Guest Column: Responsibility

Cheri Hollenback

October’s character trait, responsibility, is defined as “Being accountable, the pursuit of excellence, and the exercise of self‐control.” During these challenging times of the COVID pandemic, many of us are faced with competing responsibilities. How can we sort through these multiple, sometimes conflicting responsibilities?

As a nurse for many years, I found having guiding principles incredibly beneficial in dealing with situations where there were multiple responsibilities.  In the profession of nursing, nonmaleficence is a cornerstone of the profession.  While this term is not too familiar to most, many will recognize the phrase “First, do no harm” from the Greek philosopher Hippocrates. Although this principle is oriented toward assuring the safety of patient, it can be extrapolated to many other situations where you strive not to cause harm to people or situations, with the corollary principle of working to make things better.

Developing a reputation for being responsible is centered within you as an individual – no one else can make you be “responsible”.  Conversely, you alone are responsible for yourself – including your actions, behaviors, and feelings.

Some behaviors that indicate a responsible individual include being accountable for what you do and say, being aware and following various rules and laws, following through on commitments made, and doing the “right thing”… kind of like “do no harm”.

If you would like to strengthen your “responsibility” muscles, there are some things you can do.  Suggestion to increase your self-responsibility include:

  • Setting goals and periodically evaluating your progress on those goals.
  • Be accountable for the things you do and say – if you make a mistake, own it.
  • When things are not going the way you like, avoid complaining. Choose to take action to try to help make things better.
  • Be intentional in your interactions with others – Choose to look for the good in people.
  • Be deliberate in choosing your mood – choose to be happy!
  • Be consistent – if you commit to an action, assure that you follow-through.
  • Be timely – avoid being late and show respect for other’s time.
  • Take the initiative to do things that need to be done!

Writing this as we approach the anniversary of September 11, 2001, I reflect on one of the most powerful examples of people acting responsibly I’ve witnessed in my life.  On the day of 9/11, I was working as a nursing administrator in a Spokane hospital.  As the events of the day started to unfold, numerous members of the nursing staff came to me that day and volunteered to go to New York City to help out the hospitals that we all thought were going to be overwhelmed with victims of the attacks. Sadly, their services were not needed, but I’ll never forget the unselfishness of these nurses wanting to run toward the crisis to be of service to their fellow humans in need. They saw this as their responsibility – no one required it of them – and acted accordingly.

So now, nineteen years later, our country is facing another massive attack – although this time the attacker is an unseen microscopic virus that has taken the lives of nearly 200,000 Americans and impacted the health & wellbeing of countless others. We are all being challenged to identify our personal responsibility in dealing with this pandemic. May we all find the courage to respond responsibly as did those incredible nurses on 9/11.

Cheri Hollenback was a nurse for over 35 years, serving in a variety of clinical, administrative and educational roles. After retiring in 2013, she became the Community Liaison for the family business of Dishman Dodge Ram Chrysler Jeep in 2017. She has served on the PACE Board since 2017.