Technologies and Compassionate Care

Polite Anger

How Canadian, eh? At one level those of us who are involved in the AMS Phoenix Project ‘A Call to Caring’ are polite, considerate and delightfully professional and civilized. This reflects the premise of the Project that health professionals provide the best care when they are able to balance human compassion and technical expertise. And yet AMS Phoenix is also angry, dissatisfied, and looking to effect system-wide change to healthcare and healthcare professional education where this balance has been lost, forgotten or simply trampled underfoot by the ongoing tsunami of healthcare change and reform.

We are angry that we have a health system that can be less human, less caring and less person-centred than we would expect, and we are concerned that aspects of care have become, or in some cases continue to be, lacking in human dignity and compassion. Care in this context is not solely aimed at patients, although they are of course the primary focus. Everyone in the healthcare process needs to be caring and cared for, not least because a lack of care for some can have an insidious effect on the ability to care for others, or indeed for all.

Anger is not our only underlying theme; we also have hope. Hope based on examples of care and compassion transcending the quotidian patient and professional experiences of contemporary healthcare, and hope based on changes to the training of tomorrow’s health professionals so that poor practices of one generation are not automatically passed on to the next. Most important of all, we have more hope than anger. As the Project grows our hope grows with it.

AMS Phoenix is currently funding fellows and projects to explore new opportunities and to provide evidence to effect change in healthcare and health professional education that improves the quantity and quality of care for everyone. We will progressively synthesize and develop the learning from these different strands to create a unifying vision for caring and compassionate healthcare that is practical, sustainable and, we hope, compelling.

AMS Phoenix is not and cannot be separate from society and we should not be unaccountable for what we’re doing or how we’re doing it. This blog is one of our many channels through which we will describe our work and through which we seek your feedback and perspectives. We hope to be able to crowdsource opinions and ideas that can direct, inform and critique what we do. We hope too that polite anger will increasingly turn to a justified hope and expectation for real change.

– Rachel Ellaway, March 2014

Letters of intent are now being accepted for the 2014 AMS Phoenix Fellowship Awards and the 2014 AMS Phoenix Call to Caring Grants Initiative.

This year, both the Phoenix Fellowship and Call to Caring Grants Initiative strongly encourage proposals that are focused on advancing the development of:

  1. Health professionals’ self identity that will sustain compassionate care
  2. Educational activities and curriculum materials that enable compassionate care
  3. Environments that support compassionate care

The Fellowship proposal deadline is March 31; the Grant proposal deadline is April 7.

More information: Call for Proposals for Phoenix Fellowship Awards and Call to Caring Grants


3 Responses on “Polite Anger

  • Great post, Rachel!

    We need people who care enough about patient service to feel (politely) angry when we don’t put patients first. Then, we need those same passionate people to come up with solid arguments to support their sense that things could be better.

    Thanks again for posting!


  • Rachel,
    I thank you for your clarity and vision! When concerns are that well articulated, anger motivates and hope becomes more focused! The AMS Phoenix Project Call to Caring has inspired me and many others who believe that the investment will pay dividends for health care professionals and recipients alike!

  • Rachel, I was so proud as a nurse to be included in the discussion on bringing back and maintaining compassion in health care. Thanks to AMS Pheonix for partnering with the RNAO to enable nurses to advance their work. I came into the work of compassion fatigue angry, and anger is the symptom I presented on at the Compassion Fatigue conference “Care4You” in Kingston, Ontario in 2014. Like compassion, anger has a different relationship to everyone and means something different. Unfortunately disrespectful anger in one, can mirror disrespectful anger in another and we see much lateral violence in our workplaces. However, I approached my situation in a very different and respectful way. I approached the physician who was dumping his anger onto me in a very caring and compassionate way. I held him accountable to his behaviour in a respectful way and at the end of my lecture of standing up for myself (in an office with a mediator) I told him that the reason that I wanted to have a chat with him was not to be disrespectful back, but was to let him know that I cared about him. I told him “I actually care about you and I have compassion for you.” That statement changed everything in the room and eventually through more talking outside of the meeting he led me to the compassion fatigue work that I am doing. I had never even heard of compassion fatigue before he shared with me. He also is doing work in conflict resolution, so we are both passionate about compassionate care now and it all came from “polite anger.” This is when conflict can really create positive change!
    Romney Pierog RN ( 2016 recipient of RNAO/AMS fellowship)

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