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For most of his career Dr. Stephen Trzeciak not on the "delicate Feely" side of the medicine. A specialist in intensive care and a senior physician at Cooper University Health Care, Camden, New Jersey, Trzeciak felt best in the hard sciences.
Then came his new boss, dr. Anthony Mazzarelli, to him with a problem: Recent studies have shown that burnout epidemics have occurred among health care providers. As co-president of Cooper, Mazzarelli was responsible for a significant medical system and had to find ways to improve patient care.
He had a mission for Trzeciak – he wanted him to find answers to this question: Can the treatment of patients with medication and compassion have a measurable impact on the well-being of patients and doctors?
Trzeciak was not convinced. Sure, compassion is good, thought Trzeciak, but he expected to review the existing science and report the bad news that caring has no quantitative reason. But Mazzarelli was his colleague and boss, so he dived in.
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After considering more than 1,000 scientific abstracts and 250 research papers, Trzeciak and Mazzarelli were surprised when they answered: Yes. As healthcare providers take time to establish human connections that help stop suffering, patient outcomes improve and medical costs drop. Among other things, compassion relieves pain, improves healing, lowers blood pressure and helps with depression and anxiety.
In Their New Book Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Reality That Caring Make a Difference Trzeciak and Mazzarelli present a research that shows the benefits of compassion and how to learn it. A study they cite shows that when the patients received a message of empathy, kindness and support that lasted only 40 seconds, their anxiety diminished measurably.
But compassion does not matter Not only the recipients, Trzeciak and Mazzarelli, are convinced of that. University of Pennsylvania Wharton School researchers found that when people spent time doing good for others (by writing a encouraging note to a seriously ill child), it actually changed their perception of time, making them feel had to have more of it.
For doctors, this issue is crucial. Fifty-six percent say they have no time to be empathetic.
"The evidence shows that when you invest time in other people, you actually feel that you have more time or that you are not in such a hurry," says Trzeciak. "So if 56 percent say they do not have time in this poll, they're probably thinking of everything."
The good news is that the same study, in which physicians found they had no time for empathy, also showed that a short training in the neuroscience of empathy led physicians to interact with patients in some way , which is classified by patients as empathic.