Empathy: Challenges Experienced by Social Workers in the Healthcare Sector on the Island of Crete, Greece

*Corresponding author: Trigoni Maria*, Mikits Militsa and Mpanagi Evaggelia

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original research

Abstract

Introduction
Empathy in social work is one of the most important factors that can bring change in the patient, by developing a productive relationship. The purpose of this study is to explore empathy in the practice of social work, as it is used by professional social workers.
Method
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 social workers in public health services in Crete. Responses were recorded, and content analysis was used to analyze the data.
Findings
There were differences in the way that social workers perceive the concept of empathy, depending on their prior experiences. It was also found that they are more “sensitive” when patients have a common problem with them. Among the difficulties that prevented them from being empathetic was having “a difficult personal period” that affected their work. This study has also identified the importance of professional training for the development of empathy skills, and the key-role of work experience. Moreover, it highlighted the importance of co-operation between the researchers and the social workers for generating efficacious and valuable information.
Conclusion
This study emphasizes the importance of empathy as a necessary skill in the relationship between social workers and patients, and the need for in-depth scientific research and analyze on this issue in Greece.
Keywords
Difficulties; Obstacles; Empathy; Social worker; Skill; Patient.