R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Healthcare Defines the Way We Care


Article Categories: Legal and Ethics & CNA Skills

RESPECT. It is the foundation of patient-centered care. Without it, humanizing the workplace becomes difficult. Every healthcare worker is expected to show respect to patients regardless of their age, gender, race, or other circumstances.



Certified nursing assistants interact constantly with patients and are expected to treat their patients as human beings, deserving of respect and consideration.

If you are a CNA, there are things you must respect when providing care. Use the acronym RESPECT below as a guide:

1. R - Rights

Understand from day one that patients have rights whenever they receive medical care. They have the right to respectful and humane treatment. For CNAs, this means performing procedures with gentleness, especially if the patient is experiencing pain and discomfort. This also means keeping the patient's privacy by not exposing them unnecessarily as you provide care. Pull drapes and curtains shut and close windows and doors when helping to change a patient's clothes or assisting them in using the bedside commode.

It is also not uncommon to hear coworkers call patients “honey,” “dear,” and “sweetie.” If you are an expressive person who uses such terms, refrain from doing so and address patients formally using Mr., Mrs., and Ms., especially if it’s the first time meeting them. After, you can ask them what they prefer. Also, don't forget to introduce yourself to new patients!

2. E - Expressed needs

Patients’ expressed needs are what they request from the staff. Sometimes the request is as simple as an extra pillow or help changing clothes. Sometimes, the need is as complex as information regarding their upcoming surgery, which only their surgeon can provide.

Whatever the circumstances, you must respect patients by meeting their expressed needs to the best of your abilities, but well within the scope of your practice and safety limits for patients.

3. S - Say in the matter

Patients have the right to decide their own course of action when it comes to matters regarding their health. This is where informed consent comes in. Although it is the physician who obtains informed consent, you must support the patient in their decisions.

4. P - Preferences

You can also respect a patient by accommodating their preferences. Provide options whenever possible. If the patient is changing clothes, let them choose from several outfits. When it comes to meals, patients usually prefer some foods over others. Ask them how they want their meals prepared, for example, if they want their food softer, less salty, or with more spices. Always be aware of special diet instructions that are given by the doctor or nurse.

5. E - Every family member

When caring for patients, it is very likely that you will need to interact with their family as well. The way healthcare workers treat their patients’ families is part of the overall patient experience, so CNAs must show respect in this regard as well.

6. C - Confidentiality

Because CNAs remain connected with their patients from day-to-day, they sometimes become the perfect person to listen to stories about patients’ private lives. It is your responsibility to keep these stories to yourself, unless the matter has to do with a patient's safety or the safety of others, at which point, a CNA should encourage the patient to talk to the physician or the proper authorities.

Another way to respect patients in this regard is to keep their health information strictly confidential. This means NOT discussing a patient with others who are not providing direct patient care.

7. T - Traditions, culture, and religious values

Respecting patients’ beliefs and practices can be challenging, especially if you are of a different culture or faith.
A patient may refuse to bathe certain days of the week as part of their culture. Or, a patient may insist on having a religious icon on the bedside table or prefer to be massaged with a distinct-smelling essential oil that their traditional healer has prepared.

What would you do if the family of an elderly patient asks you to bow your head as a sign of respect before leaving the room? The possibilities are endless. Try your best to accommodate these requests, as long as they do not compromise patient safety.

Respect for patients should always go hand in hand with your job as a nursing assistant, because without it, “caring” loses its meaning. Never lose the respect you have for your patients as you carry on with your daily tasks.


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