Is Empathy in our DNA or learned? This question bothered me when I read Kate's blog on losing music through dementia. I felt as if it was happening to me, this is partly due to her amazing ability to write it like it is but also my lifelong overdose of empathy. When I look back I must have had it in my DNA. My first memory of it was when I started school and hurt like hell when another child was excluded because,she lived on the 'Common' and another because her Daddy was in jail. I had to play with them because their hurt was mine. No doubt I also learned empathy from great role models in health also.
If empathy is learned though why did not others learn from those role models? How can we tolerate people in health professions if they lack empathy? The extremes of psychopaths and sociopaths will hopefully be recognized and removed BUT narcissists remain. Caring only for self and being in a caring role are mutually exclusive And yet we do not screen potential students and employees. Connecting with the person is central to PCC but without empathy we can not connect. Great leadership requires connection with the team, if we can not be with the other person we will fail leadership 101. Understanding the communication of pwd when they are post verbal absolutely requires empathy. We must learn how to role model it to students, staff and visitors in health care.