In Hospice Palliative Care we may face the angst of wondering how to approach a topic with patients and family members. I asked our dear colleague Elizabeth Causton to share insights to guide our communication.
Compassionate Communication –
by Elizabeth Causton
- When difficult conversations are accepted as a natural and inevitable part of our work in health care, we can really begin to explore our role in making them easier both for ourselves and for the patients and families we work with.
- Because we bring who we are to every encounter, good communication is less about what we say and more about what we believe. When we gain personal clarity through increased self- awareness we can learn how to use new communication skills with more authenticity.
- The important questions in our work are not so much “what do I need to say?” and “what do I need to do?”, but “what do I need to ask?” and “what do I need to understand?”
- Dr. Eric Cassell maintains that when we try to fix physical pain and distress while ignoring the emotional pain that we cannot change, we risk de-personalizing or invalidating the person before us and may do things that actually cause them harm. Instead of trying to fix or palliate grief, a more appropriate response is often to draw it out, creating a safe and sacred place for it to be expressed.
- Our ability to communicate compassionately is closely tied to our willingness to engage in self -care. When we consciously nurture what is good and wonderful in our own lives, we are much more able to give our time and attention to others from a place of renewed energy and abundance.
- When we respond to hope by acknowledging and supporting the feelings behind the wish, we are freed from the limitations we impose on ourselves when we think we have to either give someone false hope or a large dose of reality.
If you want to engage with Elizabeth on this topic, she will be teaching a three week online course “Compassionate Communication” beginning September 25th.
PS Elizabeth and Kelli Stadjuhar presented their research at the CHPCA conference on integrating a palliative approach in long term care. I am amazed at the strength and potential of participatory research, and as I always am, was so impressed with the role that Elizabeth played in bringing positive inquiry to the project. Way to go!