Adventures in Caring Foundation

Teaching the art and practice of compassion in the service of healing.

Yes, compassion can be taught—as a skill that promotes health and well-being. It’s something we’ve been doing for thirty years.


A remarkable program.
I highly recommend it.
David Chernof, MD, FACP • UCLA School of Medicine

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  • PROFESSIONALS on the front lines of health care gain tools to guard against burnout, build resilience, and sustain compassion.
  • STUDENTS who will become our future doctors, nurses and allied health professionals learn the art of treating patients with compassion.
  • ELDERS who are facing the end of life alone gain a friend who has the heart, skills and time to reduce distress, relieve social isolation, and restore well-being.


Oxygen for Caregivers

If you are experiencing stress, you are not alone. Stress in the workplace is common, but in “trauma informed” environments the problem is far more dangerous. Those on the front lines of health care or emergency services, and anyone who witnesses human suffering on a regular basis, encounters the additional stressors of vicarious trauma and compassion fatigue. This first-hand exposure to human suffering multiplies the problem. Our program Oxygen for Caregivers does more than address this issue, it gives you the tools, skills, and momentum to shield yourself from the stress, build resilience and improve your well-being. It also serves as a profound gift that leaders can give to protect their teams.

Got Stress?


Under the auspices of International Medical Corps, I was a physician responder to the ‘University Hospital’ in Port-au-Prince following the 2010 earthquake, so I found the search and rescue footage from Haiti shown in Oxygen for Caregivers particularly moving. I work with the military, first responders around world, the wilderness medicine community, and emergency physicians and residents at Stanford Hospital. This is a wonderful resource to share with my emergency medicine faculty and residents, and to incorporate into the education we provide to other trainees in high-stress medical occupations. Please keep up the good work. It is fascinating and much needed.

Paul S. Auerbach, MD, MS, FACEP, FAWM
Redlich Family Professor of Surgery, Division of Emergency Medicine
Stanford University School of Medicine

These resources are beautifully created and remind us of the importance of self-care. The videos and workbooks provide wonderful tools for all healthcare professionals as they continue their commitment in the sacred work of caring for people with serious illness/traumatic injuries and their families.

Pam Malloy, RN, MN, FPCN
End-of-life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC)

American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN)

Oxygen for Caregivers was a runaway success when it premiered recently at our Care4You compassion fatigue conference. I am still receiving rave reviews from nurses, social workers, and first responders. Oxygen for Caregivers is a highly useful, much needed resource.

Françoise Mathieu, M.Ed., CCC.
Author: The Compassion Fatigue Workbook

Compassion Fatigue Solutions Inc.

This remarkable program, Oxygen for Caregivers, provides wonderful, unrehearsed and non-prescriptive insights from our colleagues who have successfully coped with stress for decades. I highly recommend it.

David Chernof, MD, FACP,
David Geffen UCLA School of Medicine

Oxygen for Caregivers is so well done, so pertinent, so good. Thank you for doing it. I’m totally impressed with what you have accomplished. Adventures in Caring is a wonderful asset in this community and in the world. You are helping to change it for the better.

Charles Zimmer, first Executive Director, Hospice of Santa Barbara

Simply listening to the wisdom this video speaks is a gift. It comes at a time when we all will need it more than ever.  It offers a comfort that we are not alone in feelings of burnout as well as providing a confident approach to addressing the healing necessary for the provider to give the most inspired parts of themselves to their patients.

Julie Allen, MD, OB-Gyn Medical Resident, UC Davis

Oxygen for Caregivers is an exceptional program… it gives a systematic method of self reflection so that we can recognize burnout in ourselves and our colleagues and take important steps to heal. It gives pragmatic tips on how we can pay attention to early signs of burnout and address them constructively. This program helps us take better care of ourselves and better care of each other, so that we can provide better care for our patients.

Jason Prystowsky, MD, MPH, FACEP. Emergency physician, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital
Medical Director, Santa Barbara City Fire Department
Medical Director, Doctors Without Walls–Santa Barbara Street Medicine

Highly useful for discussions by health professionals aimed at a pervasive problem: how to cope successfully with our own feelings while we serve as steady beacons and sources of comfort for others? Kudos to “Adventures in Caring” for making these concerns visible so that we can discuss this more fully, and become even more effective caregivers and more satisfied people.

Richard J. Steckel, M.D.

Such a healing balm you have offered we happy few so blessed to serve, so often wounded on the field. I shall tuck it in my heart and in my go bag.

Fr. Jon Hedges, Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Chaplain
COSB Mental Health ACT Team

Oxygen for Caregivers will spark important conversations about the wellbeing of those on the frontlines of healthcare. These conversations and resulting efforts to attend to self-care needs can certainly improve the quality and safety of care, as well as, enhance the patient experience.

Christina Thielst, FACHE, Vice President
TOWER, a patient experience consulting group

It kept me riveted for the entire program. The variety and sincerity of those interviewed, and the broad range of issues and experiences, from hospice to firefighters, from doctors and nurses to search & rescue workers, drew me in immediately. Best of all, the not overly complicated nor overly simplistic presentation of Connection Concepts was useful and clear. I think it’s a terrific video.

Ann Bennett, Director and Founder
Family Opportunity Center, Santa Barbara

Oxygen for Caregivers is a true gift for all of those who work in a helping field.  It is a simple and thoughtfully crafted message that illuminates the profound need for self-care and self-compassion as the core principles for assisting others.

Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, President
San Diego Domestic Violence Council

Working in hospitals for the past 25 years, I see on a daily basis how caring and compassionate staff feel increasingly depleted due to the various competing demands of their work. Oxygen for Caregivers is like a breath of fresh air.  It is a comprehensive program filled with practical strategies and focused activities designed for helpers to reconnect with others and themselves.

Diana Tikasz, MSW RSW
Hospital Social Worker and Compassion Fatigue Specialist, Ontario, Canada

This was my first time presenting a session on self-care. The Oxygen for Caregivers video made it so easy to do—it made the topic visible. As a result, my group immediately engaged in a spirited, insightful, and healthy dialogue. It was a refreshing experience for all.

Rebekah “Beka” Riemer, RN, CCRNIntensive Care Unit
Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance

Be proactive. Debriefing after the fact is all well and good, but people who thrive as caregivers or first responders put things in place ahead of time. Over decades they gradually build more and more elements of well-being into their lives. Those who go down dark holes to help people (literally or figuratively) need lifelines in place before going down that hole. The most resilient caregivers have the strongest lifelines—healing connections they can hold onto when times are tough. These connections are most reliable when they protect and nourish all four domains of the whole person: physical, social, psychological and spiritual.

In our latest program Oxygen for Caregivers: Guarding Against Burnout, Sustaining Compassion we help you and your team restore such connections. They are one of the three pillars of resilience we build together in this program. You can learn more about it here…

The topic of burnout often looks like a third rail that no one wants to touch. The danger of the conversation deteriorating into an ain’t-it-awful, griping and blaming session seems too likely. But, if we stick our heads in the sand and pretend the problem isn’t there, then what?

When a conversation gets stuck, skilled facilitators will use a “third thing” to unstick it. So it’s not just you and me facing off with opposite viewpoints, there’s a third thing to talk about instead. You can use a poem, a story, a video, a photograph—something that’s related to the topic but doesn’t take sides. A well-chosen third thing will create new perspectives from which to look at the issue and allow the conversation to deepen into more meaningful territory.

The video-based programs we produce function as third things that help teams address hard-to-talk-about topics. Our new production, Oxygen for Caregivers: Guarding Against Burnout, Sustaining Compassion, stimulates a constructive conversation on the topic of burnout, compassion fatigue, and self-care. You can see a preview of it here

When your team or your students are under pressure, they need to know that you have their back. For real. So your actions will speak far louder than anything you say.

Choose actions that reduce the threat-level. There are five primal threats that cause illness in primates. They are described by Robert Sapolksy in his book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers. These threats are the essential ingredients of any horror movie: no control over circumstances; cannot predict what will happen next; facing it alone; no escape; and no hope of it getting better. If you can reduce any one of these factors, especially the one that is affecting your people most, you will reduce their stress considerably and they will breathe easier, thanks to you.

Our program, Oxygen for Caregivers, is designed to be such a gift to your team.

You can read more about the five threat factors and their antidotes, here…



Student Service-Learning Internships

For undergraduate students who are pursuing careers in the health professions. This is a one-year service-learning exploration of the human element in health care. In-depth training, weekly visits with the sick and injured, regular reflection, and year-round coaching develop the advanced listening skills, emotional maturity, and compassion so vital to healing. Such competencies in the art of connecting with those in pain, reduce distress, relieve social isolation, and restore well-being to hundreds of frail elderly patients in local hospital, skilled nursing, and assisted living units.

Student Service Learning Internships


The grief, anxiety, and despair that people so often experience when faced with a serious illness or injury—when facing their mortality—is not a medical problem, and it has no medical solution. There is no pill or medical treatment for this deep emotional suffering or existential anguish that some call soul pain. It is a human problem and the only solution is human contact, with someone who cares, listens, and connects with heart.

There is a point in human experience when all tools and tactics fail. It’s understandable that health care professionals who dedicate their lives to helping others find it difficult to accept this limit. However, it is at this inevitable time when the only thing that makes sense anymore is compassion. This is the pivotal moment when authentic compassion changes someone’s life.

The human element is often missing in modern medicine, to the detriment of both patients and caregivers. This personal, subjective, meaningful side of health care is the essential balance to the impersonal, objective, measurable side of health care. Both are essential. But in today’s health care, the subjective side of being sick – the emotions, relationships, and the meaning it has in our life – is increasingly eclipsed. As a result, patients can often feel that they are at the wrong end of a science experiment.

Technological, economic, regulatory, litigious, and demographic trends are pushing compassion to the fringes of medicine, and limit it to a mere buzzword. Unless we give people the tools and encouragement they need to take a stand for a more humane way of delivering health care, it is likely to descend into an assembly-line approach that treats people like so many units of consumption.

However, by treating people with dignity and compassion, and becoming partners in the cause of healing, we can overcome the impersonal interactions that demean the human spirit and inhibit healing – and hospitals and health care centers can then truly become places of healing.

The Medicine of Compassion is a one-year service-learning program offered by the Adventures in Caring Foundation in collaboration with the UCSB Health Professions Association. It offers an opportunity to students who:

  1. Are interested in entering the health care professions.
  2. Care about making a difference in the lives of those who are seriously ill or injured.
  3. Want to learn about the human element in medicine by putting your compassion into action.
  4. Have the courage to step outside your own comfort zone in order to interact with those who are suffering and to be transformed by the process.

TO APPLY: fill in the application form here: APPLICATION

We use a make-believe character to get at what is most real in life. This is the Raggedy paradox—we use simplicity and humility to gain access to a profound, lasting compassion that restores well-being. So it’s not for the faint of heart or for those who take themselves too seriously.

In order to participate you will have to take time out of your demanding school and work schedules to show up every week in the humblest of garbs in the loneliest of places to bring hope, joy and comfort into the lives of the sick, injured and dying. You will evoke greater lucidity in Alzheimer’s patients, reduce agitation in Parkinson’s patients, and reverse failure to thrive in those who are socially isolated.

After six months of service-learning you will begin teaching others and your skills will deepen further. After one or more years you will likely graduate and go on to medical or graduate school. Our student interns are accepted at higher than usual rates due to their experience, skills, and emotional maturity. Participants in this program have become doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and physicians’ assistants—the backbone of our health care system, and they are now becoming the teachers and leaders of it. For thirty years Adventures in Caring (AiC) has been transforming health care this way—one student at a time.

Researchers now call this relationship-centered medicine. It consists of interventions that increase the strength of the social bond, the human connection, between caregiver and care receiver. We are proud that the interactions of AiC volunteers are now known to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, reduce inflammation, strengthen the immune system, energize the vagus nerve to the heart, turn on the genes that predispose us to health, and make people feel better by releasing endorphins and oxytocin.

If we had invented a pill that does all of these things it would be hailed as a major breakthrough. But no chemical compound can produce such results, only a compassionate interaction between two human beings can do this. At Adventures in Caring we have discovered the secret to making that kind of interaction happen, consistently.

We hope that you join with us to dispense this amazing medicine of compassion to the sick, injured and dying in our community.

COURSE COMPONENTS:

  • 20-hour training session (Friday evening, all day Saturday & Sunday) covers everything you need to know in order to participate.
  • Volunteering once a week, for two to three hours, for one school year, in local skilled nursing, assisted living, and hospital units.
  • Reflection: a journal written after each visit records what you are learning from your experience.
It’s a paradox. We use a make-believe character to get at what is most real in life.

Raggedy Ann & Andy are “safe characters.” They are not associated with violence. They don’t prod, poke, or deliver bad news. They are always friendly and huggable. It is safe to speak to them about anything at all. They will listen carefully, respectfully, with heart, without ever being judgmental or talking down to you. There is a simplicity, innocence, and humility about them—to balance the all too harsh, brash, complexity of a modern health care environment. In other words, Raggedy Ann & Andy are someone you can talk to about whatever is on your mind or in your heart.

Such a safe, welcoming character embodies the qualities that are necessary to open up a meaningful conversation and allow it to find wherever it most needs to go.

The costume breaks the ice and brings a smile—instantly announcing that this is a non-medical conversation. It creates solidarity, because hospital patients can relate to someone who is also dressed in something that is humbling.

A life-size rag doll appearing at your door creates a momentary pause from what was expected—interrupting trains of anxious thought and depressed moods—and making room for the unexpected. The same symbolism is often used in fairy tales, with a person at the doorstep dressed in rags asking a question, and so begins the adventure. With such an imaginative start to the conversation, the places it can go are endless.

Such conversations are both meaningful and memorable. They create a profound sense of connectedness that is crucial to reducing distress and restoring well-being. This is the alchemy of compassion.

All AiC volunteer interns learn their advanced listening skills by visiting the sick and injured in a Raggedy Ann or Raggedy Andy uniform. It is a transformative experience, akin to the use of the kachinas in Hopi healing ceremonies. As with all such rituals, a sacrifice of one’s ego is necessary, and dressing symbolically “in rags” as Raggedy creates a humility that opens of the heart and allows compassion to flow. After these wholehearted listening skills are substantially developed, some volunteer interns are allowed to visit specific hospital units without the Raggedy uniform.

At the heart of the AiC methodology for teaching compassion are four core principles. We observed these principles at work in doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals, as well as volunteers and chaplains—who had that special knack of connecting with the people in their care and drawing out the best in them. Somehow, they were able to give people who were suffering greatly the experience of compassion. Here is a link to a brief outline of these four principles:  Four Principles of Compassion



Tools for Educators in Health Care

Compassion is the wow factor in health care. Yet, how to teach compassion has remained a mystery to most organizations. Adventures in Caring has solved this problem by:

  1. Making compassion visible: with unscripted examples captured live on video.
  2. Discovering four core competencies that give patients the experience of compassion.
  3. Creating a training methodology that everyone can use to improve their ability to communicate and sustain compassion—even in difficult circumstances.

Our programs have proven successful for thirty years.

Tools to Cultivate Compassion


“This series would enlighten not only physicians and nurses, but has a place as a cornerstone of education and training for the entire multi-disciplinary team including students, management, and Hospital Trustees alike.”

P.J. Woods, PhD, MBA, RN Assistant Professor,
University of New Mexico College of Nursing

The Medicine of Compassion can be used by all health care educators to show the central elements of the “art” of medicine; compassion, listening, and communication. The multiple patient video clips are an excellent way to illustrate these key points. In our fast paced, high tech health care system we must be reminded that health care is about people and relationships. Bravo!

Lanyard K. Dial, M.D.
Associate Professor of Family Medicine, UCLA School of Medicine
Medical Director, Ventura County Medical Center

Throughout history, compassion, caring, and love have been the foundation of healing. Without them, medical science and technology are inadequate. The Medicine of Compassion reminds us that these factors remain crucial in healthcare, as the greatest healers have always known.

Larry Dossey, MD. Author: Reinventing Medicine and Healing Words
Barbara Dossey, PhD, RN Author: Florence Nightingale: Mystic, Visionary, Healer and Holistic Nursing: A Handbook For Practice

Your film is very much needed and will be a great asset to any health care training program. When I became ill with cancer I learned what it was like to be treated as a disease and not a person. Your lessons in empathy are an excellent way to ensure that practitioners are more aware of the impact that their behavior has on healing.

Judy Mahoney, Ph.D., Psychologist
University of California, Irvine College of Medicine

Terrific! For the first time compassion is presented as a skill which any health care professional can learn.

Jane Metiu, RN, MSN, Professor of Nursing, Santa Barbara City College

I love the way this video gives a clear organization to the elements of compassion. The hunger for the human touch is well demonstrated and the family healing segment is very poignant. The pace and feeling of the video is just right, and the instruction is clear – beautiful work!

Anthony A. Allina, M.D. Internal Medicine and Family Practice

Unequivocally, The Medicine of Compassion will deepen staff awareness of our patients’ needs. Examples of staff and patient interaction throughout the film clearly illustrate the keys to skillful and sensitive communication. Implementing these skills will enhance our professionalism and make us better human beings at the same time.

Rev. Kevin Jones, M.Div., Director, Spiritual Care And Education
Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center

This video will be a great help for people in the health care profession to communicate with patients and their families and friends. I strongly believe that using these skills in communication greatly assists the healing process.

Tokie Shynk, RN, MHA, Director of Critical Care Services
Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

A valuable tool for any educator in health care. The principles shown are powerful. I have consistently seen my students’ lives transformed by putting such compassion into action. Not only does this benefit their professional lives in the field of health care, it also improves their relationships with friends and family.

Paula Bruice, Ph.D. Senior Professor, Dept. of Chemistry and Biochemistry, University of California, Santa Barbara

A great video for those who are just starting out in health care – and an excellent training tool for instructors who want to encourage compassion. The art of conveying compassion to patients is clearly shown as a practical, learnable skill.

Anna Bissell, Clinical Manager, Oncology Unit
Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

Nothing is more important than the human connection between the patient and caregiver. This video shows step-by-step how to give compassion even in difficult situations. Congratulations on a job well done, I think it’s terrific.

Doug Stone, Harvard Negotiation Project
Author: Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most

I love this video! It’s a wonderful, candid example of compassion at work in a variety of health care settings. It shows the humanity and joy we can find – even in the tougher situations – if we approach them in the right way.

Abbey Gaske, M.D., Urology Group of Southern California

Compassion in Action is a beautiful, practical demonstration of how to infuse difficult conversations with love.

Candace Pert, Ph.D. Neuroscience Research; author of Molecules of Emotion and Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d

A wonderful follow up to The Medicine of Compassion. It stimulates a discussion on more complex situations where demonstrating compassion can be difficult.

Craig Luzinski, RN, MSN, CHE, Chief Nursing Officer
Poudre Valley Hospital, Fort Collins, CO

Incredibly helpful! I was truly amazed and inspired by the nurses and MDs, and their dedication and compassion. This DVD is an excellent teaching resource!

Jan Anderson, RN, MSN, Director
Santa Barbara City College Associate Degree Nursing Program

What is so special and valuable about this video is seeing actual spontaneous reactions in real-time. They demonstrate and inspire the art of being present and observant.

Louise Sipos, RN, Patient Representative, Good Samaritan Hospital, Los Angeles

The sense of revelation that I and my colleagues had while watching this video – what a learning experience! I was moved to tears by one particular scene. I hope all new caregivers see this video, to see the ideal applied to the real. I wish all experienced caregivers could see it to be reminded of why we do what we do – to give LOVE where it is needed most.

Charlotte Dullea, RN Subacute Unit
Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital

Compassion is often forgotten in the skill driven curriculums of nursing schools. This program brings some much-needed attention to the core of nursing. The scenarios were informative and the nurses were very genuine! Thank you for providing quality programs for nurses from every generation.

Joleen Marrufo, Clinical Educator, Parkview Medical Center, Pueblo, CO

An insightful look at experts delivering emotionally supportive care to very difficult patients. A clear demonstration of the need for, and value of, compassion in health care.

Anthony Allina, M.D. Internal Medicine and Family Practice

We live in an imperfect world, and this video helps us explore the complexities of forming compassionate relationships with our patients. Karen and Simon Fox have truly captured the nature of compassion.

Elliott Ring RN Ph.D. Director of Organizational Effectiveness
Parkview Medical Center, Pueblo, CO

This is a compassionate training for all of us who long to know ‘what to say’ or ‘what to do’ when a loved one is suffering. It is an antidote for the sense of alienation and isolation we all feel at life’s toughest times – whether we are the caregiver or the care receiver. Karen Fox’s gentle and insightful teaching is the model of compassion that any caregiver might hope to replicate.

The Rev. Anne S. Howard
Executive Director, The Beatitudes Society

The Lakota elders spoke of things being ‘…in a good way.’ The DVD, Compassion in Action, calls the hearts of those of us who serve to keep true to such a path. When good science and compassion marry, we shall see humanity take steps toward the high calling God breathed into us at our birth. Your work has encouraged mine that this may be so. Thank you.

Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges, St. Athanasius Orthodox Church
Board Certified Crisis Chaplain & Trauma Responder

Treating people with compassion is a teachable skill, but you can’t teach it by lecture, sermon, or by simply telling people what they ought to do. AiC has a seven-step compassion cultivation process that is built into all of our programs. It begins with making compassion visible. This is the first step to making compassion teachable because everyone sees and understands a good example. Then they need to talk about it, and the art of facilitating this group dialogue is the second step.

The key is to turn a difficult conversation into a discovery conversation. Better to be curious than furious! Or, as Parker Palmer puts it, “when the going gets tough, turn to wonder.” For example: “I wonder why they are acting that way?” This is a lot easier said than done, so practice is necessary. No one wants to have a difficult conversation, but we all have them, so becoming more skilled in these situations pays off in a big way.

At some point in your interaction there will always be a choice point, a moment when you can choose to escalate or run away from the tension. This is the instinctive fight or flight response when we feel threatened. There is however, a third option, the choice to engage with the other person and find out more about them. Then we regard the situation as a challenge rather than a threat. This one move reduces our own stress, gives us more information about the other person’s needs and goals, and helps us think more clearly about how to proceed.

The AiC program: Compassion in Action: Being Effective in Emotionally Difficult Conversations builds this capacity to engage effectively when the tension rises.



For Volunteers & Family Caregivers

Gifted caregivers do something more than give assistance and information—they bring the healing presence of compassion to those who are suffering. You can cultivate this capacity for compassion in your group with two DVD-based programs that inspire, inform, and lead to greater well-being for caregiver and care-receiver alike. These programs have been used in more than 5,000 faith and volunteer-based organizations.

For Volunteers & Family Cargivers


“I applaud your efforts to teach volunteers how to interact with people who are suffering…   I did view the video and the program is obviously a labor of love on your part… I am sharing your work with my staff, especially those involved in finding ways for young people to serve their community and fellow citizens.”

Colin L. Powell, General, U.S. Army (Ret.)
Chairman, America’s Promise

“As I reflect on the widespread need in our frantic, fractured society for people with a healing touch, I cherish a fervent hope that this resource will become available to the countless people who could use it to learn how to enhance their caring attitudes and skills.”

Howard Clinebell, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, Pastoral Psychology & Counseling Claremont School of Theology

“An artistic and uplifting video that gives us the tools to enhance the lives of those who are suffering, from whatever cause.”

Robert A. Reid, M.D., President
California Medical Association

“The best educational resource I have ever seen for teaching compassion. It’s inspiring, and shows exactly how to give the psychosocial support that patients need. Everyone in the health professions should see this video.”

Paula Yurkanis Bruice, Ph.D., Senior Chemistry Professor
University of California, Santa Barbara

“Your video touches both the head and the heart. It flows and the teaching points are made so naturally. I cried at several places. Thank you for an effective and beautiful video.”

Elizabeth Wu, Management Development
Kaiser Permanente

“I was impressed by how the film spoke to such a wide variety of people. Students and nurses aids easily understand the material, yet medical doctors also find it valuable.”

Dr. Richard Brand, Assistant Dean
Washington University School of Medicine

“Anyone who wants to increase their ability to communicate with compassion, empathy and caring, will benefit from this video. Communicating with Compassion is a special blend of practical know-how and sensitivity to the unique needs of individuals who are ill. It is a “must see” for all health care providers.”

Judith G. Berg, R.N., Senior Vice President,
Cottage Health System

This is a compassionate training for all of us who long to know ‘what to say’ or ‘what to do’ when a loved one is suffering. It is an antidote for the sense of alienation and isolation we all feel at life’s toughest times – whether we are the caregiver or the care receiver. Karen Fox’s gentle and insightful teaching is the model of compassion that any caregiver might hope to replicate.

The Rev. Anne S. Howard
Executive Director, The Beatitudes Society

The Lakota elders spoke of things being ‘…in a good way.’ The DVD, Compassion in Action, calls the hearts of those of us who serve to keep true to such a path. When good science and compassion marry, we shall see humanity take steps toward the high calling God breathed into us at our birth. Your work has encouraged mine that this may be so. Thank you.

Fr. Jon-Stephen Hedges, St. Athanasius Orthodox Church
Board Certified Crisis Chaplain & Trauma Responder

“Communicating with Compassion is by far the best teaching tool I could use in the area of listening and communication skills. Thank you for your great effort to teach us all that compassion is the key element to a healing encounter.”

Dana VanderMey, R.N., Supervisor of Parish Nurses
Saint Francis Medical Center

“A genuinely touching piece of work – it goes right to the heart. I have all staff view it on a regular basis and prn in times of stress or despair. This video is a powerful reminder of the human component in patient care.”

Liz Duffy, R.N., Nurse Manager, Medical Intensive Care Unit
The Reading Hospital and Medical Center

“When I saw Communicating with Compassion it was love at first sight. I use it with new trainees and at monthly in-service meetings. This video is an education for the heart as well as the head.”

Timothy Larson, former Coordinator of Volunteers
Hospice of Santa Barbara

“This video is one of the most outstanding training tools for staff and volunteers that I have ever seen. I know I’ll be using it often.”

Pat Wheatley, Director Senior Services, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital

“All of the volunteers, nurses, administrators, and chaplains I have shown your video to, found it very valuable. It is now a part of the annual orientation for all of my volunteers. And the Leader Guide is gold — it gave me everything I needed to lead a first-class learning session.”

Sandi Knowles, Director of Volunteers, Twin Cities Community Hospital

“I have been very touched by the compassion and humanity conveyed by your video. It is appropriate for anyone who works with schools, churches, health agencies, youth groups or families.”

Betty Krause, President, Ventura County Volunteer Coordinators Council

“Communicating with Compassion is a quality program. I find it valuable in refining the skills of supportive presence needed by lay volunteer and clergy alike. It is a complete package, educationally sound and stimulating to use. This one is a keeper!”

The Reverend Faye Hogan, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Ventura

Don’t worry, it’s not what you say that makes the difference. It’s the way you show up: present, interested, on-center, offering choices, with a smile. Is this a good time for you? Are you up for a visit? Your body language, even your tone of voice, will speak louder than your words.

There are four elements of a conversation that cause compassion to flow, so that the person who is ill experiences that you care. It is this experience of compassion that is so healing. The first element to put in place is your undivided attention.

Become interested in what is important to them. The trick is getting your attention off yourself and on to the person who is ill. Look into them, not merely at them, seeking the good and listening for clues that reveal what is important—to them. Follow that thread. It’s not about you, your words, the impression you want to make, or what you want to accomplish. Make it all about the person you are visiting.

We cover the four elements in our book, What Can I Say? A Guide to Visiting Friends and Family Who Are Ill. To download the first chapter which summarizes them…

AiC has developed several videos and articles – on DVD and online – for inspiring compassion.  Inspiration often comes from seeing and hearing others of like mind and heart share stories and insights to the challenging work of caregiving.  There are DVD-based programs, articles and references to great work along with videos designed to give soul-nurturing breaks on this website.  Feel free to join our blogs & conversation, link up with others who have forged paths through today’s complicated care-environments.



More Support for Caregivers

The art and practice of compassion is a lifelong journey of discovery, not a static destination—that is why our organization is called Adventures in Caring. AiC offers support, information, links, videos and newsletters for professionals, student pre-professionals, as well as for volunteers and family caregivers—in other words, people who are givers, helpers, and creators of solutions in our world. We welcome your contributions to the conversation by becoming a member of our “Tribe” to pass along your wisdom, share your discoveries, and tell your stories,  through this interactive blog-site. We grow stronger together.

Support for Caregivers


It’s not a good idea to wait until you are running on fumes. And relying on after-the-fact debriefing to patch yourself up is not a great strategy either. You’re not a machine. The most resilient caregivers put things in place ahead of time. They build refueling, restorative stops into their lives BEFORE they need them. They build in the relationships, rituals, escapes, as well as the antidotes to the things that trigger threat responses.

The ABC’s of resilience are: 1) a keen self-Awareness so that you notice your current state of mind, 2)  a healthy Balance between care of others and care of yourself and 3) staying in touch with your healing Connections, the lifelines to the things restore you.

If you only have a few moments to spare, perhaps a poem, inspirational article, music, or art can offer respite. We have original video-clips and music of a peaceful nature that you may find soothing in the middle of the day. Watch them here:

Possibly not, but many other dedicated, caring people are caught up in similar situations where they are at risk of burning out. The most insidious thing about burnout is that it is isolating. So we invite you to become a member of the Adventures in Caring tribe, where you can find and connect with those who are walking the path ahead of you and your fellow travelers. The sense of connectedness to others who understand you is a key antidote to burnout.