Compassionate personal care

Friends of PRIME come from a range of backgrounds and cultures. We all have different journeys along our life’s adventure, and we may have different world views.

But we all have something in common: we here in UK hope that each of you receives this email because you have sensed something interesting, something new, maybe even something special that you have learnt from a PRIME course. We have tried to encourage you to love your patients.

We are all people who have decided to dedicate our lives to caring for others in their times of illness and distress. We have learnt a lot of science and practical medical skills. But it may be that as we become more experienced in life we find that there is never an end to what we can learn about human beings, their complexities, their life narratives, their suffering.

We are all discovering that compassionate personal caring makes such a huge difference compared with an overbearing cool authoritarianism. The ill individual is not the only one to benefit. We are amazed to find that we ourselves feel warmly satisfied and fulfilled. We feel valued in using our skills to serve another, and relieve misery.

But now there is an important fact. We cannot really give rich compassion more warmly than our own personal sense of safety, that we are loved, encouraged and valued for who we are ourselves. We cannot give what we do not have.

If we are filled with resentment or bitterness, or if we have become convinced of our own worthlessness by the cruel words of others around us, then it is impossible to care genuinely.

So it is vital that we look after and invest time for our own spiritual health. Stress is a destructive enemy, as are bad relationships. We must develop encouraging life outside medicine, perhaps in music or sport. We must concentrate on our family life.

And then we must learn to care for the team with whom we work. Even the simplest word of encouragement, or the sharing of a sadness in a chance meeting in a corridor can transform and restore hope for a friend in difficulty at work. When we teach we must learn to concentrate on the individual needs and thinking of each student, learning to treat them as we would treat our own friends. When we lead in management we must consider each team member as an individual person with his own ideas and concerns, to encourage them towards their own fulfillment of skills. We must reward them with recognition, showing pleasure in our hearts when they achieve their goal.

Teamwork is the opposite of self-centred personal ambition.

Christmas is a time when the world is hushed temporarily. We may be with family and friends, we may be alone with ourselves. Either way, it is a time when we are most obviously faced with our own humanness, and cannot hide behind images of ourselves at work. Jesus’ miraculous arrival on earth demonstrates God’s love for each of us more beautifully that anything else. He offers us, if we can accept it, all the love, understanding, wisdom, forgiveness and wholeness that we could possibly require. When we receive that love, sense of identity and wholeness of being, we then discover that we are richly gifted to pass on that compassion to those who come to us professionally in their suffering.

Dr John Caroe

Chair of PRIME

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