Teaching Students Compassion
Posted May 11, 2015
By Michael Latimer, M.S.R.S., R.T.(R)
As I get ready for the first of two graduation ceremonies that I have on tap for today, I'm pondering the question posted to me for this blog post: "How do I teach compassion to my students?" The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines compassion as “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”
With that definition in mind, I've been thinking about this for some time and discussed this with my wife Nancy, who is a respiratory therapist (the other RT) and program director. We both agree that compassion is not something you can teach. It is something that anyone entering into a health care profession should already have, and I see it as my job to enhance that sense of compassion within the student.
I try to do that by being a role model for students and demonstrating compassion both with patients at the clinical sites and with the students on campus. I remind the students that they may not be having the best day, but they need to put on a happy face whenever they are interacting with patients, show that they care about what is going on with the patients and take care of them in the best way possible. In most cases the patient will be more cooperative and the procedure should go better for both of you.
It is also my job as a gatekeeper to my profession to redirect the efforts of those few students who do not have any compassion into another profession that would be more suited for them – because there are students without any compassion who make it into the program.
So in this graduation season, I congratulate all the spring 2015 graduates and wish you all the best of luck on your board examinations and in whatever future endeavors lie ahead, whether they include additional education and certification or entry into the workforce.