Horses in Healthcare: Restoring Empathy in Human Resources

Person in white lab coat pointing to computer screen

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view—until you climb into his skin and walk around in it. – To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s, To Kill A Mockingbird, has been a staple in the curriculum of English classes across the country. Set in the American south, Lee depicts the lives of a widowed father and his two children during the Great Depression. Our young minds were exposed to extremely useful truths while reading this classic novel. Among these truths is having compassion and empathy for the plight of others. This lesson of morality is taught by none other than one of the most beloved fictional characters in American literature, Atticus Finch.

Atticus’s description captures in simplest terms, exactly what it means to be empathetic— identifying psychologically with, or vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts or attitudes of another.

Why would it be so important to have empathy for others? Let us climb into the skin of this question, and walk around for a while…

Better leaders, better followers, better friends

The ability to have empathy is important for many reasons. It can help provide an individual with a clearer understanding of the needs of others around them. Practicing empathy also helps to cultivate emotional self-awareness— understanding your own emotions and how they impact your behavior. This is crucial for recognizing the perception that you create in other people with your words and actions. Empathy promotes further growth in our personal and professional lives— allowing us to deal with negativity and conflict in a more effective manner.

How can having empathy, or perhaps lack thereof, apply to people working in certain professions? For example, let us explore the healthcare industry. Specifically, professionals who work in human resource departments.

Maintaining empathy in a high stress industry

Human Resource professionals who demonstrate empathy help to build, and sustain relationships that are positive within the workplace. This makes it possible to effectively collaborate with people who have different opinions and experiences. Empathy allows leaders in Human Resources to give feedback that is constructive, while coming up with tactful solutions to problems that may come about.

Two people shaking hands

When looking further into the industry of healthcare, we will notice that it functions under a certain amount of pressure. This is due to the fact that the work is heavily involved with maintaining the health and well-being of millions. The pressure can cause doctors, nurses, and even professionals working in Human Resource departments to experience incredible levels of stress. Often affecting job performance negatively, and leading to poor bedside manners with patients.

Without the presence of empathy, these effects will be unavoidable.

Actions speak louder than words!

Professionals who work in healthcare use a combination of words and actions to communicate with their patients. This holds true for every single human being. We may say one thing, but our actions can convey a message that is completely different. It is important to be conscious of the messages that we may be sending to others, whether they are intentional or not.

Changing the future of healthcare— one horse at a time

For a horse, survival is key. This is dependent upon their ability to sense messages that are non-verbal. Horses are also sensitive to signs of human behavior. For example, if someone lacks an ability to empathize with those around them— to be emotionally self-aware— the horse will react adversely to this behavior and reflect it back. The response that we receive from the horse help us learn more about ourselves and how others experience us. They give us feedback that is immediate and hard to ignore!

Hand touching the face of a horse

The Power of Empathy

Located in Virginia, Horse Highlights, LLC  is an Equine-Assisted Learning facility owned by Kristen Fitzgerald. The facility’s mission is to reinforce the belief that horses have a natural ability to provide human beings with a good and powerful gift. This special gift involves valuable equine insight that can be highlighted and made readily available. Clients will obtain this insight, grasp it, and take it with them wherever they may go in life.

Fitzgerald will be offering a workshop on October 24th called the True Program. This program teaches clients that it is possible for empathy to be learned and strengthened with help from a horse. The workshop lasts an entire day, and focuses primarily on exploring the concept of “empathy” within a dedicated experiential learning setting. Participants will experience a new sense of emotional intelligence provided by working with horses. They will then receive feedback that is instantaneous and amazing!

Schedule your next office meeting with Horse Highlights, LLC or for more information on Equine Coaching, contact Yarcort. Learn how Gina’s Focus Forward Technique™ can change your life!


Author: Judy Conti

Graphics: Apple Perez