Teaching empathy: Video begins training for troubled psychiatry unit

The video opens with a quote from Henry David Thoreau: “Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?’’

It goes on to show the many people who make up a busy hospital community, each with a tagline explaining what they are facing that day. At one point the camera pans to an elevator to show an older man whose wife just had a stroke, a hospital employee recently divorced, and a doctor who just found out he is going to be a father.

The video’s message is a sweet one, really. As one YouTube commenter put it, it’s hospital meets humanity. That’s why the video, produced by the Cleveland Clinic and called “Empathy: The Human Connection to Patient Care,’’ has made the rounds on Facebook and other social media networks in recent months.


But is it powerful enough to prompt a cultural shift in a hospital unit where state inspectors found workers were completely apathetic to patient needs? Or perhaps the bigger question is, can you teach empathy?

I reported in today’s Globe that state inspectors found squalid conditions and patient neglect during a May 23 surprise visit to Quincy Medical Center’s geriatric psychiatry unit. The unit was temporarily closed to new admissions, and the hospital replaced at least two managers, including the medical center’s head of nursing.

President Daniel Knell said the remaining staff of the unit is going through a series of training sessions about empathy, starting with watching the video. “A change in culture among unit staff is paramount,’’ he wrote in a June 11 letter to the state that was sent one day after the Globe filed a records request on the matter.

Watch the video, then share your thoughts. Can it help caregivers to think differently?

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