Compassionate Leadership For Innovation In Healthcare

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Dr Claudine Kearney
Dr Claudine Kearney

Compassion, empathy and humanity are universally valued in healthcare. Leaders play a pivotal role in fostering compassion in healthcare. Through compassionate leadership is a commitment to excellence in patient care and delivery, that in turn can drive innovation to make a real difference to patient outcome. Leadership style and practices have a significant impact on healthcare organisations and their engagement in innovation. It is through compassionate leadership that clinicians, healthcare professionals, key staff and experts are motivated to make a real difference and explore and exploit opportunities that will bring about new innovations that generate patient value and advance the world of healthcare. Such innovations will enhance the delivery of care, save lives and serve multiple stakeholders and society, in the ultimate goal that leads us all to better health, healthcare and well-being.

Healthcare leaders have a duty of care to themselves, each other, patients and need to epitomise compassion. Self-compassion is also paramount in order to demonstrate compassion towards others and address challenges and ensure resilience in the unprecedented world of healthcare. It is therefore important to stay close to your core values that give life meaning. The core value of leading with compassion in healthcare is listening and being present with others, understanding others, demonstrating empathy and care. Compassionate leaders provide a trustful, respectful and supportive environment, sharing of competencies, appropriate training and development, ensuring staff well-being and retention. Compassion has mutual benefits for leaders, healthcare professionals and patients. When healthcare professionals have a compassionate leader they are more likely to demonstrate that compassion towards each other and patients. A culture of compassionate leadership where everyone has a voice and a passion to make a difference will provide a supportive environment for innovation to develop and advance the field of healthcare.

'Leading Innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare', Dr Claudine Kearney
‘Leading Innovation and entrepreneurship in healthcare’, Dr Claudine Kearney

Leading innovation that will implement new products, processes, services and/or technologies is imperative for the advancement and delivery of healthcare today and into the future. Leaders need to drive innovation by bringing staff together with diverse expertise and competencies to engage in creativity that leads to the implementation of commercially viable innovations. This involves empowering healthcare staff at all levels to view situations, products, processes, services and/or technologies in new ways and bring them together to exchange ideas and apply novel techniques and procedures that will transform healthcare. This enables staff to engage in innovation without fear or reprecussions. Central to this is meaningful interaction with patients to deeply understand patient needs and experiences and how to create innovations that enhance patient care and experience. The treatment should not be worse than the disease – it requires an in-depth understanding of current treatments and procedures and their impact on patients’ that leads to more advanced developments in healthcare. Innovations can be incremental adaptations of existing products, processes, services and/or technologies or an entirely new breakthrough innovation. For such innovations to develop leaders need to be passionate and compassionate to oneself, staff and patients. Research shows that compassion is associated with more resilience, well-being and decreased burnout (Trzeciak and Mazzarelli, 2019), which is paramount for healthcare professionals that are known to experience high levels of burnout.

When the leader demonstrates compassionate behaviours characterised by higher levels of cohesion, optimistic and sense of efficacy there is greater opportunity for innovation (Kearney, 2022). Healthcare needs leaders that are compassionate and can drive creativity and innovation, have a vision to accomplish the imaginable, and who makes it happen – and keep it happening with patients being at the forefront of everything they do to advance healthcare. The goal is for healthcare to thrive with a leadership and culture that emanates passion and compassion and drives innovation for the greater good of all society.