A Weighty Question
Do you ever feel like people
are talking past you?
My father felt that way, when
I accompanied him to his physician appointments and medical staff would
communicate treatment options to me, but not to him.
He was deeply offended. He
may have been elderly, but he was the patient, the decisions were his and there
was nothing wrong with his mind.
My father had been on the
other side of the doctor-patient relationship.
As a young doctor in the Army
Medical Corps, serving in the 1950s deep South, he always addressed
African-American patients as Mr., Mrs., Miss… (the pre-Ms. era). He was
admonished by colleagues who called African-American patients by their first
names, while reserving honorifics for white patients.
His response was, "I
treat all my patients with dignity."
I heard a nurse speaking to a
group of college students interested in a career in nursing. A student asked,
"What if I don't want to handle bedpans?"
The nurse paused. Then said,
"It is the greatest privilege of our lives to take care of people at their
most vulnerable, when their dignity is the most compromised."
The word "dignity,"
carries weight and with it, heavy responsibility.
But it's not just limited to
the medical field. All organizations need to ask, "Do we treat our clients
Do we treat the expensively
dressed person with the same interest as one less so?
Are we patient with those who take a little extra time to place a food order?
Do we make eye contact and address both individuals, when clients shop in
Can we make all people feel appreciated and worthy of our attention?
Having clients is a
privilege. To be worthy of them, periodically we must do a dignity check.