CHICAGO -- Even with advances in medical technology
and treatment breaking new ground practically every day, a new study shows
consumers adamantly believe that healthcare delivered with a personal touch --
compassion -- is a critical component in healing.
A remarkable number of consumers -- 95 percent -- surveyed by Chicago's
Swedish Covenant Hospital agree that compassion aids in the healing process,
and 88 percent see compassion as an important or very important aspect of
"Medicine is both a science and an art," said Bruce Silver, MD, president
of the medical staff at Swedish Covenant Hospital. "The science is in the
diagnosis, the treatments and the medications. The art involves the manner in
which this care is personally delivered by doctors, nurses and others in our
The significant role compassion plays in healthcare is underscored by the
finding that nearly six out of 10 believe such caring behavior either speeds
up the healing process (cited by 36 percent) or helps/is necessary for healing
(22 percent). Another 20 percent state that compassionate care improves the
emotional state of patients, while 17 percent believe it shows someone
cares and 10 percent feel it motivates you to get better.
"We have to treat the 'whole' patient and, in my mind, compassion has a
very positive effect on the healing process, as well as the patient's length
of stay in a hospital," added Silver. "Any positive motivators are so
important to a patient's recovery. I have no doubt that letting the patient
know you're concerned and demonstrating that you truly care have a direct
impact on that patient's recovery."
What type of specific behaviors in the healthcare setting did respondents
rate as most compassionate? Ranked above all others is treating patients with
dignity, cited by 84 percent as a "very compassionate" trait. Other actions cited as very compassionate include caring about you as a
person (74 percent), followed by showing concern for questions/worries (70
percent), keeping you informed (69 percent), paying attention to
special/personal needs (62 percent), respecting cultural/racial/religious
needs (62 percent), spending time with patient (61 percent) and hospital staff
working together to care for you (61 percent).
In addition to actions, those polled were asked to define compassion as it
relates to healthcare by selecting words they feel best describe the behavior. Eight adjectives were cited most frequently: genuine, kind, caring,
comforting, sensitive, attentive, empathetic and trustworthy.
"When I define compassion, I think of the golden rule," said Mary Shehan,
RN, MSN, vice president of nursing at Swedish Covenant Hospital. "You should
treat people how you want to be treated. We have to remember the person in the
bed and anticipate any needs before the patient even realizes that something
"The findings in our survey reinforce in a very significant way why
hospitals must always be committed to bringing the human touch to patient care
in addition to offering the remarkable technology available today," said Mark
Newton, Swedish Covenant Hospital's chief executive officer. "Practitioners
and facilities dedicated to listening to patients and treating them with the
utmost respect will be the most successful in all aspects of care."
Some 301 adults from households in Swedish Covenant's service area on
Chicago's North and Northwest Side were surveyed. The households that
participated in the telephone survey, conducted by an independent research
firm, were selected at random from the 14 ZIP codes that cover the hospital's
primary and secondary service areas. Overall survey results have a margin of
error of five percentage points.
Swedish Covenant Hospital is a comprehensive healthcare facility providing
health and wellness services to the communities of Chicago's north side.
Source: Swedish Covenant Hospital