Dignity and Respect: The Foundation of Patient-Centered Care


In December 2009, Sue Etters of Sewickley, PA, who is blind, was struck by a car one evening as she crossed the street. While in the trauma unit of Allegheny General Hospital, Sue felt that the medical staff treated her differently because of her disability. Doctors would speak to her visitors about her condition rather than speak directly to her. After being released from the hospital, Sue was transferred to a nursing home where she felt that many of the staff members didn't know how to talk to her because she was blind.

Later, Sue was sent to Health South, a comprehensive rehabilitation hospital, for rehab. While there, she thought the staff was better prepared to effectively meet her needs. She had to learn how to do exercises and how to use a walker with verbal cues. They assured her of her capabilities and educated her about different devices available for the disabled.

Sue was also impressed with the follow-up survey a community nurse conducted that asked questions about how she had been treated and how she was progressing after a year. It also asked if she was maintaining her exercise program and doing the things that she needed to do. For Sue, compassionate caregivers who respect the dignity of their patients are vital to care. "Even though we are disabled, we are people, we are human, and we want to be treated with dignity and respect," she said.

Sue Etters graduated from a Lift Up Your Voice! advocacy training in Pittsburgh and is now a part of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Better Care. 

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