Chapter 1: Building a relationship

A place for "not-knowing"

Professional training is largely about acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to develop good practice in the field. However, in many situations it is also useful to adopt a stance of “not-knowing”. This means suspending any assumptions you may make about patients and families. “Not-knowing” doesn’t mean giving up your knowledge and skills. It’s about what might also be called intentional inquiry.

It can be easy to form a picture in your head of what you think is going on before you even meet patients and families. Planning ahead in this way often helps us to prepare for a future event; but it can also result in planning for something that doesn’t exist. For example, you may respond to a call about a cardiac arrest but upon arrival find that the patient is suffering from low blood sugar; or you may make an assumption about what a patient’s treatment choice will be based on their known religious affiliation, which turns out to be entirely incorrect.

By setting an intention of “not-knowing” you will create an invitation for patients and their families to let you get to know them.