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The Relationship Between Values and Virtues in Health Care Settings

What are values and virtues?


"If values are the goal, virtues are the way to get there. A virtue is a characteristic of a person which supports individual moral excellence and collective wellbeing. Such characteristics are valued as a principle and recognized as a good way to be. Virtues are innate good qualities or morals within people. In this way, they are characteristics of people but they do not define organizational or collective culture. In other words, values reflect what is acceptable in terms of culture, but virtues reflect individual human characteristics."

Values are what a society as a whole has come to accept of which would make a society better.  Virtues on the other hand can be derived from personal integrity or acquired through spirituality and religious teachings.   The way I see it is that values are shaped by what a society aspires to become, and virtue is what an individual aspires to become.  Virtue provides a moral compass as to what is right or wrong.  It does not mean that people become perfect if they follow strict virtues.  Human beings will always make mistakes, act to further self-interest, and act in ways that would produce unintended consequences.  No matter how virtuous we try to be something somewhere will bring us back to human nature.  In the Bible it shows how the most beloved servants of God fell.  Moses was asked to speak to the rock and water would come out but he struck the rock the tablet because he was very angry with the Israelites for resorting to idol worship in the wilderness, water still came out but God responded by telling him that he would see the promised land but he will not enter it.  King David was a man after God’s own heart but out of lust and selfishness he killed Uriah the Hittite and married his wife, God said that there would be a sword in his house, and his son Absalom drove him away from the throne, and lastly King Solomon, the wisest man ever to live married so many wives from heathen cultures who eventually turned him to idol worship, and the Kingdom of Israel was divided into two.  We can see from these examples of nearly perfect human beings succumbing to the human nature.  This does not mean that we are not to aspire to virtue in our personal lives.

“Virtue:  People are a part of the culture and the good qualities they have within are called virtues.  A value is something related to a particular culture that is known as culturally acceptable norms.”

Values in society and virtues in individuals

Values can be seen as what a society perceives to be “valuable” or “good.”  These values do not have to come from spirituality.  Values are comprised of traits, actions, and characteristics displayed that would be deemed morally sound by the sociality.

Some characteristics that can fall under the category of virtues are honesty, integrity, kindness, courage, wisdom, fairness, compassion, fidelity, and commitment (Pozgar, 2012).  Also ambition, intelligence, experience, tolerance, attractiveness, adaptability, dignity, sense of duty, drive, and cleanliness can be considered as acceptable values.

When it comes to health care settings, health care executives and it workers are faced with ethical dilemma.  In these situations, the questions are, what are the values and virtues of the organization, what virtues of individuals who have to make difficult decisions, and does the organization override the virtues of its workers when it comes to making decisions.  I would suppose that health care workers will have to make these decisions for themselves, a decision to continue working at the facility, or quit if their virtues have been overruled.

Health care management and workers sooner or late have to deal with issues of conflict of interest.  I cannot remember visiting a doctor’s office without seeing poster and pamphlets of one medication or another, sometimes it would be durable medical equipment.  This is when the doctor’s values come in to play.  Does he care about the well-being of his patient or does he prescribe one of the medications presented by the drug company?   Some health care facilities may encourage the use of unnecessary tests and procedures in order to increase revenue.  This is unethical and this practice ends up increasing costs for everyone involved (Hughes, 2012).

Another issue health care facilities have to deal with is that, most of time the insurance companies require patients to be discharged within three days of being admitted whether the patient has fully recovered or still needs attention?  Facilities have had to discharge patients and having to readmit them within a few days because they needed more care.  The question is, what are the values of the facility?  Is it to discharge patients within three days whether they are recovered or not, or risk losing payments from the insurance companies for the extra days the patient needs to fully recover and not return for further treatment for the same ailment?  What about patients who do not have health insurance or are under insured, dose the facility refuse to treat them and send them away, or treat them without pay?

In my freshman year in the university in Houston, I got a job in the hospital as a clerk, but after a few weeks most of the business office workers were fired because there was a lot of money missing, then my boss came in the office and asked me if I could type AI said yes, then he said, “you will be working in the business office from now on and admitting patients into the hospital in the evenings,” I accepted the assignment without knowing what to do, but I was trained in a few days I was admitting people into the hospital.  Then I was confronted with an ethical dilemma and health care costs, by then I had heard of these terms nor knew what they meant, but every night I had to I had to decide whether to turn people away and send them to Bean Taub (County Hospital) or admit them knowing that they could not pay.   These patients mainly arrived by ambulance.  How did I know that they were not able to pay?  Because I was asked to ask if they had insurance before being admitted.  There were days that I asked them and if they did not have insurance I would ask the ambulance to take them to the county hospital and if they were severely hurt, I would not even ask I would let them in to be treated.  I was not reprimanded for letting people without insurance get treatment.  I guess the doctors made that call too.

In conclusion, virtue can originate through an individual’s relationship with their religion, this virtue consciousness would be the guideline of their everyday behavior whether people are watching or not.  Values can be seen as what the society over time has come to perceive as good values for them to live by.  Values consist of character traits and behavior that are considered to be approved by the society one lives in.  These values also translate to what the society considers to be ethical.

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