During turbulent times and an epoch of uncertainty, compassion must be at the forefront of all endeavors and interactions. While much feels out of our control, the way we treat and assist one another is something we have the agency to influence. Empathy is of no cost to us and is a rewarding pursuit that pays dividends.
My name is Tom S. Chang, MD; I’m a retina surgeon and the founder of Acuity Eye Group, the largest ophthalmology organization in the Western United States. As a medical professional, I must practice with attention to compassion and empathy.
I was fortunate to encounter the importance of compassion early on in my career as a physician. During my residency in ophthalmology, I had a patient who became legally blind in one eye the year prior and was suffering from initial stages of wet macular degeneration in her more vision-capable eye. At the time, the science wasn’t there compared to the technological advancements we have today in her treatment options; I was apprehensive in discussing her less than ideal options.
With great trepidation, I laid out the realities of her condition. My 82-year-old patient got down to brass tax and asked what I would do if I were in her unfortunate position. After processing the question, my instinct was to reciprocate the straightforwardness of her inquiry. I told her that I would read as many books as I was able to and experience the faces of all the people I cherished before it was no longer an option.
As tears streamed down her face, she said she appreciated my honesty. That shared moment of humanity, stayed with me the rest of my career. It pushed me to treat conditions to the best of my ability and taught me a lesson in compassion that is at the foundation of how I practice care.
As the Co-CEO of a network of 60 plus facilities, I understand the inner workings of navigating the human component with not only our patients but also to everyone in our organization who lends their talents, dedication, and work ethic to Acuity Eye Group.
Compassion is an action; if you set your sights to leading a team with empathy, kindness will be the standard in your modus operandi. The monotony of daily demand and mundane frustrations can easily detract one from their commitment to infuse compassion in their workplace, but a concerted effort can stem the tides.
The benefits of supportive altruism in the professional setting include stress reduction, maximized employee retention, interpersonal bonds built with steady frameworks, and improved overall physical well-being. Adopt these helpful guidelines and operate with empathy in your work setting.
It starts at the top, practice self-compassion, and preach what you’ve practiced. While the demands of our life’s work may not allow for a hypervigilant focus on self-wellness, it is vital to recognize this and take steps, however small, towards facilitating it. Once you’re able to compartmentalize work, you will find that you can still be a dedicated and relentless leader but in a way that is sustainable for yourself. When you lead with compassion, your team will follow suit.
Take notice of your employee’s physical and mental states. Offer advice, guidance, and most importantly, some to listen to them, if they require it. Being able to assess the stasis of your valued staff members is crucial in crafting a healthy workplace. Emotional intelligence is a critical component of an effective leader. Identifying issues and hearing them out will give them peace of mind and develop a more trusting bond with you.
Be transparent and invite open lines of communication. Fostering a conscious dialogue among co-workers and with you and your colleagues is beneficial to the work environment. Concerns that manifest into resentment are easily more resolvable when discussed healthily. Having an open door and communicating clearly to your staff of significant decisions and implementations is vital in practicing compassion.
Don’t keep people waiting. I’ve often noticed, in reading reviews of other practices and doctors that they give high remarks to the care they received, but low grades overall because they had to wait. People feel unimportant when they have to wait, so I make it a point, perhaps because of my upbringing not to make others, especially my patients, wait if it isn’t necessary.
Recognize your employees and their efforts proudly and to the whole team. Compassion can come in the form of boosting morale. Highlighting members of your company’s strengths will make them feel valued. Their co-workers will join in on the praise and celebration, thus creating a harmonious atmosphere.
While the enterprise is always evolving, people will always be at the core of it. As automation and AI become more prevalent in health care, it’s going to be on the practitioners to make grace a part of the experience. Compassion is self-perpetuating. In the realms of business and the medical sector, it’s a bridge, not a roadblock in effectively reaching shared success. As a leader, if empathy is at the core of your actions, your team will incorporate it into their performance, creating a sustainable milieu, no matter the hardships and circumstances.