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R-E-S-P-E-C-T: A word made famous by Aretha Franklin in her classic 1967 hit of the same name. The lyrics urge the listener to “find out what it (respect) means to me.”

A thought-provoking demand.

Since before the creation of our healthcare network, I’ve advocated the adoption of user-focused care, with the goal of providing the best possible experience to our users. Doing so means going the extra mile, whether in greeting patients at the front door and escorting them to their destination, or organizing a wedding anniversary celebration for couples living in a long-term care centre.

It’s one thing to organize these activities, but quite another to make them special. It takes heart on the part of those working behind the scenes, as well as respect for those they are helping. Respect is, at its core, the way we treat one another.

Recently, our network’s Respect Committee produced a video of staffers and users expressing what respect means to them. The words they used to describe it were, by and large, the same, regardless of where in the healthcare spectrum they find themselves. It’s about something as simple as looking someone in the eye when speaking to them, and remembering that if you want to be treated with respect, you have to provide others with that same courtesy. These rules apply whether you’re a staff member, visitor or user.

So, to address Ms. Franklin’s request: What does respect mean to me? It means having the wherewithal to remember, as healthcare professionals, that when we see a user in search of health care or social services, that person is actually somebody’s loved one—a mother, brother, grand-daughter, son-in-law—or friend.

I think we can all agree that they deserve our utmost respect.

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