Written by Clay Smith
Showing compassion to patients in the ED with a life threatening emergency reduced the odds of PTSD at one month.
Why does this matter?
It is hard to help and support our patients when we are hurting as physicians. Aspects of burnout include emotional exhaustion and feelings of cynicism and detachment from work. Physician (clinician) wellness is important not only for ourselves; it’s important for patient care. Here is yet another way that taking care of ourselves emotionally can help our patients in their own healing process.
To Do List: 1) Do not give my patients PTSD…
This was a prospective observational study of adult patients in the ED with a life threatening emergency. They assessed whether the provider’s compassion, assessed on a validated CARE scale, was associated with subsequent PTSD in patients a month after discharge. They enrolled 113 patients, 25% of which had PTSD a month out. After adjusting for confounders, they found a statistically significant decrease in PTSD in patients who perceived their healthcare provider to be compassionate, aOR 0.93 (95% CI, 0.89-0.98). I am going to state this a different way: the way you treat people touches them deeply. Your compassion has a quantifiable impact on how your patients recover from the emotional trauma of a life threatening emergency. They won’t forget how you made them feel, how you cared about them as a person, and how you helped them feel less afraid. Granted, the effect size wasn’t huge. But this is something that costs us nothing and is the right way to treat people anyway. And it shows, yet again, the importance of investing in physician/clinician wellness.
Sound Physicians did a podcast on this article with co-author and “compassionomics” expert Dr. Stephen Trzeciak.
Healthcare provider compassion is associated with lower PTSD symptoms among patients with life-threatening medical emergencies: a prospective cohort study. Intensive Care Med. 2019 Jun;45(6):815-822. doi: 10.1007/s00134-019-05601-5. Epub 2019 Mar 25.
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Reviewed by Thomas Davis