On compassion… March 21, 2018 by Jamie WestermanCompassion is not a virtue – it is a commitment. It’s not something we have or don’t have – it’s something we choose to practice. Brene Brown As a nurse, compassion is a job requirement. It is likely the reason I chose nursing in the first place. I have always felt compassion for others and wanted to help. There are thousands of jobs that require service to others, but with nursing I could embrace both my compassion for others and my desire to be constantly learning. I love medicine, I love the intricacies of the body, and how fascinating it is that our bodies do what they do. I love the constant challenge of disease processes and finding a solution. I love the nerdiness of my job, but if I didn’t LOVE people and have compassion for them, honestly I would suck at it. I have worked with a lot of medical professionals who love medicine, and in fact are brilliant at it, but struggle with relating to people. Their lack of compassion is the difference between being competent at their job or being AMAZING at it. This past Monday morning I sat down to my desk to see what the day would bring in the rural clinic where I work. I glanced at my schedule then went diligently to the “in basket” of updated notes of my patients who were seen in the ER over the weekend, the results of tests I had ran the previous week, and the emails from my patients with questions or updates. One of my patients who I know well and have seen quite often had sent me a message. He has dealt with many health challenges over the last two years and I so appreciate how active he is in his care. At one appointment, a hunch told me to send him for a referral to a specialty for a minor complaint he had. At the following appointment, the specialty brushed off his concern. My patient came to me asking for a second opinion. I could have reassured him the initial assessment was reliable. I believed that. But because of my compassion for this patient, I granted him the request for the second opinion even just to ease his mind. The message he sent Monday was a thank you. The second opinion led to a cancer diagnosis and the proper treatment the patient needed so he can now say he is cancer free. I don’t tell you this story because I think I am a genius, a miracle worker, or Mother Teresa. I tell you this because I truly believe a little compassion in this world can go such a long way. This is a dramatic example, because my compassion may have saved this person’s life, but small acts of compassion every day could truly save our world. So often we make assumptions about people and situations when all they need is a little grace. The person in front of us at the grocery store who cut in line could be late to her appointment with her child’s oncologist. The telemarketer on the phone who bothered you is likely working to keep a roof over his family’s head. The cranky waitress at dinner may be on hour 11 of a 12-hour shift and aching and tired. Being considerate to these people may be the one bright spot in their day. Have you ever been in a drive-through for a cup of coffee and the person in front of you paid your bill? What is your instant reaction? Oh that’s so thoughtful … then, I will pay it forward and pay the next person’s tab. Compassion and kindness create a domino effect. Give the cranky waitress a big tip or leave her a note thanking her for her service, and maybe she will greet the next table with a smile and a new outlook. Kindly tell the telemarketer no thank you and wish him a great day and maybe he will go home in a better mood and hug his kids tighter. Strike up a conversation in line at the grocery store with the rushed, stressed woman to distract her from the dreaded appointment she has coming, and she may take a breath and be more polite to the next person who crosses her path. In a world where worries and troubles seem to be at an all-time high, bring compassion to the table every time. Let people see your heart and appreciate your kindness so they may bring forward the same in themselves. Cultivate an environment of compassion at home, in your workplace, in every place that you touch. Leave everyone you meet a little better off and watch the ripple effect that follows.