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If you could stand in someone else's shoes... Hear what they hear. See what they see. Feel what they feel. Would you treat them differently?

These words end this incredibly beautiful video produced by the Cleveland Clinic, a nonprofit medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. We spend quite a bit of effort here at On Being focusing on the sound of the human voice and how each guest adds to our collective discussion. We attempt to draw out the best of their stories and experiences in all its messiness and glory. This video speaks to each person's complexity, the stories that go unsaid but float just beneath the surface.

Titled "Empathy," this video was presented by the health care organization's CEO Toby Cosgrove at his annual State of the Clinic address on February 27, 2013. And it gets at a point that immunologist Esther Sternberg explores in her work and personal life: how new knowledge about the physical spaces of our lives can stress us, make us sick, or help us be well and connect with others.

For so many years, our hospitals and clinics were sterile, perfunctory structures that ignored the humanity of its patients and focused on the programmatic structure of its spaces. Ms. Sternberg explains:

"Hospitals are built like mazes because typically you have the old original small hospital building and then they keep adding wings to it, which hospitals until recently were designed really to optimize the diagnostic tools, you know, the X-ray equipment and the blood-drawing and so on rather than the human being that's going to be in that building. Airports too. Just think about an airport."

Folks like John Cary of Public Interest Design and others are at the forefront of a burgeoning field focusing on human-centered design. And, the nonprofit organization The Center for Health Design launched an initiative in 2000 called the Pebble Project, which uses an evidence-based design approach to "better understand the implications of the built environment on healthcare outcomes." They're learning how the built environment can affect everything from medication errors at cancer institutes to the efficacy rates of recovery with acuity-adaptable rooms (staying in the same room for admission to discharge) to the way caregivers work. They're not only collaborating with healthcare providers and medical industry partners, they're also drawing from the expertise of architects and design firms such as Herman Miller.

In the end, it's about human connection. When we relate to those around us by understanding their back stories and their circumstances, we improve the way we work, the way we live, the way we take care of one another, the way we relate going forward and, as Martin Luther King Jr. would say, building the "beloved community" that edifies us all.

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What a beautiful video....everyone should watch and learn....

So moving. I hope it will remind me think before reacting when someone does something irritating...

Too often we get busy in our daily routines that we forget that all around us are a myriad of stories - a myriad of feelings, and circumstances. This video shows the importance of basic human relations -- look around you; feel, reflect, and offer support when you can. Turn the "daily routine" into an opportunity for constant reflection --
Have a reflective day...

Excellent!! I'm a retired nurse with a career primarily in Oncology and Hospice. I learned that patients aren't just a room #, or a diagnosis. What energy do we bring to the patients? Their families? Each other in the healing arts? I wrote a book, Transitions: A Nurse's Education about Life and Death. I share some of my patients' stories.
Your video should be in all orientation classes for all hospital employees!!
Bless you!! Becki

Can you post a link to your book?
Sounds important for caregivers.


Transitions: A Nurse's Education about Life and Death
Thank you!!

Nevermind....just bought it!

Thank you!!

WoW ! This sure give one a different perspective of others lives.

This was beautifully recorded with care, Thank you for looking underneath what we see.

EXACTLY what I've been thinking during the last two years, dealing with my husband's illness. We've spent a LOT of time in doctor's offices and hospitals and often the strongest connections were felt with the orderlies moving patients or the folks who came in to clean the rooms. So many times I've wondered why some doctors and nurses went into medicine since they don't seem to like people much at all and really just don't want to be bothered with questions or emotions. It takes no more effort to smile than to frown or to be friendly rather than cold. Medical profession: NOBODY wants to be sick and every person you encounter is going through some difficulty. Please stop seeing them as just one more headache in your day and start treating them like you would if they were your mother or father, wife or husband, brother or sister, son or daughter. Because they are just that important to someone else.

We need to remember the same is true for our medical providers though - that they each have a story and occasional bad days too.

Consider what it must be like to have the knowledge and experience of a caregiver and the obligation to deliver very unpleasant news in an honest and caring fashion. What training and support do caregivers receive to live up to the expectations you ask? The emotional burden carried by these human beings is enormous. We identify deeply with family and struggle with how best to transmit a message and deal with all the circumstances that arise. And we will always miss the mark. So often the caregiver must find ways to protect themselves so that they may perform a greater good in an ultimate story of loss. We are all doing our very best AND we are fallible human beings, the afflicted and caregivers alike. Stories are very complicated everywhere we turn. How do we practice forgiveness and kindness as we learn deeper empathy?

well said Doctor!

I think every CEO, CFO finacial officer, bill collector needs to see this. Nurses lives this every day by listening, explaining, laughing, crying with their patients.

Beautiful film! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. And what an exciting concept - hospitals built with human centered design! Again, thank you.

May I suggest a further resource to learn more about empathy and compassion, The Center for Building a Culture of Empathy
The Culture of Empathy website is the largest internet portal for resources and information about the values of empathy and compassion. It contains articles, conferences, definitions, experts, history, interviews,  videos, science and much more about empathy and compassion.

This is a powerful, wonderful piece... please watch it... it will change you..

I cannot watch this without crying. Thank you so much for making this video. I firmly believe that the key to a better world is to increase our awareness and our empathy. The quiet simplicity of this beautiful video speaks volumes. There is so much healing in the stress reducing effects of the human touch, a friendly word or a heartwarming embrace. To be seen, heard, understood and accepted. And to feel safe.
The holistic view of The Cleveland Cllinic sets a fabulous example for all hospitals around the world.

nice, it makes you think more about others

I am a health care provider. What really spoke to me was that the videographer treated the staff as people as well as the patients. EVERYONE at the hospital has a life and a story. Somethimes its not that the staff is cold and uncaring its that we are protecting ourselves from caring too much for too long. Compassion fatigue is a real thing.

You are so right Maureen. I was in the health care field for almost 20 years. When I first began my job there, I would go home feeling emotionally exhausted. This plagued me for months. I learned to sheild my emotions from all of it. Had I not, I would never had survived the job. Emotionally. Most providers do not mean to come across as uncaring or unfeeling. It's self-defense of the heart. I wish you well.

I was really moved by this video and shared it immediately on my FB page .... Empathy is so important but sometimes, with our busy lives, we tend to forget...

Thank you. I am going through a difficult time with a person at work and needed this beautiful, poignant reminder that we may never know what is really happening in another's life, what unspeakable challenges they face. I try to visit this site weekly and have shared it with others. It's a favorite blog I listen to while walking. Your interviews, videos and musical interludes are illuminating. Heartfelt thanks to everyone on the onbeing staff, and keep up the good work!

Thank you for this. Last night, I sat with a family whose baby boy is dying. His first birthday is in a couple weeks and it is doubtful that he will still be alive to celebrate it. I am a volunteer who's learning how to listen to those unspoken thoughts. Hearing them doesn't change anything, but does make a lot of difference to the one who is being heard and to me when I'm lisstening. Presence and compassion make listening possible. Watching your video this morning, I felt my thoughts were being heard and my feelings felt.

makes a person think

Reflection: This story happens every day, and each person has a "back story" and cicumstances that orients his daily life. We share these stories with alll human beings. No person is an island, and no one can stand alone. Alike or un-alike, we are all connected. To acknowledge this is to initiate the healing process (brokenness) within us, between us, and among us.

The Cleveland Clinic saved our 5 year old daughter's life when her pediatrician heard "something odd" while listening to her heart during her pre-kindergarten well child check up. She had no symptoms, but because Dr. Deb Lonzer picked up this oddity, our 5 year old had life saving open heart surgery 3 weeks later. We now have every reason to expect our daughter to have a long and healthy life. We thank everyone on the staff at the Cleveland Clinic every day for saving our child. Her care was superb!

Abbott NW in Minneapolis has some new architecture to cope with this, but it is still very "old building with lots of wings" maze. The attached Children's hospital is very much a well made entity similar to Cleveland, until you cross over into the Abbott side. They never had the time to rethink the entire hospital, because of the caseload. Maybe some day they'll redo it, but I think they tend to reinvest in patient care rather than architecture. Is this an accident of history or the result of conscious decision-making?

I am a pastor who has learned everyone is sitting by a pool of tears. Everyone.

Such a moving way to phrase this, hope I might use it with my patients from time to time with no disrespect.

Wonderful, life changing video. Everyone should see this. Thank you!

I was taken in by this video until I saw where it was filmed. Since 1961, I've been a patient at the Cleveland Clinic. Throughout 50 years of my life, I've had first-hand experience with the decline of quality patient care. More resources must be allocated toward patient care otherwise, this video is at best a well-produced ad campaign. There is no doubt that the CCF does amazing work to improve peoples' lives but much more could be done if the CCF decision makers would stand in the shoes of their patients.

How incredibly brave of you to use the patients' emotionality! Out of necessity, health care providers focus on patients' physical well-being and when they have time....or IF they have the luxury of time..... they can explore that aspect. And yet, we all know the important part emotions play in recovery.

A wonderful, insightful video. 30 years ago, my doctoral dissertation topic was one of the first long-range studies in the USA...teaching medical students empathic interviewing skills...The topic was always there in the back of my mind and in 2010, empathic education emerged:

Beautiful...thought provoking.

have been a nurse for 37 years and happily the answer for me to your question of would you treat them differently is still no .

as a chaplain I found this so critical to how people should be treated. As a patientt now, I have experienced how people are treated like numbers. There are two great movies I think al hospital should watvh: "Wit" & "The Doctor.

Yes the physical spaces we live, work, and function in have profound impact on our outcomes.
Yes the attitudes and behavior of those around us profoundly impact our total health, physical, mental, and spiritual.
Not only must we accept this, we might as well celebrate it.


Wonderful post and video! Thank you for reminding us to always consider the other's perspective.

We’re working to enhance compassion and healing in healthcare, and created the International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare, starting with the capacity for compassion. The mission of the International Charter for Human Values in Healthcare is to restore the human dimensions of care – the universal core values that should be present in every healthcare interaction – to healthcare around the world.

Your article reminds us just how important these values are.

Very moving video..cried through it all....wsh everyone could see sending it one to several health care workers

I'm a Rn in a big hospital,struggling with a HEAVY work load and not documenting alot til after my shift is over. I been told it's my time management, but watching this brought on the water falls. I take pride in listening to their stories and treat them like family. Thank you for this video. I may not be the prefect nurse for upper management but I been told by my patients im on the top of their list so it's good enough for me.

This brought tears to my eyes and reminded me to be grateful for my health and the health of my family members. God Bless them all.

I'm a medical student doing my clinical rotations right now. Just yesterday, I found myself remarking to a colleague what a crazy place a hospital is. If you take what is going on in each of the 100s of rooms - people being healed or terminally diagnosed, families gathering or abandoning, people literally going crazy (I'm on psychiatry right now), resident physicians and nurses working through 12 and even 24 hour shifts... it's really incredible, like it's only little microcosm. This video captures that beautifully.

And yet once again: where were the mental health patients? Left out again.

This video made me cry.

This reminds me of Paul Gruchow's new book, "Letters to a Young Madman." In it, he talks about the inhumanity and judgmentalism with which people with mental illness are treated, and how it makes them worse rather than better. Part of this inhumanity is the physcial environment inside mental hospitals. You really ought to interview the woman who published his book (since Paul died in 2004).

I cried when I watched it, I always try to tell people that, I know I went through it all.

This video reminds me of why I went into nursing, to help ease others pain and celebrate their joy. Caregivers that can spend some time at the bedside can really get to know the patient and their families. Heath care has changed so much with equipment, computers and procedures, the patient can get lost under all the technology. Thank you for showing us that everyone has a story with many feelings attached we just need to take a moment and try to uncover them.

Empathy for everyone except physicians. How predictable. The doctors pictured all had nice news. How about, after "Coming to the end of a 12-hour shift," just as the camera catches the resident with the stethoscope to that nurse's left, putting something like, "Coming to the end of a 24-hour call?" I know it seems petty but I'm a little offended that the only thing doctors in this video are going through are impending fatherhood and beating cancer.