The Tao Te Ching: Verse Fifty-Seven

Govern a country with upright integrity
Deploy the military with surprise tactics
Take the world with non-interference
How do I know this is so?
With the following:

When there are many restrictions in the world
The people become more impoverished
When people have many sharp weapons
The country becomes more chaotic
When people have many clever tricks
More strange things occur
The more laws are posted
The more robbers and thieves there are

Therefore the sage says:
I take unattached action, and the people transform themselves
I prefer quiet, and the people right themselves
I do not interfere, and the people enrich themselves
I have no desires, and the people simplify themselves

                                                                                     Lao Tzu

The Eastern philosophical approach to leadership outlined here clearly focuses on thinking of others and using power appropriately. In this fifty-seventh verse of the Tao Te Ching, Loa Tzu is sharing that having the right leadership attitude means using wisdom to make decisions that benefit humanity and create happiness. I understand these instructions to mean, do all you can to empower someone and then, let go and remain quietly available in the background.

The wisdom of these words seems oddly out of place. Placing those at the center of what you do as a leader does not align with most concepts of how ancient civilizations were organized. Yet, these guidelines and insights were offered 500 years before the time of Christ. It is amazing how much emphasis was placed on the individual’s Right to Self-determination

The need for Self-determination is slowly being recognized by professional caregivers and the healthcare industry at large. Organizations are embracing Patient-Centered Care Models as necessary, appropriate and forward thinking. The reason for this epiphany is not as important as the fact that the Model is indeed being recognizing, implemented and widely promoted.

Documenting wishes for life sustaining treatments and Advanced Directives are central to this Model. These are the communication tools that allow Self-determination by a patient when that patient can no longer advocate for themselves. While the idea of Advanced Directives came about in the 1980s, it is still an issue that stirs positive and negative emotions at our very core.

Professional caregivers must first come to terms with their own mortality and the reality that death is an inevitable outcome for everyone. It is nearly impossible to initiate a discussion on this subject with a patient if you have not yet faced your own anxiety, confusion and perhaps fear about this indisputable fact. How would you ever hope to make the connection necessary to speak about something so intimate if you have not personally confronted these emotions?

The information shared and the reassurance that last wishes will be respected with dignity, grace and peace must be offered from a sense of camaraderie and an acknowledged heartfelt common goal for a peaceful death. Only when a patient can safely express and pass through their fears can they become empowered to exercise their Rights. Let us not forget that information honestly shared; and the subsequent power that it gives is the antidote for fear.

Once patients are empowered with the assurance for the honoring of last wishes by professional caregivers, initiating that same discussion with their family is usually easier. No one ever wants to say goodbye to someone they love but we all must at some point. If one of the last things we can offer our patients is a strong voice so that they can communicate their wishes and have Self-determination; then we will have truly fulfilled one of our role as leaders in caregiving by using wisdom to make decisions that benefit humanity and create happiness.

 

 

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