Certain people are inherently in positions of great power, even if they don’t realize it or have become so accustomed to it that they don’t think about it anymore.
Certainly, physicians are among that crowd, and are on my mind as I sit in a waiting room at the local hospital. They hold, quite literally, our lives in their hands even with the simplest surgical procedures, and so there is often a serious imbalance in power, wherein the patient feels like he or she cannot ask questions or challenge the regular protocols.
But I have been reminded today of how people who seemingly have less power still can make situations uncomfortable for those in vulnerable positions. Because ironically, it was the physicians who were the more empathetic this morning and talked down a bad situation filled with anxiety.
It was the nursing staff, however, that sparked some of the initial flames. Because in having an anxious patient, who wanted many details and wanted to be treated as a human being, they reacted badly to that, and adopted a dismissive and off-putting attitude.
I was, at one point, tempted to shout, “We can hear you clearly, we know you’re talking about us, and your attitude leaves a lot to be desired.”
But I didn’t, and the physicians came in to talk and explain and humanize things, and other, subsequent nursing personnel, apparently having had enough coffee and prior warning, were very cordial and flexible.
I don’t say any of this to slam nursing professionals, but rather to point out that at all levels of an organization or process, we might be in a position of power over someone, even if they aren’t wearing a gown that shows off their ass and reduces them to a an almost childlike level.
Whether we know it or not, people around us are subject to our power, and our moods, and our missteps. They may be a church congregation, they may be children, they may be clients or patients, They may be employees or they may be co-workers. They may be people of differerent cultures or ethnicities.
Regardless, we need to remain aware of those situations in which we have power, and be prepared to use it responsibly. It’s hard sometimes, but necessary, as it can make all the difference in the life of someone near us, whether they are close to us or not; whether we know it will make a difference or not.