The quality of caring relationships
Tineke A Abma, Barth Oeseburg, Guy AM Widdershoven, Marian Verkerk
Medical Humanities/EMGO Institute, VU Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Abstract: In health care, relationships between patients or disabled persons and professionals are at least co-constitutive for the quality of care. Many patients complain about the contacts and communication with caregivers and other professionals. From a care-ethical perspective a good patient-professional relationship requires a process of negotiation and shared understanding about mutual normative expectations. Mismatches between these expectations will lead to misunderstandings or conflicts. If caregivers listen to the narratives of identity of patients, and engage in a deliberative dialogue, they will better be able to attune their care to the needs of patients. We will illustrate this with the stories of three women with multiple sclerosis. Their narratives of identity differ from the narratives that caregivers and others use to understand and identify them. Since identities give rise to normative expectations in all three cases there is a conflict between what the women expect of their caregivers and vice-versa. These stories show that the quality of care, defined as doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, for the right person, is dependent on the quality of caring relationships.
Keywords: ethics of care, dialogue, responsibilities, narratives, relationships
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