients, ask them to tell you more. If they’re upset, let them know it’s okay to feel that way. Encouraging patients can make them feel more comfortable talking about their condition or asking questions. Don’t rush through the interaction.

Put yourself in their shoes

Imagine that your patients are your family members or friends. How would you talk to them as their pharmacist? Would they be treated differently? Try asking your colleagues for feedback on your empathy skills.

Address patients’ fears

As your patients are describing their symptoms, listen carefully to what they’re telling you to show empathy. Their fear can often change how they share their symptoms with you. When you acknowledge their fear, it can be a lot easier to get an accurate idea about what’s truly going on.

Try different responses

Restate what the patient said by using interchangeable and additive responses. Restating his or her words (an interchangeable response) can show understanding. Here’s how:

Your patient is concerned about a side effect of one of his medications. Your response could be, “It’s common to worry about side effects.” If your patient says, “I feel awful,” you can respond by saying, “You feel really awful?” This makes your patient feel more understood and opens them up to elaborating.

You can also use additive responses, which entail comprehension and an educated guess on what else the patient might worry about. You may have a patient state, “My arthritis is horribly bad. The swelling and pain are just awful each day.” Your additive response could be, “It definitely sounds like your pain is really bad, and you don’t think things will get any better.”

Your additive response gives your patient the chance to either confirm what you said or correct your statement. Both of these responses will give you a better understanding of what your patient is dealing with.

While it’s important to show empathy towards your patients, it’s also vital that you take care of yourself, too. Compassion fatigue is a real, and it can become serious for those working in health care. Some common signs and symptoms include chronic exhaustion, reduced feelings of empathy, dreading work, irritability, anger, trouble sleeping, headaches, and so on. As a pharmacist, you’ll want to protect yourself from this condition by regularly practicing self care. If you think you may be experiencing symptoms of compassion fatigue, you might consider talking with a therapist before it gets worse.

A Member-Owned Company Serving Independent Pharmacies

PBA Health is dedicated to helping independent pharmacies reach their full potential on the buy-side of their business. Founded and owned by pharmacists, PBA Health serves independent pharmacies with group purchasing services, wholesaler contract negotiations, proprietary purchasing tools, and more.

An HDA member, PBA Health operates its own NABP-accredited secondary wholesaler with more than 6,000 SKUs, including brands, generics, narcotics CII-CV, cold-storage products, and over-the-counter (OTC) products — offering the lowest prices in the secondary market.

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