Cultural Change Could Be Just What's Needed; Dr Lynn Monrouxe Discusses Her Research into How People Develop Their Professional Values and Behaviours as They Become Patient-Centred Healthcare Professionals

Article excerpt

Byline: Dr Lynn Monrouxe

ALL of us, at some time, will have experiences of being a patient. At such times we might feel vulnerable as we look to doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals for help and advice. While most of our experiences will be positive, a significant minority of us will experience difficulties in our interactions with healthcare professionals. For example last year, following a spate of similar reports across the UK, the Older People's Commissioner for Wales found consistent issues concerning the lack of dignity and respect patients received in hospital.

These situations can cause real distress for patients, undermine the effectiveness of clinical treatment and sometimes impacts on how fast we might recover.

I am interested in how this state of affairs comes about within an NHS that promotes respect, dignity and compassion for all. My research examines what happens to healthcare students during their training in clinical settings that means they sometimes have to be reminded that the person in front of them is a human who deserves compassion and respect.

Today's healthcare students are explicitly taught about what comprises professional values and behaviours.

However, a large part of learning to become a healthcare professional occurs within the NHS as they observe their seniors - who act as powerful role models - interacting with patients. Sometimes these role models were trained many years ago and belong to a different culture of medicine with different ways of doing things. People who belong to the same cultural group tend to embrace common characteristics such as language, customs and values. In doing this they embrace a common "cultural identity" and achieve a sense of belonging.

Likewise, healthcare students tend to embrace common characteristics of their chosen profession. They look to their seniors for guidance about how to behave. But what if their seniors belong to a different era where things that were acceptable then may no longer be acceptable now? …