Last month, in The temptation of giving up we talked about how appear from Humanization numerous possibilities for feeding the engine of action that is the internal “motivation” . Gratitude is one of those possibilities, which is more than just a standard of courtesy, it is a #humantool  at our fingertips.

No one wants to be admitted to an ICU or receive treatments and invasive interventions; no one wants to feel the body exposed to pain and other persons to decide when intervention on it. No family wants to feel the anguish that uncertainty and fear generate to the loss of a loved one. And despite all that, on many occasions, the professional receives a ‘thank you’ by the patient or a family member. Do you remember the last time? Do you remember what did you feel?.

In general, gratitude is something comforting, something that informs that the action (no matter how difficult has been for the other or even for yourself ) has been evaluated as positive, that you have reached the other person and that he or she values it as “a gift”, as something that could not have received. It can you give us some shame, but produces well-being.

Gratitude is being studied from a scientific point of view only since the early 1990s, and Robert Emmons is one of the leading researchers. This author points out that, in addition to give very important ethical and social functions, gratitude allows coping and stress recovery from critical situations. This is so because those people with ability to show gratitude are also able to keep a flexible view of the events, pointing out both the positives and the negatives of them, allowing them to have a global vision and not just focused on one element of possible damage or discomfort. This is clue for the ICU patient as well as for the professional who treats him.

Gratitude arises from two stages in the processing of information: affirmation (of the positives aspects) and recognition (from the origin of what is good outside ourselves). The wonderful thing about this, is to have effect in both persons: sender-receiver. It allows us to connect and recognize people willing to make effort for our welfare, and it is a motivator, because perceiving gratitude helps welfare and decreases feelings and hostile behavior. In the words of Emmons, “it is the moral cement that is installed in the cracks between people”, makes us prosocial and empathetic.

If we move these data to interpersonal relations in an ICU, putting into action the #humantool of gratitude will allow:

• In the patient and family, the recognition of the professional who applies humanization in the day to day.
• In the professional, empathetic recognition of the special situation which patients and relatives are going through.
• The motivation of the profesional, who sees recognized his work.
• The link between the patient and the collaboration of family,
• The facilitation of social relations and teamwork.
• The facilitation of positive emotional moods in all stakeholders.

It seems therefore, to thank in a sincere manner is something more than the mere transmission of a word. It is worth not done quickly or automatically and remember that gratitude is a virtue of human being in an humanist application of healthcare. We can find it, apply it, develop it, promote it in our environment… So, everyone wins.

Macarena Gálvez Herrer

PhD in Clinical Psychology. Member of the teaching team of Proyecto HU-CI