Tuesday, 21 February 2012

E = empathy and asperger nurse

E is for Empathy  or elephants
Not that elephants have got anything to do with empathy but i like them….And the saying ‘there’s an elephant in the room’ always makes me smile for one reason or the other.

So empathy, shall we start with what it is? Well it is defined, as the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another, or the imaginative ascribing to an object.  So in more basic terms its being able to relate and understand emotions of other’s. This was one of the main reasons given when I wasn’t given one nursing job during interview. That people who have Asperger’s lack empathy, which is undisputable a key skill to have in nursing. 

Which  brings me onto the subject of empathy and Asperger’s syndrome, the is a common misconception that With AS you cannot feel empathy, I perceive this to be because of struggles with social communication and emotional interpretation [ such as not being able to read body language and the un-said clues] Research suggests that 85% of ASD individuals have alexithymia, which involves not just the inability to verbally express emotions, but specifically the inability to identify emotional states in self or others. People with Asperger’s so feel and appreciate emotions, and do very much about others emotions, just sometimes they may not ‘get’ what the other person is feeling straight away. Lack of displayed empathy is common; lack of compassion is only as common as in the general public. However un-displayer empathy can be plentiful! Just because we sometimes don’t show it doesn’t mean we don’t feel it

Rogers, suggests that there is a stark difference between cognitive empathy and affective empathy in relation to people with Asperger syndrome.  They discuss that whiles autistic individuals have less ability to assess other feelings, they can demonstrate equal empathy when they are aware of others state of mind.  It has also been noted that AS show a greater response to stress that they witness others experiencing than neuro-typical people do,

One of the nursing websites during a article on empathy toward patients finished with a lift of ways to be more empathetic [as found below] which I read with great interest, after all its an article aimed at neuro-typical people and here they are being given tips on being empathetic, which is weird because as mentioned above, I wasn’t given a nursing job due to the association between AS and Empathy and here we are exploring Normal people lacking empathy. Showing that there is little difference between the two group! As we all can equally misinterpret emotions and lack empathy regardless of any condition or disability.

What can a nurse do to truly be empathetic to patients?
Remember empathy without communication is mind reading
· Listen to patients and allow them to express their feelings
· Reflect back what you hear so they can clarify their thoughts
· Don't be judgmental
· Don't say, "I know how you feel"
· Make eye contact
· Provide education, but don't give advice
· Be knowledgeable about their illness
· Acknowledge their right to feel as they do. This is an essential step in showing you are trying to understand [nursing.advanceweb.com]

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