The Importance of Empathy in the Healthcare Industry

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Apr 17, 2019

Apr 17, 2019 • by Rebecca Smith

Healthcare is about more than treating disease, running tests and giving treatment. Its purpose is to heal and offer care to a person.

The importance of empathy goes beyond being a suggestion or luxury. Empathy is essential to providing the best care.

Why is empathy important? What is the meaning of empathy in a healthcare setting? What's the best way how to show empathy and still be professional?

Keep reading for these answers and more as we look at the importance of empathy in the healthcare industry

What is the Importance of Empathy in Healthcare?

It's impossible to know what another person is going through but empathy is a crucial part of understanding how to provide the best treatment and care.

Empathy allows you to connect with another person in their vulnerabilities and to understand or share in their pain or suffering. This can be a valuable gift when working with a patient and their family.

In a healthcare setting, your empathy needs to be therapeutic and clinical, giving you some objective distance from the situation. You can't become emotionally overwhelmed by the difficulties of every patient and their family or you'll burn out.

How Does Empathy Help?

There are many ways that empathy benefits both the healthcare professional and the patient. It can make diagnosis, treatment and provide a wealth of knowledge with every interaction.


Empathy not only motivates a clinician to find the right diagnosis and treatment but makes it easier for them to gather the information they need.

Patients are more likely to open up and be honest with an individual they feel empathy from rather than judgment. You are more likely to relieve fears, promote wellness and avoid conflict by showing empathy for patients and families.

When searching for a proper diagnosis it's often hard to know every factor that should be considered. The more you understand a patient's mindset and motives, the easier it will be for you to connect all the dots so you can run the right tests and find the answers you need.

Treatment and Care

Empathy can help you anticipate and work through any hurdles to treatment. Understanding a patient's reluctance to take medication because it's difficult to get through the day feeling nauseated can make it easier for you to present solutions to help them.

Spending a day blindfolded to gain empathy for patients who lose their sight or being transferred in a ceiling lift to better understand what a patient experiences can help a clinician connect with those they are trying to treat.

Whether the diagnosis is diabetes or addiction, learning the important facts about the struggle of a patient is critical to providing the best care.

A patient who feels understood will be more honest and open. They're more trusting of the advice they receive from an empathetic healthcare provider.

The Importance of Empathy Can Be a Matter of Life and Death

Empathy can make all the difference in how you diagnose, treat, and connect with the patients and families you work with. Nothing you learn in books outweighs the importance of empathy in healthcare.

Whether you're a faculty member, participating in a resident program or you are a new medical student, we're here to help you excel.