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Nutrition Support Blog: Reflections on Reindeer, Respect and Reciprocity

Posted by SF8N at Dec 22, 2011 07:50 AM |
December 22, 2011
Nutrition Support Blog: Reflections on Reindeer, Respect and Reciprocity

by Joe Krenitsky, MS, RD

Isolation, rejection, redemption, and forgiveness – that little song about a certain red-nosed reindeer seems to have it all.  As an adult, I have often wondered if I would be quite so willing to forgive and forget as Ol’ Rudolph – I mean, if people can’t respect you for who you are, it might be hard to feel much sympathy when they seem to suddenly love you only when they need your help.

Respect is just as important, or perhaps even more so, in the healthcare arena as it is for reindeer. A recent article about nurses experiences of feeling respected or not respected outlined how perceptions of respect in the workplace related to job satisfaction, employee retention, patient satisfaction and trust of healthcare providers.  While this is not one of those “hard data” type of articles, I recommend it nonetheless:

Bournes DA, Milton CL.   Nurses' experiences of feeling respected-not respected. Nurs Sci Q. 2009 Jan;22(1):47-56 @ http://nsq.sagepub.com/content/22/1/47.short

Participants that were surveyed discussed how feeling respected is energizing and infectious, gives confidence, makes you feel good, makes you want to give back and carries you through any sort of low point, while not feeling respected is intimidating, belittling, humiliating, and patronizing, and can make you feel sad, disappointed, leave you angry…or want to just give in to what people think.  I suspect that many of the concepts discussed in this article are near and dear to many nutrition support professionals as well.  We have certainly had discussions with dietitians about their struggle to be respected as a healthcare provider (rather than a source of information regarding “what’s for lunch in the cafeteria today?”). 

Of course, true respect is always earned, and my personal experiences suggest that the better informed I was, the more respect I received.  When I look back on those instances where I felt not respected, I realized that often I was not so upset by what the other person said or did, as much as I was distressed by my failure to effectively reason my point.  Invariably, I seem to know exactly what I should have said about 30 seconds after the discussion is over! 

Luckily, I work in a teaching hospital where I often get into similar discussions every year when a new group of new houseofficers arrive.  Over the years I have been able to try out a variety of different approaches (reminiscent of Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day) and have learned a number of things that do NOT work (some in spectacular FAIL fashion).  Learning more about the goals, responsibilities and realities of other healthcare professionals roles has been helpful.  Understanding that “readiness to learn” does not only apply to our clinic patients, but also in being able to gauge and apply this principal for nutrition education of nurses and physicians has been essential.  What I have eventually realized is that being informed AND having a genuine positive helpful attitude and showing real respect rather than defensiveness can turn a potential confrontation into a positive interaction.  Although I do not have any data from multi-center, double-blind studies to support me, I contend that we can only expect to receive as much respect as shown to others,…even if they are a reindeer with a red nose, an elf that prefers dentistry to toy-making, or someone claiming it was the enteral formula that caused diarrhea….


“…And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give,…”

                                    - The End, Lennon- McCartney 1969


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