It is well understood that the Western Healthcare System is broken.
- A 2013 survey revealed that 60% of healthcare workers feel burned out in their jobs (Healthcare Traveler Newsletter, 2013).
- Hospital mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States (Hospital Safety Score, 2013).
- Half of all adults has a chronic healthcare condition (CDC, 2012).
There are many ideas about how to heal our broken system from providing more access to healthcare to spending more money on preventative programs. But, the medical-industrial complex is well funded and has a strong financial interest in maintaining the status quo (Frances, 2014). In short, changing the system is likely going to be a long, painful, messy process.
What is the individual healing professional to do to stay in this field, during this transition, to help her patients and clients to the best of her ability and to avoid burning out?
As someone who struggled with a chronic illness, who desires true holistic health for myself, and as a healer who supports both clients and other professionals, I have a few ideas. If you are a healthcare professional practicing in any discipline other than as a dentist, physician, surgeon, EMT, or paramedic, you are more likely to be a woman. And, if you’re working in women’s or children’s healthcare you’re also more likely to be a woman. (In fact, pediatrics is the only physician specialty where women are in the majority.) If you’re a woman, working to heal the women and children of this world, I am talking with you. The healthcare revolution will be messy, uncertain, and might stress you out at times. But, this transition is necessary, and we need your leadership for this transition to be successful.
For now, if you’re a women’s health or wellness professional, here at IWHI we want to support you to…
- Take care of yourself, sister. The old “put your oxygen mask on first” analogy is never more essential than for women who take care of other women and children. Your work will be undervalued, and it will never be done. Thus, you have to make bold decisions about the financial value of your work, and place boundaries around your time and energy. There is no clear path right now. That can feel scary and unstable. But, it’s also an opportunity for you to make empowered decisions about who you want to spend your precious time, energy, and hard earned wisdom caring for. How would you like to be paid for your service? How would you like to set up your practice? Do you like working with women individually, or in groups? Do you like creating teaching materials, apps, or community education forums, or do you prefer holding the hands of women in pain and wiping their tears one at a time? This year, I encourage you to embrace the fear and decide to practice on your own terms anyway. It’s risky. It might not work out. You will have a lot to learn. But, what is the risk of not taking your practice into your own hands as the modern healthcare system crumbles and shifts around you?
- Allow others to take care of you. Women thrive in supportive communities. While in many ways we are more connected than ever via social media and other internet tools to many more people all over the planet, having at least two close friends in whom you can confide anything is essential to following step 1 above. Healing women and children in pain is hard work, in addition to your other caregiving duties. You have children, spouses, aging parents, community volunteer work, churches to participate in, and friends to support. Take some time before your dive into your work this year and ask yourself… Do I have the support that I need to take on the job that I have created or chosen for myself? Do I have a mentor? Do I have a community where I can bravely ask any question? Do I have a web of supportive women and maybe a supportive partner who are willing to bring me food, cry with me, pick up my kids, or bring over the latest comedy on DVD when this work feels (and is) hard? If not, get to work on building your own web of support. You will need it to perform at your best.
- Learn tools to share with your clients and patients that will empower them to heal the root causes of their illnesses an injuries, not just treat the symptoms. Use the tools yourself. Becoming educated in functional nutrition and coaching has dramatically changed the way I practice healing. With this knowledge (that I continue to cultivate), I can support each client who comes to me for healing to own her own health journey, and I can fearlessly give her tools to begin to heal her symptoms and her life from the very root causes. I am no longer in charge of her care. She is. And, we are no longer chasing symptoms like a frustrating game of whack-a-mole. We are finding the roots. Maybe her root is poor nutrition, a nutrient deficiency, or a hormone imbalance, but it could just as well be her stressful job, her lack of physical movement, or her fear of uncertainty. Or maybe it’s many of these things or others. From the beginning of each client engagement, I trust that my client, with my support and the support of her whole team of professionals, friends and family, has the capacity to heal, and that it’s her journey to navigate. I will freely share my evidence-based knowledge, make skilled recommendations, and use my coaching skills to support her to take on her healing journey. But, it is hers and I bravely trust that she will do the work that is necessary to choose her best health. I will also do my work. Inspiring my clients and students is necessary. If I won’t do the work, risk failure, eat the healthy food, do the consistent movement practice, go to sleep on time, practice mindfulness, own the value of my work, set boundaries, and continue to grow myself, then I am not being a leader in the healthcare revolution. Are you ready to lead and inspire your clients instead of paternalistically “fixing” them?
- Mindfully embrace the opportunities of modern womanhood. I hope that I have not scared you away from a life as a healer of women. It is a rewarding, fun, and beautiful life. I feel fortunate that I have the vast array of opportunities that are now available to women in developed nations. And, I realize that being presented with such a vast array of choices has its pitfalls. I am a wife, a mother, an entrepreneur, a healer, a daughter, a friend, a business woman, a nutritionist, a granddaughter, a Christian, a teacher, an athlete, a cook, a driver, a reader, a music lover, a member of The Metropolitian Museum of Art, a Facebook user, a content creator, a writer, a marketer, a physical therapist, a wine drinker, a green juice lover, a gardener, and so much more. In short, my plate is full. But, as Danielle LaPorte said, “Whatever is on your plate got there because you said yes to it – in the fullness of ambition and desire and wanting to eat life whole.”
Having the capacity to eat life whole is what we want for each of our patients and clients. You are a healer, and you have permission to eat life whole too. Sometimes doing so means being very picky about what you put on the plate of your life so that you can enjoy it without digestive troubles, and I highly recommend that you eat every last morsel in the company of colleagues and friends who eat unabashedly and indulgently with you. Nourishing ourselves in this way is the key to surviving and thriving the healthcare revolution. I invite you to join our table. Click here to receive our complimentary self-care guide for women’s health professionals. We’re here to support you.
Happy New Year!
CDC (2012) http://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/overview/
Healthcare Traveler Newsletter (2013) http://healthcaretraveler.modernmedicine.com/healthcare-traveler/content/tags/careerbuilder/sixty-percent-healthcare-workers-report-burnout-says-
Hospital Safety Score (2013) http://www.hospitalsafetyscore.org/newsroom/display/hospitalerrors-thirdleading-causeofdeathinus-improvementstooslow
Frances, A. (2014) Fixing our broken health care system: Sometimes David wins, KevinMD.com, http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2014/12/fixing-broken-health-care-system-sometimes-david-wins.html