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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Humanism in the Age of COVID-19: Renewing Focus on Communication and Compassion


The global COVID-19 pandemic has become one of the largest clinical and operational challenges faced by emergency medicine, and our EDs continue to see increased volumes of infected patients, many of whom are not only ill, but acutely aware and fearful of their circumstances and potential mortality. Given this, there may be no more important time to focus on staff-patient communication and expression of compassion.

However, many of the techniques usually employed by emergency clinicians to provide comfort to patients and their families are made more challenging or impossible by the current circumstances. Geriatric ED patients, who are at increased risk of severe disease, are particularly vulnerable to the effects of isolation.

Despite many challenges, emergency clinicians have at their disposal a myriad of tools that can still be used to express compassion and empathy to their patients. Placing emphasis on using these techniques to maximize humanism in the care of COVID-19 patients during this crisis has the potential to bring improvements to ED patient care well after this pandemic has passed.

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