Viewpoint:: Teaching Respect for Patients

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Respect is a core value of medical professionalism. Respect for patients often manifests itself as an attitude, of which the physician is only partially self-aware. To teach respect means bringing it fully into consciousness. Physicians then should strive to make respect an inner quality, beyond being a behavior. The author illustrates the depth of feeling involved in respecting another person by citing passages from Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee's classic book that describes Depression-era tenant farmers. However, major barriers inhibit teaching of respect in clinical settings. The author proposes that synergies can be achieved that overcome the barriers by combining the effective modeling of respect in bedside teaching with formal teaching exercises involving patients and deep critical reflection using narratives wherein learners describe their experiences in patient care.

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