Are your prejudices interfering with patient care?
We all have prejudices. The important thing is to acknowledge them, and not allow them to interfere with care of our dental patients.
Do you like your patients? Of course you do. Right? But what if you took a long, hard look and realized that you actually don’t like a few of your patients? How would that make you feel? You probably think you treat everyone fairly, right? But are you sure about that? Let’s just face facts; you have some prejudices. I have some prejudices. Everyone has prejudices. Why is this important? If we are not aware of our prejudices, we may be passive aggressive regarding how our patients are treated, without even realizing it!
Do I dread certain patients coming into my office and sitting in my chair? The simple answer is – yes. I would be lying to myself if I said I loved everyone in this universe. Does this make me less of a professional? Absolutely not! If you can’t look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of who you are, you’re doing both your patients and yourself a disservice. You’re human. You’re not going to love every single demanding patient in your practice. People are very different.
Why am I bringing up this issue? Well, I was answering a question at a seminar the other day, and referred to Americans as Caucasians. It slipped off my tongue before I even realized it. The person talking to me gave me a perplexed look. How did I make such a politically incorrect mistake? I wasn’t raised to be prejudiced. But there are subtle prejudices that many of us aren’t even aware we have. I was stunned that this came out of my mouth.
We’ve all read about the events in Ferguson, Mo., recently. I read postings on Facebook about Ferguson that stunned me. Friends who had talked openly to me for years about race, religion, and politics had never shared the rage they were feeling. But, now, after reading their posts and comments from their friends, I am humbled. We often don’t really show people how we feel until a crisis happens. I didn’t know until the Ferguson events how deep down their feelings were regarding these issues.
My point and how this issue is related to good dental care is that we all need to be aware of our prejudices. Trust me. I didn’t want to face this. I wanted to think that I’m “the perfect professional” in every way. (Yes, I’m serious!) The truth is, even as liberal as I perceive myself to be, I have to be particularly sensitive in making sure I don’t discriminate based on the very things that make us different.
If a patient is obnoxious, we should not generalize that to an entire race, religion, or ethnic group. We realize it’s just that one person being obnoxious. Be aware of your prejudices, and be willing to give this some thought. Talk to your colleagues about what I’ve written here. Start the dialogue both internally and externally.
If you can relate to this subject, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, I enjoy hearing your stories, as these are a way for us to open the doors to provide better patient care.
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Lisa Newburger, LISW-S, aka Diana Directive, is not afraid to tackle difficult topics for dental professionals with humor and aplomb. Her entertaining workshops are available for conferences and association meetings. Writing for DIQ since 2010, her “in-your-face” style of presentation and writing will make you smile, or perhaps shock you into taking some action. Check out her website at discussdirectives.com/dental.html.