Health care leaders need to remove barriers and offer support to make compassionate care a reality

May 09, 2014

Truly compassionate care can only be achieved when health care leaders make it a priority and remove barriers to patient-centered care, UMass Medical School’s Joyce A. Murphy, MPA, said at The Schwartz Center’s 12th Annual Celebration of Women in Healthcare on May 8.

“We as leaders must embrace and model compassion,” said Murphy, executive vice chancellor of UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division. “We must create the culture and the environment whereby our people can practice patient and family centered care; a place where they are empowered, not impeded, to express and act upon compassion.”

Murphy was one of five female health care leaders to speak at the celebration, held at Tufts Health Plan’s Watertown headquarters. The Schwartz Center is a national nonprofit dedicated to enhancing compassion in health care.

Joyce, a member of the Schwartz Center Leadership Council, was joined by Lawrence General Hospital President and CEO Dianne Anderson, Tufts Medical Center Nursing Supervisor Consuelo Donohue, Dovetail Health Chief of Staff Sharon McNally and Charlotte Yeh of AARP. Robin Young, co-host of Here & Now on WBUR/NPR, served as emcee.

Surveys and focus groups show patients want to be involved in decision making around their own care and they want their providers to listen to them, Murphy told the group.  “They don’t want to be treated like a diseased body part but a whole person, a human being,” she said.

To get there, the current health care delivery system needs to change, Murphy said. The number of primary care practitioners who care for their hospitalized patients is declining.  In a recent survey, 29 percent of patients entering the hospital did not know who would be in charge of their care. Upon discharge, 24 percent reported that they did not know who was in charge of their care. 

Health care leaders need to construct a better framework to support and enhance compassionate care, Murphy said. They must offer training and intervention to caregivers who need to better understand the importance of compassion. Caregivers who already place a strong focus on compassion should be acknowledged and rewarded.   

The Schwartz Center has launched an online petition, Call for a More Compassionate Healthcare System, which asks signers to show their support for a deeper human connection between patients and health care providers.

Photo credit: Randy H. Goodman
Photo Caption: L to R: Charlotte Yeh of AARP, Dianne Anderson of Lawrence General Hospital, Sharon McNally of Dovetail Health, Joyce Murphy of UMass Medical School’s Commonwealth Medicine division, Robin Young of WBUR 90.9 FM, and Consuelo Donohue of Tufts Medical Center.

For more photos from the event, view The Schwartz Center's album on Facebook.