Enhancing patient care commences with a quality often not associated with the medical field – humility.
My firsthand encounter with humility occurred eight years ago on the night my son was born, observing the collaborative efforts of the doctor and doula in delivering our baby. Their partnership was marked by open communication, mutual respect, trust, and teamwork. Most notably, they actively involved my wife, prioritizing her needs, resulting in the creation of an unforgettable moment – the birth of our healthy baby boy.
As a social scientist specializing in clinician collaboration, this experience left a profound impact on me. I investigate how healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and the entire team, can demonstrate professional humility for improved patient outcomes and enhanced well-being of healthcare workers.
Professional humility in healthcare implies that doctors, nurses, and various healthcare providers view each other as teammates. This entails shared goals, recognition of professional limitations, acknowledgment of strengths in others, and the inclusion of patients and caregivers in decision-making.
The crucial aspect of professional humility lies in making the patient an integral part of the team. Providers address patients directly, actively listen, admit uncertainties or errors, and communicate without condescension, using plain language devoid of complex medical terminology.
Research increasingly supports the positive impact of clinicians’ humility on patient satisfaction, health outcomes, and overall care. Moreover, evidence suggests that cultivating humility serves as a protective factor against burnout and clinical uncertainty for healthcare providers.
Despite its evident benefits, humility is not prevalent in healthcare, and it is not formally taught in medical and nursing schools. Instances of a lack of humility, such as open disrespect, power struggles, patient disregard, hurriedness, dismissiveness, or rudeness, are unfortunately common in healthcare settings.
The challenge in fostering humility in professional environments may stem from assumptions that intellectual humility implies a lack of knowledge and confidence. Additionally, systemic issues within the healthcare industry, including competition for resources, financial concerns, and interdepartmental conflicts, contribute to the lack of emphasis on humility.
However, research indicates that humility is a sign of exceptional security and confidence, crucial attributes for a patient-centered, team-oriented healthcare workforce. The concept of practicing humility is relatively unexplored, but early research suggests its importance in fostering teamwork and effective care.
During challenging situations in hospitals, patients benefit from a harmonious, communicative, and connected healthcare team, providing reassurance, hope, and healing amidst chaos.