Dignity and Respect – from a patient’s perspective

Dignity and Respect – from a patient’s perspective

Patient and Family Centered Care (PFCC), AAMC’s care delivery model, embraces the patient and their family as vital members of the healthcare team. There are four core concepts of PFCC and we’ll explore them all in a series of blog posts over the next few months: Dignity and Respect, Information Sharing, Participation, and Collaboration.

In this first article, we explore Dignity and Respect. It’s exemplified when healthcare providers listen to and honor patient and family perspectives and choices. When we incorporate patient and family knowledge, values, beliefs and cultural backgrounds into the planning and delivery of care, we treat them as partners.

Here, Pat Clesh, who also wrote, Breast cancer and the “silver lining” – a Patient Family Advisor’s perspective, shares her thoughts on Dignity and Respect:

As a younger person, I loved to watch the Carol Burnett Show. This old-fashioned variety show contained classic skits performed by seasoned comedians and was filmed live. The comedians could often be seen laughing uncontrollably during the skits – in fact, they actually made each other laugh! It was contagious and the best medicine!

One of my favorite skits is of Tim Conway in 1975 as The Oldest Man: The Doctor almost 12 minutes of hilarity. Spoiler Alert: Tim Conway’s character is a 92-year old pediatrician who makes a house call to adult patient Harvey Korman, who believes he has a cold. The patient wants more than anything to have simple diagnostics performed before taking medicine for a malady for which he has no proper diagnosis.

If you are looking for examples of dignity and respect in this interaction, you might be searching for a while! Does the doctor treat his patient with dignity and respect, or does he fall back on his old patterns of doing things? Conversely, how does the patient treat his doctor?

Healthcare providers offer dignity and respect to their patients when they:

• Knock on the door before entering.
• Introduce ourselves to the patient and family.
• Explain our title and role.
• Make eye contact, ideally at the level of the patient and family (sitting down if necessary).
• Ask the patient and family members how they would like to be addressed.
• Partner with the patient and family to decide the best time for a meeting, a procedure, or discussion, whenever possible.
• Remain open, nonjudgmental, and accepting when patients and family members share their points of view.

This is a lighthearted way to address an important issue. Personally, I think dignity and respect is not simply for patients and families. We need to treat our healthcare providers with dignity and respect as well – incorporating a mantra of “dignity and respect” and repeating it to ourselves when it is most difficult to remember.  Like on Ritchie Highway, Route 50, at the MVA, and yes, seeing patients, families, and medical professionals.  We can make this a kinder world if we all only try.

Thanks for all you do!

Respectfully yours,
Pat Clesh, Patient Family Advisor


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