You see, we are all on the side of patients and families. We are all trying to do our best to improve care and to improve our communities. I see this shared commitment in communities across the country—and I am proud. What’s different is how we talk about ourselves, and how we describe what we do. Not what we ARE. Democrat or Republican, small or large, rural or urban, hospice or palliative care, physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain or administrator…and I could go on. There are so many tribes we all belong to in our personal and professional lives. Sometimes we allow our tribe to become us and to cause us to question others’ motivations or constitution. This is natural, but we must resist doing so at all costs.
Whenever I speak about palliative care—and note that the term is not fully or clearly defined—it seems that I am immediately accosted by a dedicated palliative medicine physician that questions my commitment to palliative care. When I speak about hospice in loving terms, I am immediately told by a well-intentioned provider that a local for-profit entity or large non-profit is not committed to the original model and they are eroding the “heart” of hospice. When I speak of health care reform, I am accused of being a Democrat, and when I embrace market reforms, I am accused of being a Republican. I am accused by city folks of being a country dweller (which I am) and by country dwellers of being an out of touch city boy (which I was, sort of). I am guilty as charged of all of that— but I want to note that what motivates me— and most of us— is that we are guilty of wanting a better life for our communities, our families and our country.
As we enter this elections season, I want to urge all of us to focus on the only tribe that matters— our fellow human beings. Please, don’t let labels or divisive rhetoric prevent us from uniting around person-centered, interdisciplinary care. This care is not about our tribe, it is all about putting our tribe aside and doing what’s best for our patients and families and doing so while collaborating with our colleagues, even those who have a different point of view. That’s the best model I can think of for participatory democracy. I hope that we will show the rest of the country how to put labels aside and just move forward in a decent and productive manner. And as we move forward, let us never lose the ability to engage with one another in a constructive manner on challenging issues. Only by working together can we build on the success of those who forged our path as both a nation and a provider community.
By Edo Banach, JD
President and CEO
National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization