Dignity Explained

Kindness, humanity and respect

These core values of health care must be safeguarded in our time-pressured world. Dignity in Care provides practical ideas and tools to support a culture of compassion and respect throughout the health care system.

Dignity in Care is based on 15 years of study by  Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov and the Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit, in collaboration with progressive researchers from Australia, England and the United States.

They have found that:

  • People working in health care can have a huge influence on the dignity of those who use health care services, which in turn can improve the patient experience and increase satisfaction with health care.
  • Good communication is an essential ingredient for providing the best quality of health care and patient safety.

Other researchers have found that better interactions between those who provide and use health care can result in better health outcomes for patients and improved job satisfaction for those who work in health care.

These findings show the importance of making dignity a conscious goal of health care, particularly at the bedside.

What is dignity?

When people use health care services, their sense of dignity is affected by many common factors. One of the most important is how they see themselves, which is affected by how they believe they are seen by others. Considering that so much anxiety is connected to illness, it’s easy to understand why people working in health care can have such a strong impact on the dignity of the people they interact with every day. Whether they realize it or not, they are often the ‘mirror’ by which patients and their families judge their own status within the system.

People working in health care have a natural desire to be helpful and supportive. Their challenge is to understand all of the differing factors that may affect an individual’s sense of dignity, and how they can address these factors as they go about their daily work. Dignity in Care provides solutions, based on solid research, to guide them in this task.

Will you be a champion of Dignity in Care?

You can help to ensure that health care treats the whole person – body, mind and spirit. It’s a tremendous responsibility – and opportunity – for everyone working in health care, whether they do their job in the operating room or on the telephone.

We invite you to join us in this important pursuit.

About the Dignity in Care team

The Manitoba Palliative Care Research Unit (MPCRU) at CancerCare Manitoba was established seven years ago to conduct research on psychosocial, existential and spiritual dimensions of palliative end-of-life care. Its primary goal is to improve quality of life and ease suffering of dying people and their families through research. After studying the importance of dignity in the lives of dying patients, the team began looking at how their compelling findings could be extended to other aspects of health care.

The MPCRU is directed by Dr. Harvey Max Chochinov, who holds the only Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Palliative Care of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). For the last 17 years, Dr. Chochinov’s program of research has earned him recognition as one of the world’s leading palliative care scholars and researchers. He is also a Distinguished Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Manitoba.

Dr. Chochinov has built an interdisciplinary research team with expertise in psychiatry, psychology, qualitative and quantitative analysis, biostatistics, nursing, and palliative care medicine. Collaborating with researchers around the world, they have compiled a large body of work on the Dignity in Care approach.

MPCRU team members include:

  • Dr. Susan McClement, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba, Department of Nursing, and Scientist, MPCRU
  • Dr. Thomas Hack, Associate Professor, Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba, and Clinician-Scientist, St. Boniface General Hospital Research Centre
  • Dr. Thomas Hassard, Associate Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies and Professor of Biostatistics, Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba
  • Dr. Mike Harlos, Section Head of Palliative Medicine, Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba, and Medical Director of Palliative Care, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
  • Dr. Genevieve Thompson, Faculty of Nursing, University of Manitoba, and Research Associate
  • Dr. Nancy Mckeen, Research Associate
  • Katherine Cullihall, Research Nurse
  • Beverley Cann, Research Nurse
  • Miriam Corne, Research Nurse
  • Amanda Rach, Research Assistant
  • Angie Saj, Administrative Assistant
  • Collaborators around the World

This internationally-recognized team has successfully broached difficult topics spanning end-of-life distress, depression, desire for death and will to live; hopelessness and its connection with suicide; personality and coping at the end of life; and finally, the issue of how to help patients die with dignity.