On Kindness

20 Dec 2018

sara bird

by Dr Sara Bird

Kind female doctor smiles at male colleague/patient

“I’m not a clever doctor, but I am a kind doctor”. So begins Dr John Launer’s wonderful essay On kindness.

For a caring profession, it is surprising that we sometimes forget to be kind – to our colleagues, to ourselves and sometimes even to our patients.

Many of us will have seen handover hostility where, instead of being considerate and generous towards our colleagues, there is rudeness and criticism. Adding injury to insult, there is good evidence that this type of behaviour represents a risk to our patients, with a reduction in doctors’ diagnostic and procedural performance when exposed to rudeness.

A recent MJA article suggests adding kindness to clinical handovers. When using ISBAR (Introduction, Situation, Background, Assessment and Recommendation) as a systematic tool for patient handover, doctors could also display kindness towards each other  – hence the new acronym K-ISBAR. The authors challenged all Australian doctors to consciously hand over with kindness.

And what about kindness to ourselves? We are generally our own harshest critics. Let’s be kind to ourselves when we don’t live up to our expectations; when tasks do not go as well as we had planned; when we make mistakes.

Dr Launer reminds us that small changes can spread quickly and widely, transforming organisational patterns of thinking and interaction. He ends his essay with “perhaps being clever and being kind are not so different after all”.

Best wishes for the forthcoming festivities. Let’s hope that in 2019 we are all surrounded by kindness.

This blog contains general information only. We recommend you contact your medical defence organisation or insurer when you require specific advice in relation to medico-legal matters.



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