How to Give Compassionate Care to Your Patients

Female student preparing syringe in operating room

The season of giving has commenced and people everywhere are looking for ways to join in the self-sacrificing spirit. But those working in healthcare give their time and compassion to their patients in every season! Delivering care with compassion and empathy is vital to all healthcare workers, regardless of their specific field. This is especially important, though, for certified anesthesiologist assistants (CAAs) as the entire field of anesthesiology is based around the compassionate act of alleviating the pain associated with surgery. CAAs need to be very aware of their patient’s situation and comfort level before, during, and after the operation. In this article, we will share some advice on how to show fellow feeling for your patients.

1. Practice good manners.

Of course health professionals always strive to be polite, but sometimes in an emergency or an otherwise rushed situation, this can be difficult. Anxiety can be contagious, so it is important to be calm in front of your patient. Be sure to give them a warm smile. Make eye contact when speaking with them. Even if the clock is ticking, avoid rushed body language such as foot tapping or rapid-fire pen clicking. Also, every time you meet a new patient or a new member of the patient’s family, introduce yourself and briefly explain what you do. Open communication and positive body language are fundamental to establishing trust.

2. Show personal interest.

Making light conversation about a patient’s life is another way to establish trust. CAAs are usually with their patients while they are unconscious. Even so, there may be opportunities while taking patient history or when checking in after surgery to learn a little bit about their life. You can sometimes notice little details about a person by their jewelry or other personal effects that they may have brought with them that day. Does their necklace contain their birthstone? Are they reading a book that looks fascinating? Mentioning items like these can be a great conversation starter. Some patients will feel more at ease when you make a little small talk as it takes their mind off of the surgery for a moment.

Additionally, be an interested listener. If they share a personal story, pay attention. They may mention family members or pets. Ask them further questions about them. Your patient will have an overall more positive experience if they feel like they are treated more like a friend and less like a number in a database.

3. Take the time to think about what they have been through.

Knowing about a person’s background can help to eliminate miscommunications. For example, unless the patient is a medical professional as well, they are not likely to understand certain medical terminology. You will likely want to describe the anesthesia process in everyday language instead.

Sometimes patients may seem rather irritated and a little less than friendly. Understanding what may be going on in their life may explain why they are acting that way and help you to not take it personally or to respond in kind. Perhaps they have been feeling sick for a while now and they are tired of feeling this way. Maybe the hospital has been backed up and they have been waiting for a long time. Also, when you take their patient history, you may find out that this is their first surgery. Imagine for a moment what their situation is like and that will help you to respond appropriately to their feelings. This leads us to our next point.

4. Always acknowledge their feelings.

It only takes a few seconds to express your empathy. It is often best to use “I understand” phrases rather than “I know” statements. Even if you have been in the patient’s exact health situation, you should avoid the phrase, “I know how you feel.” That can cause some to feel dismissed, rather than empathized with. A statement more along the lines of “I understand that this is a difficult situation and I can only imagine how you must feel,” would be better to say. Additionally, saying, “I’m sorry,” can be appropriate at times. Did something delay their surgery? Apologize for the wait time even if it is not directly your fault. If they express pain, say, “I’m sorry to hear that.” Quick expressions of empathy will help increase their comfort level.

5. Lastly, take time to care for your own emotional needs.

Healthcare providers have needs, too. Compassion fatigue can be common amongst those who help others everyday. The best way to avoid compassion fatigue is to give a little time to yourself. Plan a relaxing vacation or even a cozy “stay-cation.” Proper sleep and nutrition will provide your brain with what it needs to cope with stress. If you are busy, even just a little time out of your daily schedule for exercise can help promote stress relief and general happiness. Also, cultivating a creative hobby like painting or journaling may help get some emotions off of your chest. Finally, never underestimate the power of confiding in a close friend or a trusted coworker. Sometimes receiving a sympathetic ear is just what you need to get back out there and improve lives, one patient at a time.

We hope you found this list helpful! Are you a seasoned CAA yourself? Let us know how you like to demonstrate compassion to your patients or what you do to relieve stress by sending us a message at


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