There are many things I love about William Morris, the 19th century textile designer, poet, novelist, translator, and socialist activist (see profile here). I’ve always had a passion for the Arts and Crafts movement that he contributed so much to. I love the idea that things should be done once and done well. I love his socialism and belief in the struggles of people less well off than us. But it was his belief in the need to do the best one could, and to be satisfied with one’s achievement – no matter how modest – that has always drawn me to him.
Late last week, I posted a blog about how I didn’t think that physiotherapy could claim to be patient-centred. Thank you to the people that emailed me or commented on the post on social media. It seems to have struck a chord. One particular response from KeithP at Keith’s Korner really struck home.
In his post ‘Guised as therapy,’ Keith talks very openly about coercing a patient to stand who otherwise wouldn’t want to. The post got me thinking about how we desperately need a conversation within the profession about the complexities of patient-centred care. In a reply I wrote to the post I said that I would always try to help a patient “if I can.” And that got me thinking about the phrase that William Morris used as a sort of personal ‘ethic’ for how he would make his own way through life. Wikipedia says that he adopted the phrase ‘If I Can’ as his personal after reading about it by fifteenth-century Flemish painter Jan van Eyck. The phrase ‘If I can’ was embroidered on to a tapestry in 1857 and it was Morris’s first attempt at embroidery (see image above). The idea of the phrase was to say that Morris would do what he could, within the limits of his capability.
It occurred to me, reading Keith’s blogpost, that the idea “If I can help” might be a suitable basis for our attempts to discuss patient-centred care. Sometimes helping can mean making people do things they otherwise wouldn’t want to. At other times it might mean relinquishing all of our professional power and status and letting the person, or the community decide. But at its heart lies a belief that we should always do whatever we can, within the limit of our capability (and then accept that we are not superhuman!)
I’d be interested to hear what others think about this phrase as a departure point for a conversation about patient-centred care.