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Lazy. Noncompliant. Irresponsible. Uneducated. Poor white trash. When I hear my residents or staff use this kind of language about our patients, I stop them immediately.

If a patient isn’t following a treatment plan, I tell them it’s just as much our fault because we haven’t taken the time to understand her. What about her life and experience do we not understand? Is she facing poverty or domestic violence? Does she even share the same treatment goals that we have for her?

We’re professionals and we need to meet our patients where they are. I teach my residents to leave their assumptions outside the clinic. We aren’t doing our job and we’re missing opportunities if we use a label instead of treating each patient interaction as unique.

Dr. Bell