A Guide to Empathy in Pharmacy Practice


Like all professionals in this economy, pharmacists are often overworked, understaffed and yet the necessity to be “human” in the eyes of their patients, remain the same.

Like all professionals in this economy, pharmacists are often overworked, understaffed and yet the necessity to be “human” in the eyes of their patients, remain the same.

We often may forget that people become “patients” when they are at their worst; from the irritation of allergies to devastation and distress of more severe illnesses, patients come to us when they are sick and in need of not only our clinical expertise, but our support.

Here are a quick and easy ways to show your patients that you care for their wellbeing with tips how to be more empathetic.

  • It’s all in the details. While nobody would expect you to remember every facet of every patient’s life you have, knowing a few key details of your patients’ lives can go a long way. For example, knowing how to pronounce a patients’ last name (especially when it is as difficult to pronounce as mine is) can instantly help build rapport. Knowing just a few personal details about your patients will show them that you care and this alone can improve your patient-professional experience and hopefully therapeutic outcomes with improved trust and compliance.
  • Going an extra few feet can take you an extra mile to your patient. While we are all pressed for time, simply by adding less than one minute of time to each interaction can help in building rapport with your patient by getting to learn a little bit more about your patient’s life. Those extra details might even help in your clinical outcomes (for example, finding out that your patient loves drinking many cups of grapefruit juice every day, etc.)
  • Eye contact. This is such a simple yet powerful technique to show that you recognize that your patient is a human. Yes, you are looking over the patient’s profile or chart and evaluating important clinical information, but by simply making eye contact with your patient, you can show that you care. See more on this in my articles from November 2015 and June 2016.
  • Show that you’re human. People who seek medical help are usually NOT in perfect health and often in pain or discomfort. Recognize that the patient in front of you must be going through a hard time and probably grumpy as a result. Therefore, do not take their attitudes personally. Then realize that this practicing pharmacy can often be as much of an art as it is science and that you develop your craft with time and experience. Knowing what to say and when- is in and of itself- an art form. If you could put yourself in your patient’s shoes, you would quickly see that they need you and depend not only on your clinical prowess, but your ability to be empathetic and respond to their needs in kind.

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