Humanity and Empathy in Health Care

handbook for medical professionals

How to communicate with patients and make them partners, deal with difficult situations, and deliver bad news without burning out? This handbook is the first Ukrainian publication to help to add humanity to educating healthcare workers and treating patients.

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The handbook was created fors

of medical schools

facilitators of healthcare workers’ and patients’ peer groups and other communities

medical professionals of all specialties and positions

How and why we decided to create a course on empathy and humanity

For a long time, the Ukrainian healthcare system has been existing in a paradigm of treating diseases, not humans. This system does not consider a patient as a subject, with their feelings and needs, and produces distrust. Both medical personnel and patients with their families suffer from a hostile hospital environment.

In 2020, “A Non-Scary Book on Life, Death, and Everything in Between” was published in Ukraine. This book, written by Anastasiya Leukhina, has built “a bridge” between medical professionals and patients. The book contains dozens of stories of patients, who received bad news about their health, and their loved ones. It shows how interaction with the healthcare system can (not) hurt a person.

The book stories became the cases for discussions — sometimes very lively! — for medical personnel. At that moment, Anastasiya came up with the idea to transform the doctor-patient relations approach already at the stage of medical education. Hence, Anastasiya, with several medical professionals and lecturers and with the support of the Medical Education Development Project, created the handbook on humanity and empathy in health care. The authors used the stories-cases as a basis for its content.

The handbook is not a classical manual. It is full of cases, helpful information, and reflections. It will help to raise a new generation of medical professionals with strong medical communications skills who understand how they benefit from these skills.

Anastasiya Leukhina

consultant of the Medical Education Development Project, trainer and facilitator, founder of Horyzontali NGO, author of “A Non-Scary Book on Life, Death, and Everything in Between,” and lecturer of Kyiv School of Economics.

How you can use the handbook

Take the course as a basis and teach it at your university

Choose any topic and disclose it in your current course

Use handbook content in teaching your classes

View the handbook (Ukrainian edition only)

To get the handbook in pdf, click the button below. Downloading might begin immediately.

Also, you can download dignity checklists for medical professionals and patients, which will help to avoid misunderstandings and build mutual trust.

How the course on humanity and empathy is implemented at Ukrainian medical universities

Bukovinian State Medical University. First story

Three lecturers — Oksana Petrynych, Olena Korotun, and Tetiana Shchurova — became the co-authors of the handbook and creators of the course at their university. They work at different departments but teamed up to create and teach the “Medical Communications. Patient-Oriented Consulting” course. The lecturers applied to the fair of elective courses with just a brief syllabus when the work on the materials was still in progress. But the students enrolled in the classes even without “word of mouth,” and the university administrators supported by adding the course to the educational program and resolved the bureaucratic issue by distributing teaching hours among three departments.

Н3 Bukovinian State Medical University. Second story

The course has become an elective one for fourth-year students. Its start coincided with the Russian army’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. “It was the real challenge for me! I tried to show that education, critical thinking, humanity, and empathy are crucial because they are at the core of what differentiates us from the invaders. The students’ demand for the course was obvious — we have formed twelve groups”, says Oksana Petrynych, the lecturer. Nearly 50 students shared their feedback after finishing the classes. Most of them think that the fourth year is optimal for this course. Also, students proposed increasing teaching hours to have more time for discussions.

Rivne Medical Academy

The “Humanity and Empathy in the Medical Personnel’s Work” course was created by lecturers Natalya Povar and Olena Gorska. The academy administration supported the course and helped in its implementation. Olena and Natalya did not have time to adapt the materials and missed the fair of elective classes for full-time students. But managers proposed to present the course at the next fair for part-time students. As a result, 42 students signed up for the course. “You say a `patient-oriented approach` and a lively discussion begins among the students. I only can get a word in,” says Olena Gorska. Conversations with students showed their request: to learn to communicate with patients and support them, but not burn out.

Medical students about the course

I think the “Humanity and empathy” course must be mandatory

I enrolled in this course by choice. I can confidently say that I needed it. It wasn`t just teaching classes — we dealt with various tasks and tried on the roles of doctors and patients. Now, I am not confused when a patient comes for an appointment. I confidently ask questions that we discussed during the classes.

Kseniya Nikitchuk
Nursing specialty, Rivne Medical Academy

The course helped me to analyse different situations better and deal with them more effectively

Our group decided to choose this course because there were no courses in the mandatory program aimed at improving the doctor`s skills of communication with patients and colleagues. Analysing various cases, we learned to handle conflict situations that may arise during work in health care.

Khrystyna Verbets
Medicine specialty, Bukovinian State Medical University

With the received knowledge, I will feel more confident during work

The course highlighted the details that affect the patient`s morale, which I would not have paid attention to before, for example, how to carry on conversations with patients and colleagues or how to deliver bad news. Knowing this, you will be significantly more attractive to patients as an attentive and friendly doctor.

Yaroslava Klochenko
Medicine specialty, Bukovinian State Medical University

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