Celebrate Ubuntu’s powerful legacy in healthcare on Heritage Day

September 17, 2022

Heritage Day and Heritage Month give us many opportunities to reflect on and appreciate the rich cultural and societal legacies that people of past generations have left for us to enjoy. And we must because it enriches us and our appreciation of the diversity within South Africa. However, it also gives us the chance to consider the legacy that we’re creating in our different places in the world, at work and at home, as the heritage we pass on to future generations.

Are we building a better world that is inspired by what can be described as the greatest heritage we have as a country – ‘Ubuntu’, the knowledge that ‘I am because you are’ – in the healthcare environments where we spend our working hours, and in the communities where we live?

In a March 2022 article titled, ‘Ubuntu philosophy in healthcare’ on www.kevinmd.com, author and physician assistant Brandon Wolfenden notes that recent years have delivered a swing in patients’ confidence in the medical establishment, which in turn has possibly affected the care that healthcare workers give patients. “Somewhere along the way, being in the trenches (primarily in the pandemic) has led to some of us becoming so fatigued that our sense of compassion has been dulled. What has not changed is our patients’ reliance on us to advocate for them and understand them. So how do we get back there?”

Wolfenden introduces the concept of Ubuntu Leadership, which he describes as a concept of common humanity that transcends racial, geographical, political, religious, age, and gender barriers. “Ubuntu is a way of life.” His next step was to consider the power of mastering Ubuntu and using it in his practice of medicine and in business. “Many of the characteristics of Ubuntu, such as humaneness, gentleness, hospitality, generosity, empathy, and others, are already core to our service to others and our patients.”

Wolfenden identifies 10 points that healthcare workers can focus on to gain a deeper understanding of patients and every person encountered. They are:

  1. Humaneness. At its core, healthcare is about one thing: treating and healing people.
  2. Empathy. Listening instead of labelling decreases our biases.
  3. Compromise. Working with our patients to develop an appropriate plan of care together while educating them.
  4. Learning. Culturally and academically.
  5. Change. Adapting our practice to each patient as an individual.
  6. Renewal. An opportunity to renew commitment to our values.
  7. Restorative justice. Helping our patients overcome disparities in health.
  8. Love. Healing through truly caring.
  9. Spirituality. Respecting those with or without a common faith to incorporate more culturally competent care.
  10. Hope. Rebirth of the idea that we can help.

He adds, “Ubuntu is not a complete solution, rather a place to start to find a certain type of peace within us in times of chaos. Perhaps reflecting on and incorporating these concepts can bring us to a point where we can develop relationships with our patients and become the healers we set out to be and who they need us to be for them.”

This then would prove to be a powerful legacy within healthcare in South Africa that future generations will be able to look back on and know that today’s healthcare professionals of South Africa, young and old, invested time and energy in creating a society that consistently acts with humanity towards our fellow human beings.

Pple Group embraces the spirit of Ubuntu throughout our organisation, with people at the heart of all we do. We create opportunities for thousands of people across our sectors of healthcare, hospitality, industrial and hygiene, and we deliver the best staff to companies in need. Our people know where they belong, and our clients know who we are and how we can help them every step of the way.
Within our value system, we focus on developing long-term valued partnerships with our people and clients, and we deliver on our promises, with agility and passion.

Pple Healthcare wishes all our readers a wonderful Heritage Day. Share the amazing heritage of Ubuntu that has been passed down by generation upon generation before us, enjoy time spent with your fellow human beings, and join the quest to make Ubuntu a consistent reality within your corner of the healthcare world.

Renowned humanitarian Desmond Tutu described Ubuntu-centric people: “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for they have a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that they belong in a greater whole and are diminished when others are humiliated or diminished.”