Practicing Professionalism Through Compassion

CEO 6: Professionalism: Above all else a graduate of The Ohio State University College of Medicine shall exemplify the ethics, values and behaviors of the medical profession. As such, the graduate must consistently demonstrate compassion, respect, honesty, integrity, accountability, altruism, prudence, social justice, and commitment to excellent in all professional and personal responsibilities.


Professionalism is important to me. Prior to medical school, I worked in my first patient care experience as a nursing assistant. Compassion and empathy in the form of listening to patients tell stories about their lives or helping them to preserve their dignity by helping them change when they became incontinent helped to build trust.  This trust enabled me to provide better care for my patients. It was with this experience, I learned the importance of expressing compassion towards patients.


During my time as a medical student, I have tried to carry through the compassion I learned to express as a nursing assistant. During M1 and M2, I volunteered at La Clinica Latina, a free clinic primarily serving Spanish -speaking patients. One of the nights I was volunteering, there was a patient that presented with depression.   In order to be able to take an accurate and complete history, I had to help build the rapport with the patient. The patient appeared to be sad and tearful. In order to help the patient feel more comfortable, I made sure to respect the patient by making eye contact and carefully listening to what the patient was saying. Subsequently they were able to trust me with the sensitive information about their drug use and suicidal ideation.  I did not act with judgment in this situation, instead I used this information to help the attending develop a plan of care.

La Clinica Latina Website

While on my general medicine mini-internship, I was prerounding on one of my patients.   After we finished talking, she stated she had to use the restroom. I remember wanting to help but being told by a resident that I should page the nurse to help. My yearning for wanting to express compassion through in a manner in which I was accustomed prior to medical school was at odds with my clinical responsibilities as a medical student. I pressed the call light to help the patient and continued rounding on my remaining patients. At this juncture of my training, I was unsure how to incorporate the compassion I wanted to express into my clinical responsibilities.  Being recognized for my professionalism in my evaluations on this service was reassuring, however, I wanted my definition of professionalism to include compassion.






Evaluation from General Medicine Mini-i

I was beginning to think compassion might not be something I could easily express as a medical student.   To my surprise, I was reintroduced to compassion with patients while I was on my ED rotation at OSU East Hospital. and being reminded of the kindness that is so necessary for patient interactions. The patient came in with a suspected dental abscess. The attending and I went to see the patient together. After discussing the plan of care, the attending asked the patient if she wanted water. After leaving the room, the attending asked me to get the patient a glass of water. I was taken aback by this request as I had come to think this was generally a nursing or nursing assistant responsibility.  I obtained the water for the patient and brought it back to her. She was appreciative of this compassionate gesture.


This experience taught me the importance of a small gesture in helping patient care.  While being able to carry out the responsibilities of a physician is important such as forming a plan of care, it is important to remember the way in which that information is delivered is just as important.   The duty to demonstrate compassion is vital in providing comprehensive care and building rapport with the patient.  I also learned that while each member may have a role that they may traditionally fill on the team, it is not above any member on the team to demonstrate compassion.  My definition of professionalism as a soon to be intern, means being able to carry out the responsibilities expected of a physician in a respectable and compassionate manner.


As an intern, I hope to carry forward my expanded definition of professionalism to make patients more comfortable.  Particularly during these times where patients do not have as much access to their families while in the hospital, it is important to demonstrate kindness and compassion to patients. Despite being busy as an intern, I will strive to put forth my best effort to provide the best patient care possible.   I will remember the lessons I learned as a medical student to ensure my patients are treated with compassion by providing small gestures of kindness during our interactions.

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