The history of the term "empathy" (translated from the German word Einfuhlung, that means feeling into) started over 100 years ago, introduced by the psychologist Edward Titchener.
Empathy is a complex psychological influencing social interaction; it plays a role in the understanding of other's feelings, suffering and behavior, and significant linking with compassion. It is a motivated phenomenon that allows people to connect emotionally, mainly by sharing experiences and feelings.
Although divergences of studies, increased neural responses in the Anterior Insula is associated with the empathic activity.
Be more empathic or less empathic is the capacity of an individual to identify and share other's emotions, and the objective of measuring empathy is to identify and share the target emotional state.
The Empathic Accuracy Task (EAT) can be used to measure empathic accuracy and can be applied in both group or individual sessions to avoid the affect sharing of participants.
Influence of Empathy on the healthcare team and delivery
When a healthcare professional deals with the patient empathetically, there happens an emotional contagion, involving mainly the subcortical brain structures, that is defined by the sharing of emotional states, influencing for good or bad. This influence is not only determined by the words chosen but also by facial expressions, body language, and vocalization. This emotional connection is invaluable in current day healthcare delivery to achieve the best patient-provider relationship.
As empathetic behavior by providers gets modulated by motivation, health care providers should also have empathic support from their institutions to deliver the same high-quality care for the patients.
Proper Evaluation of Empathy
The characterization and identification of the mechanisms, socio-cognitive, involved at empathy and emotions can lead to the improvement of cognitive neuroscience research and clinical treatments.
Clinical significance of Empathy:
Increasing Empathy in your practice:
Cognitive empathy makes us better providers, modulated by motivation. There are many motivational triggers to increase empathy; those strategies apply to the interprofessional team and patient's care and is achievable by regular and thoughtful training.
These kinds of modulations can increase patients satisfaction and improve the diagnostic process and treatment outcome.
Disorders of Empathic/Vicarious Experience
Disturbance in an appropriate empathic/vicarious response can be associated with some disorders:
This condition can also occur with neurocognitive disorders such as:
Education and training by various seminars showed to be effective in training medical students for empathic communication; therefore training of health care professionals is essential to prepare them for excellent patient care.
Empathy for nursing is describable as both a human trait and a professional state. Empathy plays a vital role in decision making to deliver patient-centered care.
Understanding and Educating
As empathic responses may be dysfunctional in patients with Alzheimer disease and frontotemporal dementia, the professional that deals with these patients need to be trained/educated to understand empathic behavior and deliver proper care for these specific cases.
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