Andrea Nakayama: How The Empathy Trap Impacts Healthcare – and Leadership

If you’ve ever experienced the healthcare system due to a medical emergency or a chronic illness, then you know the system is often set up to deliver cookie cutter outputs based on inputs. There is little room for “true empathy” even though many healthcare professionals want to help people. In healthcare – and in our workplaces and organizations – we tend to get empathy wrong! Empathy is not about being nice, quickly easing someone’s pain or solving their problem. Empathy is about being with someone, deeply listening, and adapting based on their history, context and point of view. That’s how you find root causes and effectively and collaboratively solve problems for the long term – rather than band-aiding challenges for the short term.

It was a joy today to speak to functional nutritionist, Andrea Nakayama. We discuss how a personal tragedy when she was just 7 weeks pregnant led her to the work of empowering health practitioners to rethink nutrition, systems and care protocols. Andrea shares what the Empathy Trap is and why so many of us fall into it, leading to negative results.  Tune in if you say you’re empathetic but constantly feel anxious and overwhelmed! We discuss how to balance empathy with personal boundaries through her ART framework for patient care – which is a powerful tool for any leader in any industry. Andrea also shared her perspective on the health conversations coming out of the pandemic around mental health and wellness. I had such an epiphany  in this interview about HOW we can show empathy without losing ourselves – and how to problem solve with empathy – take a listen!

Key Takeaways:

  • In functional nutrition and functional medicine, it is about creating a therapeutic partnership, looking for root causes, and taking a systems based approach.
  • Doctors do not get a lot of nutrition training in medical school. They can’t know what they don’t know and, a lot of the time, they are not willing to make recommendations they cannot follow up on or know how to follow up on.
  • In health care, the training is about the x for the y. We need to broaden our perspective of what healthcare is, how people have access, and understand that the solution is multidimensional.

“Oftentimes, we overlap the problem and the solution, we spend five minutes on the problem and 45 minutes on the solution. And we actually have to flip that: When we spend more time in the assessment, we better understand our road to a sustainable solution.” —  Andrea Nakayama

About Andrea Nakayama, Functional Nutritionist:

As the host of the 15-Minute Matrix Podcast and the founder of Functional Nutrition Alliance, Andrea is leading thousands of students and practitioners around the globe in a revolution to offer better solutions to the growing chronic illness epidemic. By highlighting the importance of systems biology, root cause methodology, and therapeutic partnerships, she helps historically underserved individuals reclaim ownership of their health.

References Mentioned:

Rhonda Manns, The Empathy Edge podcast, Design Thinking in Healthcare – and Beyond

Connect with Andrea Nakayama:


FX Nutrition:




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