Respect: an Exploration

In her book “Respect”, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot probes an important element of all human relationships and provides personal stories of professionals who approach their work respectfully and pragmatically. I have selected to analyze the chapter pertaining to healing, wherein a pediatrician’s clinical work is focused on respect for her patients, competent advocacy skills, and challenging the common approach of other pediatricians who primarily focus on technique and technology as opposed to the overall well-being of their patients. 1) Dr.

Johnye Ballenger is a private pediatrician based in Cambridge who dedicates one day every week to treat patients at the South End Health Center, which is a community health centre dominated by people of colour and those who are less privileged in society. Dr. Ballenger’s clients at the South End Health Center are predominately Latino. Despite communication barriers, she makes an earnest effort to communicate with her patients in their native language. It is apparent through her actions and words that respect is not something that is developed mainly via the exertion of effort, but it is a natural way of life adopted through conscious choices.

Through her constant interaction with children, Dr. Ballenger teaches her patients social skills by modelling the behavior she expects from them. For example, whenever she communicates with an individual, she establishes direct eye contact; and when she shifts her attention from one person to another, her gaze shifts as well. If a child is looking away whilst she is speaking to them, she politely insists that they look at her and respond (p. 61). 2) Power differentials exist in almost all relationships. In the case of Dr.

Ballenger who is viewed as an authority figure due to her role as a medical practitioner, her actions directly affect her patients and their well-being. Being a medical practitioner often requires that she gains access to her clients’ physical space which is only possible after establishing mutual consent and respect. Such intimate physical contact with vulnerable patients increases the feeling of power imbalance. However, Dr. Ballenger uses a comforting approach to these situations and makes her clients feel at ease. In line with her belief that “Respect breeds respect” (p. 65), she respects them and they respect her. 3) Dr.

Johnye Ballenger’s patients demonstrate that they are unable to access quality healthcare on a regular basis as they crowd the South End Health Center whenever she practices. Based on Dr. Ballenger’s deliberate efforts to treat her patients on the basis of kindness, equity, and respect, it can be deduced that the South End community is typically overlooked and treated with a degree of discrimination. Also, it seems that the female population of the community faces disenfranchisement as Dr. Ballenger seeks to empower them by helping them discover the essential skills and resources to advocate for themselves and seek the care that they need. ) Dr. Ballenger utilizes a variety of means to convey respect. She demonstrates respect through her profession, in her actions and words. In the chapter, Dr. Ballenger is quoted saying, “respect is not something one can imitate, but something one must embody” (p. 57). Dr. Ballenger corresponds with her patients via gestures, facial expressions, and an informal attitude. Also, despite her lack of fluency, she tries her utmost to communicate with her Latino patients in the Spanish language so as to increase their overall level of comfort (p. 59).

Furthermore, if multiple family members were to accompany a child for an appointment, Dr. Ballenger would not only focus on the patient. Rather, she would address the needs of everyone and give each individual her undivided attention. This approach develops trusting, friendly and respectful interpersonal relationships. Also, when the children make impractical requests, she gently offers alternative solutions, and consistently fulfills her promises which only increase their level of trust and respect for her (p. 60). Through her unique methods of establishing respect, Dr.

Ballenger stands out from her colleagues who simply analyze medical symptoms and prescribe medication systematically. She exerts her utmost effort to ensure that her patients receive appropriate care, rising above conventional expectations by empowering those around her. Dr. Ballenger maintains strong rapport with her patients’ parents, consistently keeping them well-informed of their children’s health. If any of her patients were to suffer from serious health issues, she would sympathize with the parent in a calm, encouraging manner thus preventing anxiety beyond what is natural.

When a situation arises wherein children act disrespectfully towards their elders, she admonishes them in a courteous and inoffensive way, setting the best example. As a skilled advocate—a role she sees as imperative to good practice—Dr. Ballenger overcomes bureaucratic barriers that would have otherwise impeded her practice in the South End Health Center, so she could arrange proper health care for her patients. As such she does not challenge the healthcare system as a whole, but rather, she works to solve key pertinent issues at hand in a pragmatic manner.

Dr. Ballenger’s strong disposition to act with respect is rooted in her family history and cultural upbringing. Her use of respectful titles when addressing elders may not be understood by others, but from her perspective, it is the difference between honouring and humiliating someone. Dr. Ballenger emphasizes human relationships, in that respect should be deeply rooted between all. Modern medical practice relies primarily on a strictly scientific approach, thus failing to focus on Dr. Ballenger’s traditional approach.

In her opinion, modern doctors are becoming increasingly arrogant, lacking humility in the way they interact with their colleagues and patients. In a seminar, she fails to agree with the methods the speaker encourages, employing a gentle and firm voice to ensure her opinions are heard (p. 87). Even if positive change does not occur immediately, she hopes to inspire future doctors so that they may eventually demonstrate genuine concern and respect for their patients later on. 5) Showing respect has a plethora of positive effects. It encourages positive mutual reciprocity between the giver and receiver.

Respect is communicated not only in words, but more importantly, in actions. Thus, when two parties exhibit respectful behaviour, it increases mutual feelings of self-worth and contributes towards a positive environment overall. The giver of respect develops self-control and humbleness by relinquishing the ego and realizing the true worth of every individual. Treating everyone equally and respectfully is one way in which a person can display positive examples of leadership. In the context of medical practice, showing respect demonstrates professionalism, and therefore credibility.

For doctors, the establishment of good rapport with patients is crucial as it creates feelings of trust and comfort, which are both imperative for successful medical practice. If a patient does not develop such feelings towards their practitioner, it is likely that they will distrust the validity of the medical diagnosis and prescribed treatment, consequently failing to comply with legitimate medical advice. Conveying respect establishes a level of interpersonal comfort which fosters personal relationships. It affects the overall well being of patients and doctors, and aids in healing beyond the medical sphere.

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