How Is Your Bedside Manner?

By Bentley, William S. | National Association of School Psychologists. Communique, December 2016 | Go to article overview

How Is Your Bedside Manner?


Bentley, William S., National Association of School Psychologists. Communique


In the field of healthcare, reference is often made to a doctor's "bedside manner." In layman's terms, this is all about a physician's style of interacting with a patient. Possessing good bedside manner means that a doctor shows genuine concern for the patient in their care by exuding such qualities as warmth and compassion, actively listening to the patient's questions and concerns, using physical touch to make a human connection, and using words that convey respect and honesty.

References to bedside manner in one form or another harken back to the ancient Greeks, where the physician's Hippocratic Oath originated. Fundamental to the Hippocratic corpus are numerous allusions to appropriate conduct and medical etiquette, particularly regarding physician behavior. Yet a review of medical history reveals almost a regression of doctor/patient relationships over time in favor of science and research, which has currently taken a preeminent position at the expense of such qualities as compassion and empathy. Moreover, the field of healthcare has moved away from a time when "physicians had the time to develop strong interpersonal bonds with their patients to a more sterile, business-like model where patients are 'customers' or 'clients' and physicians are 'providers'" (lobst, 2013). Atul Gawande, popular surgeon and author, has observed this trend as well in his book, Better: A Surgeon's Notes on Performance:

It is unsettling how little it takes to defeat success in medicine. You come as a professional equipped with expertise and technology. You do not imagine that a mere matter of etiquette could foil you. But the social dimension turns out to be as essential as the scientific matter of how casual you should be, how formal, how reticent, how forthright. Also how apologetic, how self-confident, how money-minded. In this work against sickness, we begin not with genetic or cellular interactions but with human ones. (Gawande, 2007)

THE PRACTiCE OF SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGY

Just as the field of medicine upholds the Hippocratic Oath and related codes of ethics, NASP also adheres to a similar code: The NASP Principles for Professional Ethics (NASP, 2010b), which describe the proper conduct for professional school psychologists. As stated on the NASP website, the purpose of the principles is to "protect the public and those who receive school psychological services by sensitizing school psychologists to the ethical aspects of their work, educating them about appropriate conduct, helping them monitor their own behavior, and providing standards to be used in the resolution of complaints of unethical conduct." NASP has outlined four core principles to dictate ethical practice:

* Respecting the dignity and rights of all persons

* Practicing within the boundaries of individual competence and demonstrating responsible caring

* Demonstrating honesty and integrity in professional relationships

* Promoting responsible and healthy school, family, and community environments and advancing excellence and public trust in the profession

NASP has also developed a Model for Comprehensive and Integrated School Psychological Services (NASP, 2010a) to be used in conjunction with the Principles for Professional Ethics. The model represents the official policy for the delivery of comprehensive school psychological services. In essence, "the model provides direction ... regarding excellence in professional school psychology."

Of course, having such guiding principles is part and parcel to any professional practice. But what does that mean in practical terms? Certainly the large majority of practitioners in our field adhere to legal and ethical guidelines. Yet as a profession, have we become so bound by "doing things by the book" and "getting the job done" that we neglect the human element when dealing with our consumers? Do we, like the medical profession, embrace our scientific and research-based leanings at the expense of displaying empathy and compassion in our daily interactions? …

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