Merriam-Webster defines beneficence as the quality or state of doing or producing good. Service providers and parents who care about their job, and the individuals they serve, want to do good. They want to see them happy. They want to see them healthy. Besides, doing good feels good. Doing good can give any task a sense of purpose. Doing good can leave a person thinking, KNOWING, what they’ve done can improve the life of someone who may not be able to care for themselves. Many dedicated disability support team members can share stories about moments where a smile, a hug, or a thank you has made their work worthwhile. These are the positives of beneficent acts.
Approaching support tasks with the intent of doing no harm is ingrained in medical culture. But what about support teams?How can attempts to do good impact service quality? We’ll take a look at how beneficence, doing good, can affect service quality.
The negative impact of beneficence on disability support quality
Disability support team members are expected to work together to provide good, quality services. Think about that concept. Think about the complexity of such an approach. A typical IEP team consists of many specialties ranging from speech therapy to psychology. All of these wonderful individuals want to do “good” for the child. But, each specialty is trained in a different way using different jargon with different criteria for meeting a milestone or outcome. If they all have a different perspective and language, it’s likely to result in a beneficence salad. Each member of the IEP team can develop their own sense of what is good for the child. On the surface, this may not seem like a big deal but think about what could result when you have 5-6 people with 5-6 versions of what’s in the best interest for one person. They may not consider how their approach or goals compliment, or negatively impact, other IEP service areas. This could result in conflicts that may treat the individual symptom but not holistically treat a complex condition like autism. Rather, it’s like treating a broken arm, cracked rib, and sprained neck from a fall but never fixing the step that caused the person to fall down the stairs in the first place.
Using ethos to turn beneficence into a positive for disability support teams
We touched on the ethos topic in a previous article about staff assaults in a psychiatric hospital. As we discussed in the article
When there is a lack of leadership and diminished corporate ethos (e.g. staff consensus on how to approach care plan goals) each staff develops their own sense of beneficence. Meaning, each individual staff member acts according to what they feel is in the best interest of the person receiving supports. This leads to a lack of cohesion between team members (e.g. administration, psychiatrist, behavior analyst, direct care staff, etc.).
By bringing the disability support team members together with a single approach to the care plan and goal setting, you also create a common sense of what is good. You create a common sense of what it means to be beneficent.
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