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A Message from Your Council: being kind is addictive—in a really good way

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April Messenger 2021, Council | Posted April 8, 2021

By Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti, CPSA Council President

A 1887 work of art by Sir Luke Fildes says it all when it comes to kindness. Called The Doctor, this painting captures in no uncertain terms the most important care a Victorian physician could offer a sick child: kindness and compassion.

Image source: https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/fildes-the-doctor-n01522

Fast forward hundreds of years to 2021 and imagine recapturing those occasionally-overlooked values of kindness, paired with our amazing armamentarium of medical knowledge, medication, diagnostic tests and imaging, and surgical treatments.

Patients come to us with great expectations of an accurate, timely diagnosis and subsequent treatment. Imagine if patients were also consistently met with genuine acts of kindness from all healthcare team members. A simple smile, an encouraging word or an attentive interaction helps a patient feel better as they embark on their journey to better health. Kindness immediately releases an endless, wonderful flood of endorphins, from serotonin to oxytocin, that make people feel really good.

In fact, research has been conducted that says if a physician engages in three acts of kindness in a patient interaction, it significantly reduces the likelihood of a complaint. As an ER physician, the following is an example of three acts of kindness I’ve used when interacting with patients. When a patient arrives with abdominal pain, I initiate the interaction by apologizing for their wait. Next, I show empathy about the pain they’re experiencing by acknowledging that it’s difficult to be in pain. After ordering tests, I reassure the patient that the results give a better sense of what the issue is so I can help them feel better. These three comments are simple, but can make a world of difference to the patient when receiving care.

I believe humans are hardwired to be kind—it is our natural tendency. But unless practised, we can lose this innate tendency. The good news is the more we consciously practise kindness, the more likely we are to become addicted to it for the betterment of our health and that of those around us. Kindness has been shown to ease anxiety and has a cardioprotective effect that can lower our blood pressure to help us to live longer and happier lives.

These are the reasons why CPSA is embarking on an initiative to highlight and support being kinder to ourselves and to each other. We will be joining a worldwide movement in healthcare to recommit to kindness and compassion, and I’m challenging each of you to look for opportunities to help others through kindness.

Over the coming year, I invite you to share your stories of kindness that left you and your patients feeling good about the care they received. Please submit your stories, with a photo if possible, to info@cpsa.ab.ca and post them to social media using #AlbertaKindness and tagging @CPSA_CA.

The Dalai Lama said it best: “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

8 Responses

  1. Michel Sauve says:

    I love your oped Dr. Francescutti. It’s beautifully written. It mixes science and the arts, and it speaks to the head and the heart. It was Dr. Aidan Halligan who said you get your authority from how much you care, Thank you for caring enough to launch this invitation.

    • Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti says:

      Hi Dr. Sauve, thanks for writing in. I’m glad you liked my article. As physicians, it’s so important we remember the human side of providing care, and that’s exactly what this initiative intends to do. Dr. Halligan is one of the most amazing physicians I’ve ever known and I believe the world would be a better place if everyone tried to be more like him. He sadly passed away far too soon.
       
      I look forward to hearing stories of kindness in care from across our province. If you demonstrate kindness in your practice, please make sure to tell us about it. Take care and all the best!

  2. Muriel Solomon says:

    I like this!
    Yesterday while I was doing virtual care, I encountered a patient who was having panic attacks. An immigrant woman, she had suffered domestic violence, had a child with C.P. and had just found out that her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
    I taught her deep breathing relaxation over the phone and set up a follow up appointment for her.
    At the end of the session, I really felt I had accomplished something!

    • Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti says:

      Hi Dr. Solomon, thanks for writing in to share your experience. It’s truly amazing how infectious kindness can be—not only did you provide support and care for your patient during a difficult time, but the simple act of being kind and taking time for your patient helped you as a care provider feel good, too. I hope that kindness catches on and we hear more stories like yours from across the province! Make sure to submit your story to CPSA’s kindness initiative webpage. Thank you and take care.

  3. Charlotte Jane Alabaster says:

    Kindness is a powerful thing and it doesn’t cost anything but changes everything. Love the direction CPSA is taking on this.

    • Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti says:

      Hi Dr. Alabaster, thanks for reading my article and taking the time to comment. You’re absolutely right that kindness costs nothing to give, but makes a big and lasting impact, especially for patients seeking care. If you demonstrate kindness in your practice, please make sure to tell us about it. Take care and all the best!

  4. Rukhsana Ameen says:

    Kindness is the first therapeutic goal when you show empathy with your eyes, words, and supportive hands, patients hopes started for recovery.
    you are the only one to solve the issue there and then. Analyze social determinants of a patient, how they are affecting on disease progress, your analysis, and kind attitude, words
    break the chain of progression. Dr. Francescutti, I had a learning experience in ER with you
    many years ago.

    • Dr. Louis Hugo Francescutti says:

      Hi Dr. Ameen, thank you for sharing your perspectives on kindness with me. Kindness is such an important part of providing patients with good, compassionate care and can truly make an impact on their patient experience. If you demonstrate kindness in your practice, please make sure to tell us about it. Nice to hear from you again and I hope you are doing well.

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