1. Sweat, Mary T.

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Respect is giving attention and consideration to others. It is holding ourselves and others in high esteem. As a society, in general, we seem to be moving away from respect. Simple courtesies-opening the door or holding it for someone behind you, waiting for a conversation to finish before speaking, are no longer the norm.

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What's the cause for this change? Is it our fast paced society, technology, or lack of role models? Mother Teresa noted that in the West we are profit and action oriented, while in the East people "sit around under a banyan tree for half a day chatting to each other. Westerners would probably call that wasting time. But there is value to it. Being with someone, listening without a clock and without anticipation of results, teaches us about love" (Vardey, 1995, p. 95).


The Superior General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), Adolfo Nicolas, S.J. wrote about technology, saying one can "cut-and-paste" without thinking critically. We can become "friends" quickly and painlessly on social networks and "unfriend" without the hard work of encounter, confrontation, and reconciliation. New technologies, together with the underlying values of the world, are limiting the responses to a world in need of healing intellectually, morally, and spiritually (Nicolas, 2011).


Jesus didn't deal with modern technology, but his life was hectic. Mark records that after sunset one evening, the whole town gathered where he was staying. "Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons...Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: 'Everyone is looking for you!'" (Mark 1:29-37).


We live in a world that values things done instantly without waiting, constantly multitasking. Part of our respect problem may be that we are not spending time in that "quiet solitary place" where love and respect can grow.


How does this translate into spiritual care? My aunt long refused to leave her home saying, "You don't get any rest in a rest home." Breakfast was served at 8 AM; she preferred a later breakfast. The care facility was loud; she no longer had a quiet place of her own. A hospitalized friend relayed that staff barged in to her room constantly. Her pastor came and there was no place for him to sit. He was interrupted numerous times over a 20-minute period. The pastor finally cried out in desperation, "Could we just pray here really quickly?" Sadly, staff never noticed him praying.


Nurses need to be part of an environment that brings healing and respects quiet space. How can we do this?


1. Respect privacy. Minimize interruptions. Respect needs for quiet time, prayer, and visits from family, friends, and clergy. Mutual respect is necessary to achieve quality patient-centered care and is necessary for healing. Otherwise we offer nurse-centered care that only meets our need to complete tasks.


2. Create an environment that promotes respect. Examine noise levels and physical aspects of the environment. In a 10-year study of gall bladder surgery patients, those who had a view of a grove of trees went home sooner than those who viewed a brick wall (Louv, 2008, p. 46). Make the environment respectful by lowering noise levels, having chairs for visitors, and create pleasant views for patients.


3. Respect individual preferences. When possible, awaken patients based on their schedule. Allow patients to eat when they desire, not based on a strict hospital schedule. I know nurses can't cater to every whim. However, we can become more aware and apologize when we must interrupt.


4. Respect yourself. Nurses grow in respecting patients when we personally respect and value our own solitude, embracing our "quiet space" where we can enter into intimacy with God. As we respect ourselves, we are better able to recognize and respect our patients.




Louv, R. (2008) Last child in the woods. Chapel Hill, NC: Algonquin. [Context Link]


Nicolas, A. (2011). Challenges to Jesuit higher education today. Conversations on Jesuit higher education, Fall(40), 6-9. [Context Link]


Vardey, L. (l995) Mother Teresa: A simple path. New York, NY: Ballantine. [Context Link]