Perhaps you have heard the expression you should “walk a mile in someone’s shoes” before making any judgment. The saying refers to empathy, which is the ability to relate to another person’s pain as if you have experienced that pain yourself. Tara Joseph, a CNA at Consulate Health Care of Winter Haven, in Florida, demonstrates her empathy each day as she works with her residents.

Tara’s empathetic nature leads her to show great compassion. Tiffany Smith, the business development coordinator at Winter Haven was inspired to nominate Tara for the CHIRPs spotlight because “Tara came in on her day off to help encourage a resident to get out of bed to go down to get her hair done in our beauty salon. The resident was nervous about getting up and out of the room as she only does it on a rare occasion.” Tara told to the resident that “Everyone needs a spa day.” Tara had become very close with this resident, and “it warmed our hearts to see such compassion,” explained Tiffany. Tara ended up making the resident’s day and the pampering brought a huge smile to the resident’s face. When we mentioned the incident to Tara, she humbly commented, “She (the resident) trusts me. We have a good bond.”

"It warmed our hearts to see such compassion."

Tara is able to empathize so well, in fact, that she can communicate with some patients without even using words! She has one patient who exclusively speaks German. Although Tara doesn’t know any German, she has developed a heartwarming relationship with this patient. “She has beautiful eyes that light up when I walk in the room,” Tara explained. “She likes to take a hold of my face. When she laughs, I laugh.” Even though they are not speaking the same language, they are able to communicate in their special way.

You might wonder how Tara became so empathetic. She remembers when her grandmother told her “be careful how you treat people. You never know who will be taking care of you in the future.” Tara experienced this first hand when she battled cancer. During her treatment and recovery, Tara had to learn to accept help from others. After her surgery, she needed assistance with bathing, shopping, and much more. Tara had to learn to allow people to help her. Now, when Tara faces resistance from patients that don’t want help with bathing and other activities, she can understand where the defiance comes from. She reassures her patients, “I know this must be hard for you (to accept help). I understand. This is the job I am here to do. I have no problem doing this. I am a professional.” The mutual understanding usually makes everyone more comfortable.

Thank you, Tara, for making a daily difference in our patients’ lives.