A small child about five years old was preparing to go home following a minor procedure done at SGMC. The surgery had been successful, and the child was seated in a wheelchair, his parents standing beside him. The nurse was starting the discharge process.

Instead of speaking directly to the parents, the nurse knelt down so that she was eye-to-eye with the child. Carefully she began to go over the instruction sheet with him, speaking carefully and using words that he could understand. She helped focus his attention by showing him what was written on the instruction sheet, and skillfully and methodically she engaged him in the explanations of each point.

She asked him if he had any questions, and after a bit of discussion back and forth between them, she handed him a pen and ask if he would be willing to sign the discharge papers indicating that he understood.

It was a very solemn signing, and when he was done and had given her back the pen, she said, “Now I’m going to repeat these instructions to your parents to make sure they understand everything I told you.”

It was a moment of perfection. The look on that child’s face spoke volumes. The nurse had assured him that he was not helpless in a strange and complex situation. She had reminded him that he was not alone. Using his natural curiosity, she had reassured him and helped relieve his uncertainty. She had helped him focus on recovery and getting better. And she had turned a routine moment into an iconic example of what it means to show great care and respect for every patient and family within our care. We commit to hold ourselves to the highest standards of speech and conduct toward all people with whom we interact, regardless of their condition, gender, race, nationality, socioeconomic status, faith, or sexual orientation—and, as in this case, their age or size.

Next week: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Spelling it out.