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Implementing Empathy


Empathy is the capacity of an individual to feel and understand the emotional state of another individual. In the medical care context, it is a powerful tool for reducing pre- and post-interventional anxiety and psychological stress in patients and staff. In the current societal context, however, human empathy has become a rare commodity, and care personnel (surgeons, nurses, or other) may not feel spontaneously inclined to express empathy, which requires a form of personal investment, without special instructions. The medico-legal framework and new laws on bioethics tend towards increasingly standardized care procedures, with the risk of leaving little if any place for naturally expressed human empathy. Here, we introduce a brief review on primary anxiety and empathy as mutually suppressive, conditioned biopsychological responses. They are universal and grounded in evolution. The pressing need for implementing human empathy in the new upcoming context of pre- and post-interventional medical care is made clear in light of the A.A.C. method (A=Acknowledge, A=Assess, C=Communicate). It consists of three steps that are, in principle, simple to implement. The first step consists of acknowledging (A) the existence of individually variable anxiety levels and psychological stress in patients and staff. The second step consists of assessing (A) these levels individually using Beck’s Anxiety Inventory (B.A.I.). The third step consists of communicating (C) empathically, to an extent that will depend on the results of the anxiety inventory. Steps 1 and 2 may be accomplished by a standardized and computer controlled approach, while step 3 requires managerial motivation and targeted communication.
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hal-02263818 , version 1 (03-10-2020)


  • HAL Id : hal-02263818 , version 1


Birgitta Dresp, K. Kunz. Implementing Empathy. 6ièmes Journées de la Fédération de Médecine Translationnelle de Strasbourg, Apr 2018, Strasbourg, France. ⟨hal-02263818⟩
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