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HL20: Jim Geary—Dealing With Epidemics, Again

Gienna Shaw, for HealthLeaders Media, December 13, 2011

"The majority of healthcare professionals are coming from a caring, loving place and a passionate place, but they get overwhelmed, they get stressed, they get burned out, they work long hours and in managing their time they feel they only have a certain amount to provide each patient. So maybe some of that curtness and that way of dismissing the patient's voice is a result of that."

Even so, healthcare must listen to the patients' voice, he says, and "really connect with that person before us and inquire genuinely about what their needs are and how we can assist them. That may take another minute or so but it just gives the patient such a feeling of comfort and ease when they're seen in that light and they're treated with that type of respect."

Healthcare professionals are often afraid that such emotional connections will lead to burnout—Geary says he understands that and agrees there's a need to set limits.

"In order to be a good doctor or healthcare professional you need to allow yourself to feel to a certain level. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the person you are serving for a few moments. And you need to allow yourself to be affected, emotionally, by their story," he says. "Burnout is when you wall yourself off emotionally—when you're so afraid of connecting with somebody on that heart level, on that emotional level … It's a terrible disconnect from the person you're trying to service."

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1 comments on "HL20: Jim Geary—Dealing With Epidemics, Again"


Bill Barksdale (1/16/2012 at 8:17 PM)
I worked with Jim Geary at Shanti Project in the early days. I was a minor player but Jim was an inspiring leader at a difficult time. He challenged and taught, frightened but dedicated volunteers to be strong and loving advocates for young, terrified men dying from the unknown disease AIDS. We didn't know what it was. I assume Jim had some fear too but I never saw it. He was couragous, loving, kind and a mighty force that confronted government and social agencies to deal with this epidemic in a meaningful and effective way. I haven't seen Jim for years but I will never forget him. He's a true hero.