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Why do I call myself an ”empathy enthusiast”?

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Posted on October 13th, 2020 by Guest Blogger, under Inspiring Stories, Patient Advocacy, Something New

Recently, I have been getting this question a lot, and I think it deserves an explanation.

I think a lot about healthcare, probably more than I should. The thought became “me” in a way that I just naturally think about it all the time after my experience as a caregiver for my dad. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/story-my-dad-how-pharmacy-career-started-soojin-jun). I am passionate, and maybe even obsessed, with better healthcare for patients. My friends and I wrote a business plan for a care coordination app when I was a pharmacy student, I volunteered for health literacy groups and a local opioid initiative, and I enrolled in the Master of Health Informatics program in the University of Illinois at Chicago at one point to carry out the business plan. Still, I could not finish for a personal reason. I am a student now at Northwestern University’s Health Communication program (which I am taking a break from), I am an ambassador for Patient Safety Movement Foundation and I am a professional patient advocate while working as a pharmacist at a hospital.

People tell me I am everywhere and doing too many things, but I have become an empath like many patient advocates I have gotten to know over the years. That much, our healthcare system is fragmented and complex. After losing my dad to gaps of healthcare as a minority and a foreigner, the stories of hurt patients are no longer just theirs. They are mine as well. I especially seek to be the voice for many patients who don’t have voices at all for different reasons, like patients with language and cultural barriers. Realization of this empathy became part of me and it is my conclusive solution for all healthcare problems.

Empathy is a connection and communication and it happens when our feelings resonate from expressions of one another. Patients seek healthcare to be understood, taken care, and feel better. Empathy from healthcare workers towards patients are only possible when there is enough room for patients in their hearts. Exhaustion and lack of support for healthcare workers are critical issues in healthcare that prevent this connection. When this connection is not established, how can patients get well? Health and care are not possible and the efforts from patients and healthcare workers become waste of time and resources, including money. The cost of healthcare needs to be contained while we seek to establish empathy at the same time. Healthcare cannot be improved if two are not done at the same time.

I recently had to bring up an example of empathy in healthcare from my experience. When my dad was in a hospital getting a G tube placed, he wanted a cup of tea as he was feeling cold. The diagnosis of stage 3 esophageal cancer was still fresh and he lost weight from inability to eat. I went to the nurse several times and even offered that I would get it myself, but there wasn’t any way for me to do that. It took her 45 minutes to bring the cup of tea. I was hesitant to bring it up to the nurse, but I was mad, and maybe sad, that she did not understand the importance of the tea. I said, “I’ve asked for the tea 45 minutes ago. This is the only thing he can take…” and I could not finish my sentence as I started crying. I still remember the moment of empathy from her facial expression. I could see how sorry she felt. That moment was the moment of empathy for all of us who were present, including my dad. At the time, I did not even think of thinking further why it took her 45 minutes. As a healthcare professional now, I understand. She probably had too many patients to take care of and either might have forgotten in multitasking or did not think of it as a priority in her to-do list. However, the tea meant a lot more to us. In a way, it was the hope for his life.

I am actively seeking ways and knowledge in how to bring empathy to healthcare. One way is to grow the awareness of patient safety (#uniteforsafecare) and advocate for the full circle of empathy — why taking care of healthcare workers is the start of the full circle of patient care. I also see using art as a tool to bring more awareness to the connection of empathy in healthcare.

Soojin Jun, Pharm.D, Private Patient Advocate

This blog post was written by Soojin Jun and originally published in Medium. Soojin has a degree in Doctor of Pharmacy and is an empathy enthusiast. Not only can she educate our clients about the use of drugs, their side effects, and provide advice on how to prevent diseases or illnesses, Soojin’s empathy and compassion for people add to her vital role in uplifting our clients’ health. We are very fortunate that she joined our Advocacy Team.

You can contact Soojin by email: Soojin@northshorern.com. You can also connect with her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/soojin-jun/

Teri’s Corner

“What If” COVID Planning for On-Campus College Students. Collegiate Parent. https://www.collegiateparent.com/wellness/covid-planning-for-on-campus-college-students/

Thinking about a pet? Senior Planet. https://seniorplanet.org/thinking-about-a-pet/

When mom or dad can no longer live alone. Daily Herald. https://www.dailyherald.com/entlife/20200906/when-mom-or-dad-can-no-longer-live-alone

Weight, health, and avoiding the ‘COVID 15’. Daily Herald. https://edition.pagesuite.com/popovers/dynamic_article_popover.aspx?artguid=a8c9b8c6-5833-42a0-8998-378d15720cd0&appid=1031

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