Routine, empathic and compassionate patient care: Definitions, development, obstacles, education and beneficiaries

Stephen G. Post, Lauren E. Ng, Janet E. Fischel, Mary Bennett, Linda Bily, Latha Chandran, Jeremiah Joyce, Briana Locicero, Kelly McGovern, Robyn L. McKeefrey, Jackie V. Rodriguez, Michael W. Roess

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Rationale We believe that this study represents an innovative approach to clarifying the definitions of routine, empathic and compassionate health care, as well as of sympathy. We emphasize the importance of affective empathy and its intensification in the context of patient suffering (compassion), without abandoning the ideal of clinical equanimity. Methods We develop a pedagogical model for clinicians and trainees who are weaker in their empathic skills that includes four levels of growth. We clarify representative obstacles to empathic and compassionate care in education and clinical practice. We summarize the four beneficiaries of empathic and compassionate care (clinicians, patients, trainees, institutions). We suggest areas for future research, including the development of a compassion scale and conclude with a statement on how the conceptual and professional confusion we address adversely impacts patients and trainees. The article represents the consensus work of a group of health care professionals and students at Stony Brook University Hospital and School of Medicine who have been engaged in this project for several years through the Center for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care, and Bioethics, established in August of 2008. Conclusions We discern a shift away from concepts of clinical empathy and compassionate care that deny a significant place for an affective component and that idealize 'detachment'.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)872-880
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • beneficiaries
  • compassionate care
  • developmental levels
  • empathy
  • obstacles
  • professionalism
  • sympathy
  • teaching

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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