Kindness in healthcare

10 November 2021

This Saturday 13 November 2021 is World Kindness Day. Kindness is defined as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. Kindness is more than simply being nice and it does not mean being soft or a pushover. Being kind is to intentionally take action or speak up and requires strength to go beyond doing what is expected, even when this is the difficult option. The aim of kindness is to heal, serve and resolve situations with integrity and care.

Kindness benefits us and those we encounter as it brings a psychological reward through an endorphin boost. Being kind creates a sense of belonging and is one of the key ways we create, maintain and strengthen our social connections. Self-compassion includes being kind to ourselves by recognising we are human and accepting that we will make mistakes at times.

Kindness is infectious and generates a chain reaction in others when people pay it forward. Kind acts can create a change in culture as they spread within a workplace. Teams that are kind to each other generally function better. Kindness enhances psychological safety and improved communication. Kindness cultivates trust, harmony and innovation. In healthcare, teamwork is essential for good patient outcomes and kindness enhances team collaboration which reduces errors and enables successful treatment.

Healthcare teams must consult the patient in making decisions about treatment options and being open and honest with patients and respecting their views exemplifies kindness. Compassion and kindness are essential to good patient care and enhance recovery. Patients are more likely to remember how you made them feel rather than what you did. Small gestures of kindness can be as simple as spending a few minutes listening to their story, making sure they can reach their meal tray or their water jug, when appropriate touching their hand as a gesture of comfort and taking time to respond to any questions or concerns they have.

While random acts of kindness have their place, in order to change culture in a workplace, including healthcare settings, kindness must be part of the ethos and influence every interaction. Kindness to patients will be inevitable if all interactions between staff display respect and kindness. As individuals if we are kind to others, they will usually respond in a positive way to us. Our kindness must extend to all those we encounter - to the cleaner, to the CEO, to family members, visitors and to patients. Small acts of kindness can include a smile and a greeting as you pass in the hallway; holding a door open with a smile; pushing a wheelchair; noticing if someone seems to be out of sorts and asking if they are OK; providing a “listening ear”; buying coffees for the team; being inclusive; standing up for or supporting a colleague; or tidying up the tearoom.

Some great examples of kindness that have come from medicine and healthcare are described here:

Kay Dunkley
AMA Victoria Coordinator of Doctor Wellbeing



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