Book Review: Compassionomics by Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli

In Compassionomics: The Revolutionary Scientific Evidence that Caring Makes a Difference, two doctors, Stephen Trzeciak and Anthony Mazzarelli, set out to prove that compassion is critical to healing. Seems like common sense. Of course compassion matters, but does it really? Is there measurable evidence to prove it? This is what the authors wanted to clarify.

The impetus for this research came from a school project of Trzeciak’s son. The project required students to answer the question, “What is the most pressing problem of our time?” While the son went on a journey for the answer, Dr. Trzeciak was compelled to go on one of his own.

The pressing problem the good doctor found was what he saw as an epidemic of people being burned out by their work and finding much of their life relatively meaningless. Over and over, he had seen it. He had even seen evidence of it in his own life.

It was about this time when his boss, Dr. Mazzarelli, was looking for ways to improve patient care. As part of the effort, he tasked Trzeciak with researching whether treating patients with compassion as well as medicine made a measurable difference on the wellbeing of both patients and doctors. It was here that Trzeciak began to find a solution to the burn-out issue.

After reviewing over 1,000 scientific abstracts and 250 research papers, the authors found that when health care providers took the time to make human connections, patient outcomes improved, and medical costs decreased. In addition, they found other benefits including reduced pain, improved healing, lower blood pressure, and the alleviation of depression and anxiety. And, maybe most important to Trzeciak, when he began approaching his work with more compassion, he found that “that was when the fog of burnout began to lift.” It seemed compassion was a sort of magic bullet.

Through a series of amazing stories, you will read about how compassion, or lack thereof, impacted, for example, a 34-year-old man fighting for his life on an artificial respirator and how it could have made a difference for a 75-year-old woman fatally struck by a car while walking home from the hospital. You will also read stories detailing the impact of compassion on financial results and the burn-out problem.  These compelling stories make the science much more digestible and bring what can sometimes be dry research to life.

One of the more memorable take-aways from this book relates to Trzeciak’s finding about the time required for demonstrating compassion. When the authors presented their findings to colleagues, they were met with the common complaint that there was just not enough time for empathy and compassion. So, Trzeciak decided to put compassion to the test. What he found was that meaningful results can come from demonstrations of compassion lasting as little as 40 seconds. Yes, you read that right, 40 seconds. 40 seconds that can provide real life-saving benefits.

This was an eye-opening read and a very valuable resource if you are looking to prove the value of bringing a more human touch to any endeavor. If you are a business leader who has always turned up your nose at the touchy-feely stuff, you need to read this book. And if you are already a believer in the value of the human touch, you should read it too. It will give you more fuel to preach the word and fly your flag.

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