5 Ways to Increase Your Empathy as a Nurse

  1. Intertwine “texting” or social media posts with live interactions!  Live interactions give us the ability to assess others non-verbal gestures which could prompt various emotions.  Historically, nurses are very astute at reading and assessing non-verbal communication.  Thus, an opportunity to explore the heart, versus solely the written word or virtual posts can facilitate empathy building. For instance, the power of making a human connection through touch or eye contact can be very powerful and therapeutic.  
  2. Reflect on how it might feel to walk in someone else’s shoes.  Someone who may be facing life altering illness, a situational crisis, changes in the family system, and an array of personal challenges or struggles.  How might placing ourselves in any of these “shoes” assist in building awareness, compassion, and mutual respect?
  3. Revisit the meaning of “The Golden Rule”.  The Golden Rule reminds us to treat others the way we would want to be treated.  Typically, young children are exposed to the meaning of the Golden Rule early in life.  Reflecting on the true meaning and associated consequences of the Golden Rule throughout the lifespan can cultivate awareness and possibly evoke memories.  Memories can be very powerful even if they are not entirely positive. So, how can reflection on these types of memories deepen perspective and promote empathy building behaviors in the future?
  4. Implementing the basic facets of the Golden rule can be a catalyst for minimizing bully-like behaviors, toxic interactions and overall negativity.  Combined, the Golden Rule and empathy can promote kindness and compassion for patients, co-workers and everyone else in our lives. This is especially important since nurses interact with diverse and vulnerable populations on a consistent basis.  Essentially, the Golden Rule has universal implications! 
  5. Keep perspective!  The saying “ones perspective is ones reality” is worthy to reflect upon in order to build empathy skills.  I once heard a conference presenter say “Life is 10% of what we make it and 90% of how we take it.”  Thus, how could a difficult work situation shed perspective in a positive versus negative manner?  Difficult work situations include negatively and gossiping, participating in the “rumor mill”, leaning towards bias and judgement without all the facts, etc.