Can Ethical Empathy Be Taught?

empathySome rather exciting news is emerging from the world of virtual training that has certainly sparked our interest at Virtual Training Associates (VTA).

A research study was just concluded (May 20, 2021) in the healthcare industry. The study, about to appear in the Journal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences has shown that using virtual techniques empathy can not only be taught, but it leads to fewer patient case mistakes.

I Know How You Feel

Empathy, of course, is the reaction where we can put ourselves in the position of someone else. Empathy should be a central factor or key in patient care. It is realizing that what the patient is experiencing is similar to an experience we have also had. Therefore, in a patient care setting it would be wise for “healthcare providers, healthcare students, and informal caregivers such as parents, spouses, friends, family, clergy, social workers, and others” to be more empathetic.

The study recognized “currently, there is a need for the development of effective tools and approaches that are standardizable, low-risk, safe-to-fail, easily repeatable, and could assist in eliciting empathetic behavior.”

The virtual training techniques used in the study essentially divide providers into two groups: providers and patients, virtually expose them to a certain condition and have them live that reality, and then switch the groups. The technique is showing a great deal of promise.

Apply to Ethics?

What is fascinating is the potential such techniques have to teaching ethical behavior in the workplace. VTA concerns itself with teaching ethics, sports ethics and important issues such as the prevention of sexual harassment, workplace bullying and prevention of sexual orientation discrimination and other gender issues.

Our programs are interactive, technically high quality and our teaching techniques are focused in eliciting positive behaviors and outcomes. In short, we constantly strive to cultivate a sense of empathy. The more empathetic a dialog that can be created, the more effective are the ethical lessons that are being taught.

While the study is quite valuable, it is more affirming than surprising. We have found that the more interactive and high quality the virtual techniques that we employ, the better the outcome.

Parenthetically, it is why so many HR inspired ethics programs fail to deliver an impactful message.

We are not expressing this opinion out of arrogance but after decades of practice and training in teaching and honing ethical training so that it is relevant to the situation. Unfortunately, issues such as business ethics, sports ethics, the prevention of sexual harassment, workplace bullying and such, are often viewed as a “requirement,” and not an essential element to a healthy environment.

Virtual Training Associates takes the opposite point of view. We feel that an ethical workplace is the basis for every action that follows. Not teaching ethical behavior has resulted in numerous scandals that have often resulted in major fines and court cases, loss of reputation, diminished sales and industry-wide mistrust. To not take ethics seriously is a huge mistake.

Where the study and our ethical programs come together, is that we can show that empathy in ethics does work. To place ourselves ethically in the shoes of those who are being wronged might make the difference between a healthy workplace, and major scandal.



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