Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Diplomacy: The business of handling a porcupine without disturbing the quills. ~Author Unknown

When working within a large medical institution, one becomes adept and proficient at fine tuning their diplomacy skills. Within the medical labyrinth, there are so many players, so many egos, and so many implicit rules. One never knows when they will hit a land mine, and when they do, it awakens and kindles the most primitive forms of human behavior.

Each day I am learning how to do my social work well, while at the same time, not threatening a structure that customarily understands how to function when the rules and regulations are adhered to. It's challenging and often frustrating, but it encourages me to be creative and prolific in my work.

Upon reflection, I also have a sense of empathy and consideration for those who only know how to work within the safety and vacuum of order. In this vein of thought and feeling, I am aware of my need to be diplomatic and flexible like a "Gumby" when I hope to accomplish support for my patients, as well as the many medical professionals I work with.

While the world of medical physicians are laudable for their focus of healing and curing illness and disease , they still have a learning curve when it comes to treating the needs of the "whole person." This is where gentle diplomacy comes into play. As a member of a palliative care team, I am aware of how frequently we must remind other medical professionals that the patient isn't just the disease they are diagnosed with. In each of these situations, we must address and approach this concept with subtlety and a strategic finesse.

I believe that all professionals working in the field of health and human services are based in altruism. Their goals of care may be different, but their intention to heal and care is collective. So when I am confronted with scenarios which require diplomacy, I find I am able to do this with a foundation of compassion. One can only engage in true diplomacy when they are willing to listen first. Listen and recognize where another is coming from. When someone feels respectfully heard, they are much more acquiescent and accesible. Through diplomacy, we can create openings and avenues for new alliances. Maybe, our best social work isn't just meant for our patients and families.

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