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Researcher prescribes dose of humility for medical professionals 

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Alex Gonzalez

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(Arizona News Connection) A researcher at Arizona State University is shedding light on the importance of humility within the medical field.

Barret Michalec, research associate professor of nursing and health innovation at ASU, contends humility in health care settings is paramount, and considers it to be enacted when medical providers not only acknowledge their abilities and limitations, but also see each other as part of a team.

He argued it is important for team members to have a shared goal in mind and include the patient and their possible caregivers as part of the process.

"Understanding that, doctors understanding that nurses have shared understandings and expertise as well as physical therapists and clinical social workers, but also patients," Michalec outlined. "Patients bring in their own knowledge and their own experiences and should be part of that as well. All those elements make it essential."

Michalec recognizes an occupational status hierarchy within health care, and observed it plays out every day. He witnessed a display of humility when the doctor, the doula and his wife all helped in delivering his son. He noted neither medical professional tried to assert dominance over the other, and most importantly included his wife and listened to her needs.

Michalec emphasized humility is on the radar of many in the educational and medical field, but contended more could be done to value the positive effects of enacting it. Current studies showed clinicians' humility not only helps mitigate the burnout those in the field can experience, but positively affects patients' trust and satisfaction regarding the care they receive. 

Michalec pointed out one of the issues is whether humility is being taught effectively.

"When I'm saying teaching it, I mean formally in kind of curriculum of medical education or residency or nursing education," Michalec explained. "Or are we also teaching it through role modeling, and usually that's where the push has been. It has been, well, 'it'll be modeled by those that the students are seeing,' the health profession students are seeing, but we don't necessarily see that as the case."

Michalec added the lack of humility in today's health care landscape can be partially attributed to systemic issues, such as competition for patients, money or superiority. He stressed patients should feel empowered about their own level of knowledge and not be afraid to ask questions or express concerns to better solicit a culture of humility.