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Pre-Matriculation Program Day 3: The Orsini Way

The Art of Empathy-Dr. Orsini Talks About How to Have Difficult Conversations in an Empathetic Way

In the third week of our Pre-Matriculation program, we talked about being empathetic through tough conversations. We also broke down the importance of slowing down interactions with patients as a doctor to create meaningful connections that will help both them and yourself in the long run. Breaking yourself out of task-oriented mindsets will allow you to focus on each patient at a time and maintain your mental health as a healthcare provider. Anthony Orsini led this discussion with us and gave us some great insights on how important creating connections and trust is with your patients.

Dr. Anthony Orsini is a board-certified intensive care physician, author of “It’s All in the Delivery—Improving Healthcare Starting With a Single Conversation,” keynote speaker, podcast host, and the brain behind The Orsini Way.

He began our discussion by sharing his TED talk “How the Human Connection Improves Healthcare.”

It opened up with him discussing how he wanted to be a doctor ever since he was 6. He always had a hunger to learn everything in his field. However, one day, he experienced something that made him realize that medicine is about so much more than science. He lost a baby after rushing him to the hospital and doing everything that they could. When going to tell the father that he had lost his son, his colleague burst out with the information. Later on, he was instructed by that same colleague to never do what he had just done. He shares that from this experience, he realized that medicine, at its core, is truly about the human-to-human interaction between a patient and a doctor. 

As the expenditures for US Health continue to climb, we are witnessing that peoples’ perceptions of their healthcare providers are worsening. With 71% of people reporting their provider lacks compassion, and 73% saying they left the office feeling rushed or as if all of their questions weren’t answered. Further, because of these experiences, 39% said they actually changed providers after leaving the appointment. Doctors and nurses are being told to do more and more work in less and less time and to maximize their efficiency. They are getting burnt out, and their mental health is suffering as a result. Further, patients do not trust them as they see them rushing through appointments without taking the time to make small talk or truly listen to patients’ concerns. 

Dr. Orsini shared that doctors and nurses are reporting the highest rate of suicide among all professions. He shares that he personally has driven home some days with a heavy weight on his chest, feeling dull and depressed. He explained that many people in this profession feel this way due to something he calls “moral injuries.” They can take place on different scales, but they are the little pieces taken from you when you are forced to do something that makes you sacrifice your core values or beliefs. 

Students this week were highly engaging and conversational, asking Dr. Orsini in-depth questions about his experience perfecting communication techniques to combat these issues on both the patient and doctor levels. This group chose leadership positions the moment they decided to take this path in the medical field. They will be tasked to conduct difficult conversations, and they need to exhibit empathy through the tough days of their future profession.

Major Points from the Discussion

Communication is different from information. People need to value training for more than trivial things such as signing in and out correctly; it must also create relationships with patients and build trust.

  • People are saying they get just as accurate results from ChatGPT as their physician. We need to change the experience of going to see physicians so they value it more and see the importance of that human interaction.

  • To gain the trust of a patient or doctor, attempt to establish a good rapport with them. Share something about yourself. Lighten the mood by starting with something personal rather than jumping straight into the medicine.

  • Everyone knows what they do, most know how they do it, but not many know why.  

    • People say they are in medicine to help people, but that is not why. You could’ve done many different things to help people. Why medicine? We do it because we cherish the connection of someone getting better through our partnership.

    • Remembering that “why” will prevent you from getting burnt out. A lot goes on outside, but once you shut that door to talk to a patient, enjoy the moment, and work the way you work.

  • Everyone should be in agreement with those in their life that “sometime today I will get task-oriented, point it out before I spiral”. Catchphrase: “It's all in the delivery”

  • Try to think positively. Change your chemicals. Don’t dwell on the negatives; take one interaction at a time.

  • You can always rationalize not taking the extra 5 minutes to go update a patient because you have other things to do. But take the step to do it as it strengthens your relationship with them and prevents a moral injury. 

  • As a student, start now by treating people as people and not as diseases. Use their names when sharing updates about them. Humanize them.

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