Learning Empathy From Falconry

Can a bird of prey help us become better empathizers?


Recently, I had the privilege of trying the sport of falconry.  Falconry is an ancient art of hunting with a trained bird of prey.  It’s the only sport that uses a trained-wild animal (though that seems a bit of an oxymoron to me).

However, the bird I worked with was not a falcon.  Instead, it was an adult hawk.  Hawks are amazing birds.  But don’t let their size fool you.  Hawks prey on squirrels, other birds, small dogs, and even fawns.

The sport of falconry is unique and quite extraordinary when you think about it.  But there’s a lot to consider if you’re interested in the sport.  You have to provide food and shelter for the bird(s).  You have to foot the bill for permits, fees, and tons of education, including hours of apprenticeship to become competent.  To become a master falconer takes approximately seven years.

Falconry is very complex, at least from our perspective, but not from the birds.  Birds of prey fly for two reasons:  fear and food.  In the case of the bird I worked with, it was a chicken foot.  That’s it.  Simple.  But how does this sport correlate with empathy and caregiving?

The average caregiver has to deal with charting, assessing patients, acuity, trauma, disease, long hours, charting, computers, drugs, charting, and even death.  Did I mention charting?  There’s a lot to consider.  But from the patient’s perspective, it’s not that complex.  They want to be healed or helped.  They want their problem fixed.

So the next time you feel stressed and frustrated because your workplace is becoming too hectic, take a moment, and put yourself into the patient’s position.  Like birds of prey, they’re there for just a couple of reasons.  Don’t make it more difficult.  Just try and give them what they need.  

But leave out the chicken feet. 

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