Racism: Expanding Compassion

  1. I never thought of myself as a racist, but I'm noticing in clinical that I've been more compassionate and supportive and possibly giving better care to patients that I see as like me. This sometimes happens with people who are the same race, but can also be same language, age, culture, sex, education, sense of humor, etc.. What can I do to help ensure that I give the same great empathetic care to patients with whom I don't identify.
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  2. 23 Comments

  3. by   Multicollinearity
    Great question. I think we ALL have kernals or streaks of unconsious racism. Shades of gray, you know? It's not possible to live in a racist society and not have some of it affect our thinking - whether we want to admit it or not.

    That said, you might be too hard on yourself here. I don't think it's racist to at times simply feel like you have more rapport with someone like yourself - it's just because you are more comfortable with what is familiar. If I had a patient, a woman, who wore Birkenstocks, and displayed a sarcastic sense of humor, I'd say to myself "I like this patient!" Of course because the patient is like me!

    Something tells me that because you are mindful of the issue - you will do great.
  4. by   UKRNinUSA
    why not try this:
    Expose yourself to people who are NOT of the same race, language, age, culture, etc. Why not come over and work in Los Angeles (the melting pot of the west coast) for a while. It works for me.
  5. by   SaharaOnyxRN
    Quote from firstyearstudent
    I never thought of myself as a racist, but I'm noticing in clinical that I've been more compassionate and supportive and possibly giving better care to patients that I see as like me. This sometimes happens with people who are the same race, but can also be same language, age, culture, sex, education, sense of humor, etc.. What can I do to help ensure that I give the same great empathetic care to patients with whom I don't identify.

    There is nothing YOU can do because you've already former opinions about certain groups of people in your mind. The only help for you is God. Then once you pray and ask him to help you to see past people's color, then you can do your part.

    The reason I say this is because I was once very prejudiced against white people. I thought all white people were racist, so I just knew they didn't like me because I am black. So, therefore, i didn't treat them badly, I just probably stood on edge with them moreso than patients of other colors. I think I took all their negative actions as being racially motivated. It was affecting me. So, I prayed to God for him to clean my heart, and He did. Now, I love any and everyone and I don't have resentment against a particular group of people. And when i was able to open my heart, I finally got the rewarding feeling of helping and taking care of others.

    So, the best advice I can give you is pray. The mind is very powerful. Once you have something set is your mind, it will take a miracle to overcome it.
  6. by   Multicollinearity
    Quote from SaharaOnyxRN
    There is nothing YOU can do because you've already former opinions about certain groups of people in your mind. The only help for you is God. Then once you pray and ask him to help you to see past people's color, then you can do your part.
    I understand that this would be helpful for many. It wouldn't help me though. I'm an agnostic/atheist leaning Unitarian. People like me need to understand the issues and dissect them, and then compose a philosophy and strategy.

    I do *sincerely* think it is wonderful that this has worked for you though.
    Last edit by Multicollinearity on Nov 19, '06
  7. by   CHATSDALE
    try and see everyone as human beings, there really isn't a lot of difference in us and you may find some fine friends with co-workers and acquaintances and your patients will receive better care
  8. by   firstyearstudent
    As an atheist Quaker Sarahara's message speaks to me that spirituality can be a valuable tool against racism (notwithstanding that religion is sometimes a tool used for racism). I am certainly impressed that her faith has helped her overcome some of the damage of being a victim of racism.

    Perhaps a strategy would be to try to find something about a patient with which to identify.
  9. by   SharonH, RN
    Quote from firstyearstudent
    I never thought of myself as a racist, but I'm noticing in clinical that I've been more compassionate and supportive and possibly giving better care to patients that I see as like me. This sometimes happens with people who are the same race, but can also be same language, age, culture, sex, education, sense of humor, etc.. What can I do to help ensure that I give the same great empathetic care to patients with whom I don't identify.

    You're aware that you have a flaw in the delivery of your care and you are looking for ways to correct that. That's impressive and makes you better off than many, many people both IRL and on this board who have expressed clear prejudices against people of other races, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic status all the while denying that they show preferences. As long as you continue to make an active effort to deliver equal care to all of your patients, I believe you will be okay.
  10. by   augigi
    I was going to say the exact same thing - there is something positive to find in most everyone. If you consciously look for it, it's hard to feel biased against them. Maybe they have a great sense of humour, or are wise, or whatever. Talk to people and get to know them.
  11. by   zenman
    Quote from SharonH, RN
    You're aware that you have a flaw in the delivery of your care and you are looking for ways to correct that. That's impressive and makes you better off than many, many people both IRL and on this board who have expressed clear prejudices against people of other races, ethnicities, religions and socioeconomic status all the while denying that they show preferences. As long as you continue to make an active effort to deliver equal care to all of your patients, I believe you will be okay.
    I agree with you.
  12. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Try to see them as human beings with the same color blood coursing through their veins, with the same basic needs you have. It's really that simple for me.
  13. by   Jay-Jay
    Human beings unconsciously fear the unfamiliar. This is the case even if we've been raised in an environment where we've been taught to treat all people the same. I think a good way to overcome this natural tendency is to make an effort to get to know people from other races and ethnic groups. Maybe you could volunteer with an organization that helps new immigrants get settled into their new homes.

    Other than that, if you just treat everyone with equal respect and compassion, I'm sure you'll do just fine!

    When I was doing clinical in nursing school, I was amazed by the misunderstandings that could happen just because people didn't speak the same language! One poor lady wound up dosed with haldol because she got frightened when she couldn't communicate with her caregivers, and lashed out at them in self-defence.

    I had her as a patient the next day, and found that as long as I took my time and was gentle with her, and used non-verbal cues to show what I wanted, we got along just fine.
  14. by   Patti 2nd gen RN
    Quote from firstyearstudent
    I never thought of myself as a racist, but I'm noticing in clinical that I've been more compassionate and supportive and possibly giving better care to patients that I see as like me. This sometimes happens with people who are the same race, but can also be same language, age, culture, sex, education, sense of humor, etc.. What can I do to help ensure that I give the same great empathetic care to patients with whom I don't identify.
    The fact that you are acknowledging that we all make generalizations of one sort or another is a first step--very responsible--and in itself may take you farther than you would think. When you hear yourself think in any generalizations--use it as a red flag to really look at your way of thinking and then at your actions. Many times you may be accurate in your assessment, other times you will need to find another way to choose to speak and behave--but know this--any nurse who thinks they don't make some kind of generalization or another is lying to themselves first and foremost. Me--my mountain to climb is patients who lie to me---be it about drug seeking, manipulative behavior--just because that's what works at home--or whatever. And I get really nuts when non-nurses (family, administration, whoever) try to tell me how to do my job. So in these sitiuations--that I know I have a problem with--I choose to take 'mental space' before I respond--and if I can't in that moment--well--I work with a great team on nights--we have patients that belong to 'the floor' and not just a particular assignment, and we take turns going in there, so nobody gets too close to the edge of behaving unprofessionally. And then we also have multiple techniques to deal with them, and several diffeent perspectives, assessments, and when needed--witnesses and documentation. Choose your mentors wisely, and remember to forgive yourself, and move on when you are less of a 'great' nurse than you want to be. Blessings!!!

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