Professional TECHNIQUES AND
YOU NEED TO
Development EXCEL AS AN
PART 6: Core Humanistic Values,
Part 2 By Michael Touchstone, BS, EMT-P
Last month we continued our examination of Dr. Herbert There was an old Star Trek episode entitled “The Empath.”6
Swick’s article “Toward a Normative Deﬁnition of Medical In it, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy encountered
Professionalism.” Swick included demonstrating “core a humanoid woman who turned out to be an empath. If
humanistic values” as one of the professional behaviors that someone were sick or injured, the empath could absorb that
deﬁne professionalism.1 We began our discussion by deﬁning sickness or injury from that person into her own body. The
the values of honesty and integrity, caring and compassion, sick or injured person was thus cured; then, using her own
and applying them to our practice. We discussed how these energy, the empath would cure herself. Empathy is about
values form an important component of the foundation of being able to understand another person’s feelings, their
professional behavior and give us direction when we face emotions, and comfort them by showing that they are not
choices. Values help guide our actions.
This month we continue our exploration and discussion of If you’re selfishly motivated in your
professional behaviors by completing our examination of core EMS practice, things will, in the
humanistic values. We will discuss altruism and empathy,
respect for others and trustworthiness. As we continue, we long run, go poorly for you.
must always remember that we demonstrate our values
through our actions. alone. With empathy, we help people bear the burdens of their
injuries or illnesses by providing emotional support.
Altruism and Empathy Altruism and empathy are difﬁcult words to deﬁne and
What does the word altruism mean to you? Take a moment difﬁcult concepts to put into practice. We can compare them
to think about how you would deﬁne this concept. To clarify to the values of compassion and caring from last month to
what altruism actually means, we return to the diction- help us to continue developing our understanding of profes-
aries to get accurate deﬁnitions. Altruism means “unselﬁsh sional behavior.
regard for or devotion to the welfare of others”2 or “ unselﬁsh
concern for the welfare of others; selﬂessness.”3 These deﬁ- Respect for Others
nitions show that this value concerns other people and their Rodney Dangerﬁeld never got any. Aretha Franklin
welfare—that it is outwardly directed. EMS practitioners, demanded it. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: What is it?
when they are demonstrating professional behavior, put the The American Heritage Dictionary says respect means
welfare of other people ahead of their own. “to feel or show deferential regard for; esteem.”7 Merriam-
What exactly is empathy? What do you think it means? Webster’s Online Dictionary says “an act of giving particular
According to Merriam-Webster, empathy is “the action of attention” and “high or special regard.”8 Using these deﬁ-
understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicari- nitions, we can conclude that showing respect for others is
ously experiencing the feelings, thoughts and experience of paying particular attention to them, showing deference and
another…without having the feelings, thoughts and experi- due consideration for their thoughts and feelings. We might
ence fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”4 say it means treating our patients and their families the way
This deﬁnition is somewhat complex and hard to grasp, so let’s we would want them to treat us and our family members.
break it down. The ﬁrst part is understanding, being aware of Respect for others must be extended to all the people with
or being sensitive. If we apply this to our practice, it means we whom we come into contact during the course of our day. That
are paying attention and are “tuned in.” The second part tells means patients and their families, and also nurses, doctors,
us that we are tuned in to feelings, thoughts and experiences. other crews, other companies’ crews, students, instructors,
The third part tells us we are relating to other people. colleagues,