I picked up a new book at the bookstore last month because the title caught my eye – Compassionomics – The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference. My personality lends itself to an internal response of – “Well, duh! That’s a no brainer!” But my internal scientist was curious! I’d like to see that scientific evidence! Well it turns out that these 2 doctors – Stephen Trzeciak (a research physician specializing in intensive care medicine) and Anthony Mazzarelli (an emergency medicine physician, lawyer, and bioethicist) – set out to gather all the scientific data they could find to linking compassionate care with healthcare outcomes. They wanted to answer the question – Does treating patients with more compassion really matter in measurable ways or is it simply a moral imperative? And what they found is truly powerful stuff.
Compassion matters! Compassion really matters! It matters for patients! It matters for health care providers! It matters for our world! Dr’s Trzeciak and Mazzarelli believe that the most pressing problem of our time is the compassion crisis! The book resonates with me on many levels – as physician, a business owner and employer, as a parent and as a human being.
Here’s the thing – I believe I am a compassionate person. Maybe that’s even why I chose to be a physician. But compassion has not necessarily been on the forefront of my mind when I show up to work every day. Until reading this book, I guess I believed compassion was an innate character trait residing in my heart – the authentic desire to help relieve another person’s pain or suffering. Now, I believe compassion is also an actionable item that can be practiced. And must be practiced intentionally because it positively changes givers and receivers in meaningful and measurable and transformative ways.
Here’s my very personal example. After reading about a study which showed that the number of hugs a person received over a 14 day period directly correlated to their ability to fight off the common cold, I decided to do my own ad hoc experiment – where upon arrival to my office every morning, I began seeking out each person on my staff to give them a hug, with the idea that I will measure employee absences for sickness over time and see for myself if it makes a difference.
On a side note, while I believe that I am compassionate, I would not typically call myself a “hugger.” In fact, it makes me a little uncomfortable. Sometimes, in the beginning, when I would arrive at work, I would sit in my car and literally give myself a pep talk to be able to enter the office and start the hugs. After a few weeks, I cannot imagine starting the day any other way. My staff seems to love it (or tolerate it) and no one runs the other way when they see me coming! But what’s more fascinating to me – has been my own internal transformation. In giving the hugs (compassion), I am also receiving (compassion). The compassion is transforming. I feel more compassionate toward myself, my family, and my world.
Here’s to transforming healthcare and the world with hugs!
Mazzarelli, Anthony. Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference, Studer Group; 1 edition, 2019.