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The Role of Compassion and Teamwork in a Medical Setting

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Table of contents

  1. Compassion
  2. Teamwork
  3. Conclusion

The necessity of compassion and teamwork are recognized as essential tools to improve patient satisfaction and enhance the development of communication to solve health conditions of patients. This essay highlights the concept and significance of both ‘teamwork’ and ‘compassion’ and draws relevance as a current medical student and future doctor.


Compassion is described as the feeling that promotes the care given to relieve the suffering of another person. The General Medical Council (GMC) states that when patients are in difficult situations – this can be in palliative care – doctors have a duty to treat patients with compassion. This is beneficial as compassionate healthcare professionals are more likely to find out more from the patient regarding their condition and thus improve the medical care of a suffering individual. This is because healthcare providers can build a relationship through trust which allows them to extract a thorough and honest history from the patient.

One study that explored the ways of measuring compassion assessed interpersonal interaction to increase the quality of patient-centred care and the absence of personal engagement as non-compassionate. Compassion by most patients is acknowledged to hold more importance than the medical aspect due to the ability of compassion to comfort and induce trust in trained professionals so when patients are in emotional harmony with doctors, their development and recovery process is strengthened.

Compassion involves kindness, empathy, respect and dignity. In particular, empathy is a meaningful skill that allows people to interact better and build a stronger social network of communication.

I acquired this comprehensive skill when I noticed an increase in homeless people in my community. On several occasions I offered money to people and sadly came to release that this was not enough. This provoked my instinct to act with empathy, so I volunteered at a local food bank. At the food bank, I was involved in packaging food parcels for later distribution to the homeless people. This involvement, I believe was a better approach to resolve the suffering of people without homes because it impacted a larger community and provided a long-term effect. This has helped me to develop as a medical student because I have learned how not to become demoralised. This experience has also influenced me as I can determine when to appropriately act if I see someone that is distressed; that small actions like taking time to volunteer have the potential to make a big difference in someone’s life. Indeed, this experience I encountered is very similar to how small actions of compassion in the healthcare sector have shown to make a big difference in the quality of care provided to a patient.

Despite the strong evidence of compassion enhancing the healthcare, recent findings such as the Francis report has shown that healthcare professionals are failing to act compassionately in hospitals. The lack of compassion can be due to compassion fatigue, exhaustion and secondary traumatic stress. This means that healthcare professionals can become trapped into acting overly compassionate and consequently ignore their own emotional state. On that account, it is essential for doctors to maintain a balance in their work-life and mental wellbeing. This can be achieved through stress counselling and resilience practices in exchange for becoming compassionate medical practitioners. Not only would this management mean doctors are fitter to practice in the long term run but patients are also highly satisfied with the patient-doctor relationship. This signifies my obligation to perform effectively as a future healthcare provider, as during my time of practice I will be exposed to many conditions and thereby need to tolerate extreme emotions to protect my role and dominantly provide comfort to patients. I may manage this by reflecting so that I am not becoming immensely caught in the patients’ feelings to an extent that it is affecting my status. And yet, still be able to act with compassion in a uniform manner.

As a result of the recent decline in compassion within the health care sector, the National Health Service (NHS) has implemented a strategy called the ‘Compassion in Practice’ for nurses. This strategy is not just applicable to nurses but to doctors who deal with patients daily. The NHS also signifies the concept of compassion by cooperating it into the six NHS constitutional values which are: working together for patients, respect and dignity, commitment to quality of care, compassion, improving lives and everyone counts.The values are set out accordingly as a basis for healthcare professionals to follow and allow the dynamic run of the NHS. It gives a common goal for the multidisciplinary team to work towards and thereby sets to achieve joint effort between team members, which is another and the very first NHS value known as “working together for patients”, indicating the importance of teamwork in determining patient care.


Teamwork in medicine is defined as multiple individuals of at least two people that collaborate interdependently towards an achievable outcome for a patient. Effective teamwork arises when each team member has an allocated certain role and responsibility.

The GMC emphasizes the importance of communicating effectively by outlining that communicating consistently between team members is beneficial to the quality of care delivered to the patient and contrastingly poor communication within team members can lead to complications. This is supported by research which explored the factors leading to poor patient experience, the study conducted that up to 80% of errors in healthcare are due to the absence of communication within professionals of multidisciplinary teams. This suggests that the approach of individuals plays a great role in determining the safety of patients, it is important to inform each member of the patients’ health care plan and interact appropriately with each other as well as the patient to fulfill expectations. Having understood the causes of medical errors, as a future doctor I will, therefore, need to put in as much effort to work with my colleagues which are as just important as the patient interaction. This will not only act towards the improvement of patient-care and non-maleficence but also in the improvement of my work environment.

A reduction of burnout is also visible, working in teams can be beneficial to medical students especially when they are under stress. This is because strategies, responsibilities, and talents are shared and there is more support available from colleagues. Feedback can be easily received within a group and different methods to provide care can be provided. In addition it improves the quality of care as members can become more engaged. This is because workers are less mentally drained, depersonalized and disconnected from work. I am aware that as a future doctor I will be working in a demanding workplace, so I need to ensure the wellbeing of both myself and other members of the team in order to develop resilience. This will enable me and the team to perform better and ensure patient satisfaction..

As a current medical student, I have been in numerous occasions where I have found myself working in a team to create presentations. One such example is when I had to work in a team to prepare a presentation for our anatomy session. Within our group I ensured that each member was participating by allocating specific roles by means of communication. The importance of sharing the workload meant that each member had a manageable task to carry out alongside other work in different subjects. I released that I was more motivated and less stressed because at any time I could always ask my members for some support and then easily get back on track. Overall, as the different strengths of each member were used to contribute an idea forward we executed a better presentation. Similarly, my experience at the community based general practice helped me to explore the involvement of variety of professionals through interviewing the primary care team. Reflecting on this experience allows me to see that doctors are never working independently; there is ongoing constant interaction of multiple members that subsidise patient care. For example, even non-medical staff such as a receptionist can help to coordinate prescriptions. Subsequently, I can now perceive the purpose of inter-professional learning integrated within my course, enabling me to develop the teamwork skills required of a future doctor.


In conclusion, both aspects of compassion and teamwork are essential for practicing in an appropriate and safe way. As discussed the two terms have different impacts and implications, both factors should be implemented by medical students and doctors, not only isolated to healthcare settings. Practising to work compassionately in a team will better enable me to incorporate these skills in the future as a doctor.

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