Putting the patient first

New video stresses the importance of dignity in care

Putting the patient first
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Watch the ABCDs of Dignity in Care video now

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, January / February 2015

Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov has long believed that kindness, humanity and respect are critical elements in providing quality patient care.

As the Director of the Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit with CancerCare Manitoba, he has seen time and again how patients near the end of life receive the benefits of care that incorporates these values.

But he also believes these ideals could be better integrated into other areas of health care. And to help make the point, Chochinov, who is also the only Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care, has created a new video to help spread the word.

Entitled the ABCDs of Dignity in Care, the video is a guide to implementing the principles of Dignity in Care, a concept developed by Chochinov and his team at the research unit as well as researchers in the United States, England and Australia.

Chochinov believes all health-care providers could benefit from incorporating the principles of Dignity in Care in their daily routines, but he would especially like to see it put on the agenda for medical and nursing students.

"Everyone working in health care today has an opportunity and a responsibility to think about dignity, and the people they care for," says Chochinov, who is one of the world's top experts in this field.

"This means putting the person first, not just as a patient, a disease or a diagnosis. If patients think we see only their illness, they feel they have been reduced to a check-list of symptoms," he says.

The idea for the guide first occurred to Chochinov several years ago after he was invited to write a paper for The British Medical Journal about dignity in clinical care. The request got him thinking about the core competencies in health care, known as the ABCs of critical care.

For example, if a person in a hospital emergency room suddenly becomes unconscious, health-care workers are trained to follow the ABCs. They will clear the person's Airway. Next, they will make sure the person is Breathing. Finally, they will make sure the person's Circulation is working - that their heart is beating and blood is pumping.

The more Chochinov thought about it, the more he realized there were no core competencies or principles when it came to the humanities of care.

"I began thinking about those core competencies and how they could be taught and put into practice," he says.

The first step involved developing the ABCDs of Dignity in Care. These are the core competencies that he wants every health-care worker to incorporate into caring for patients.

The video provides an overview of the ABCDs of Dignity. In it, patients and their families, social workers, nurses and doctors talk about the importance of dignity from both sides of the health-care equation.

"The video is another tool to bring the whole issue of dignity to life," says Chochinov. "It increases the impact by having the voices of people experiencing health care, and shows how a good attitude can have a good effect on healthcare encounters."

The ABCDs of Dignity boil down to one thing, says Chochinov. "Patients remember kindness and respect, and whatever the medical outcome, they will remember how you made them feel."

Susie Strachan is a communications advisor with the Winnipeg Health Region.

Wave: January / February 2015

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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