When I think of how to define the word integrity, two things come to mind. First, doing what you say you will do. Second, doing the right thing even when no one is looking. This week I’ve expanded that definition to include: upholding standards even when the patient is unconscious.
This week I read a story about a woman who audiotaped her surgery to find out what really happened while she was unconscious. She learned that the surgeon and the rest of the surgical team talked about her, mocked her, and laughed about her while she was under anesthesia.
I am not condoning patients recording, but it certainly was an eye opener and an incident that fuels patient paranoia, while providing an opportunity to reinforce standards and integrity.
In a culture that fosters respect and integrity, no one would make derogatory or disrespectful comments in the first place. But if a derogatory comment was made, the other team members would shut it down, letting the offender know that, “That’s not who we are. We don’t do that here.”
Preserving patient dignity is such a basic principle of the patient experience. Use this story as an opportunity to open a dialogue with your staff about respect and how to respond if someone is not showing a patient respect – even when the patient is unconscious.