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ACT 2021 Featured Capstone:

Where Compassion Blooms and Spreads

Cheryl O'Malley

MD – Phoenix, Arizona, USA


Who did your project serve and what suffering did it address?
My project served employees and staff at a large academic medical center. Although they are drawn to their profession with a sense of purpose and service, there are many factors contributing to compassion fatigue in health care. This manifests through burnout, frustration, loneliness, and worse patient outcomes. 

How did this project address that suffering?
The intended impact of my capstone project is to enhance compassion in health care workers through creating more ready access to compassion-building activities. By creating a space and activities to inspire applied compassion among our team, we've improved wellness among caregivers as well as those receiving care.

Who was your audience and how many people participated? 
All employees and medical staff at our hospital are potential participants. So far, approximately 150 participated through receiving a "compassion card." Additional participants are the 11 members of our compassion team who meet monthly. Patients and visitors also may have received them, although they are not the direct audience.

How was the project delivered (the format)? 
My Capstone Project was the creation and distribution of "compassion cards" — 3” by 5” cards describing the details for a single compassion-enhancing activity. We have 13 different cards with activities ranging from links to brief guided meditations and reflection activities to cards focused on team building. Our “compassion team” will meet monthly to assemble the cards and plan distributions in a variety of venues.

What was the reported impact on or feedback from participants?
Many participants really appreciated the cards and enjoy the practice of revisiting a feeling throughout the day. Others have said the exercises are "soothing and helpful." Additional feedback will inform the project and the activities on the cards.

How has the ACT Program helped you become an Ambassador of Compassion? 
By reflecting on the principles of common humanity and humility taught through ACT, I have enhanced my ability to appreciate that fear, loss of connection and grief are part of our shared suffering. I've been inspired to meet a community of individuals from around the world who are committed to contributing to a more compassionate world.

What advice would you give to someone who's considering participating in the ACT Program? 
Go for it! No matter where you are, you will benefit from the community that's built with your cohort and capstone mentoring groups. The tools that are taught are practical and immediately applicable and can be shared with those around you. Regarding the project, my advice is to be patient and flexible while also dreaming big. This team is inspiring in their shared vision to notice the suffering among us and our colleagues and to take action. It started from the spark of ACT and now is on fire!



Be the change!

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