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Patient-Centred Care: When words become meaningless

Updated: Sep 12, 2020

The terminology of what started out as bedside manner has bounced around from patient centred care to patient experience to patient engagement to patient partnership.

I’ve heard the term person-centred care and client-centred care. And relationship-based care. And in pediatrics, this is typically called family-centred care.

In the olden days it was bedside manner, but this mostly applied to physicians. Today, the notion of feeling empathy and demonstrating compassion towards patients is sometimes called soft skills. Or interpersonal skills. Or communication skills. Or human skills.

Now my head is officially swimming. All these phrases are used so often that they have become meaningless jargon. The corporate types have stolen the words from patients and made everything overly complex. These phrases are slapped onto hospital strategy documents and health authority websites but they mean absolutely nothing unless they are backed up by real-life actions and behaviours by people who work in health care settings.

I stand firm in saying that you cannot say you are patient centred until patients say you are patient centred.

But what does patient centred even mean?

My latest Lesson Plan from my Bird’s Eye View book’s course content goes back to the basics. In The Bedrock of Health Care, I share short stories about respect, dignity, information sharing and collaboration while guiding students to dig deep and share their own stories from their lives.

Patient centred care (or whatever you want to call it) is simply how you show that you care about patients as human beings. If you master this, you will transform from being merely a competent health professional into a beloved one.


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