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In every aspect of healthcare, trusting relationships between the healthcare team and patients are essential for optimal care. Effective communication skills promote information sharing, diagnostic accuracy and shared decision-making; they are directly related to clinical outcomes for patients; and they contribute to greater patient/client and healthcare team member satisfaction. From the perspective of patients/clients, everyone associated with a healthcare organization is part of the constellation of caregivers; as such, everyone has opportunities to ensure that interactions with patients are positive and healing.

Stigma and bias are demonstrably harmful for all people, and particularly for vulnerable populations. Blue Shield of California Foundation, recognizing the scope and significance of trauma among safety net clinic patients/clients and employees, has funded the creation of The Empathy Effect: Countering Bias to Improve Health Outcomes (EE) curriculum. The EE workshop provides a fast-paced and highly interactive learning environment that combines opportunities for self-reflection and practical skill building in structured activities and small group settings.

The EE train-the-trainer faculty course prepares selected individuals to lead the EE workshop within their own organizations. As with all Institute Health Care Communication (IHC) skills training programs, EE dissemination is optimized by preparing selected staff members to deliver the workshop within their organizations. Training content is congruent with the organization’s language and culture, and enhanced in-house training capacity contributes to program sustainability.

The Empathy Effect: Countering Bias to Improve Health Outcomes provides a fast-paced and highly interactive workshop that combines opportunities for self-reflection and practical skill-building in structured activities and small group settings.

The Empathy Effect (EE) Countering Bias to Improve Health Outcomes workshop is designed for everyone who works in healthcare who comes into contact with patients/clients and families. The EE faculty course is intended for individuals with formal and/or informal leadership within their organizations, who are involved in staff training and/or professional development, and who will teach the EE workshop. Because we strongly recommend that all members of the healthcare team participate in The Empathy Effect (to build common vocabulary and expectations for evidence-based communication skills), EE faculty course learners must relate effectively to co-workers throughout their organizations. In addition, EE faculty course learners must have strong group facilitation skills and a high level of comfort managing complex interactions that may occur during the workshop, including disagreements, personal disclosures, and conversations about race, trauma and other sensitive topics.

The EE faculty course is applicable to a wide variety of organizations that seek to develop or enhance in-house capacity for clinician communication training. These include safety net organizations; hospitals and health systems; medical, dental, physical therapy and other practices; mental health and behavioral health organizations; managed care organizations medical, dental, pharmacy and other professional schools; specialty societies and government agencies.

In this 3.75-day training, The Empathy Effect: Countering Bias to Improve Health Outcomes (EE) train-the-trainer faculty course presents an extensive research base, a commitment to active learning, in-depth skills development opportunities with simulated patients, and workshop facilitation practice with structured feedback. The training uses structured self-reflection and focuses on practical skills that learners can bring to their daily work immediately. In addition, the EE faculty course provides expert guidance on planning and implementing EE program launch in sponsoring organizations.

The EE workshop, which is presented in its entirety at the outset of this faculty course, is a fast-paced interactive program that gives participants opportunities to practice key skills and techniques. Participants view video encounters between staff and patients and work in small groups on skills that apply in a variety of realistic situations.

The foundational premises and learning objectives for the EE workshop are available online. An extensive annotated bibliography for this curriculum is available on IHC’s website (EE Bibliography). We encourage learners to use the bibliography after the workshop as a resource for further professional development on empathy conveyance and bias reduction.

Learners are encouraged to identify one or two specific techniques to work on in the weeks following the training program. IHC collects information (voluntarily) from all learners several weeks after each program to reinforce skills practice and gather additional feedback.

Learning Objectives
By the end of the faculty course, learners will be able to:

  1. The 3 premises for empathy-based care
  2. Elements of the IN GEAR model for empathy conveyance
  3. Internal or external cues associated with interactions that invite judgment
  4. Counter cue to shift from a view of judgment to one of understanding
  5. How to convey empathy
  6. Facilitation skills when presenting the Empathy Effect workshop
  7. Creating an action plan to deliver the Empathy Effect workshop at home organization


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