The pediatrician finds a direct correlation between effective use of empathy and success rate in diagnosis. There are several discussions on-going in the medical community regarding this issue. One such article depicting the nature of empathy in the practice is here. Let us consider the difficulty associated with communicating with children. If we think that communication failures are rampant amongst adults, then the failures must be catastrophic when adults attempt to communicate with children. We must deduce that diagnosis success rates are quite high among pediatricians though. If not then the profession would have become extinct years ago. We can even find websites touting the top rated children's hospitals. How do they do it?
Let us rewind our memory to a recent visit with a pediatrician. How did it go? What was the communication approach with the child? A good pediatrician is well schooled on the function and benefit of empathic discourse. It is very likely that the conversation with the child transpires like so. The child is asked a very general question such as, "How are you feeling?" The child will respond with a generic answer, perhaps, "Ok, I guess." Here is where empathy is engaged. Clearly the child is probably nervous and remains unsure about how to explain their ailment. An empathic response from the pediatrician will yield more details if successfully implemented. However, if probing is instituted at this point, we are likely to confuse the child and we will get our selves trapped in a yes/no question-answer contest.
Inside the child's mind resides the ability to self-direct us to key symptoms, which reveal the likely root cause. If the pediatrician repeats back in their own words what the child has stated, then we allow the child to open up a bit more. In the example above we find that a satisfactory response to the child might go like so, "So, you guess that everything is ok with you." Now the child has an opportunity to reflect and respond. This time however, we expect a more specific response such as, "Well, everything is ok, except for my stomach?" Now we are on the road to success. If we continue on this path of repeating back to the child the problem in our own words, then we expect to receive progressively more detailed responses. With children though anything can happen and other techniques are likely developed to complement empathy. Think though how quickly a medical professional gets the information desired, all this through empathy. With adults we should find that cloudy barriers of descriptive ability are diminished. Therefore, how much more successful could our communication with fellow adults become with this application of empathy?
Copyright © Robert Clinton Chedester 2013