If you think over the course of your life, what are some of the qualities your favorite teachers had in common? As you grew up and progressed into the working world, did those same traits translate to your favorite managers and mentors?
Perhaps some were relentlessly demanding and knew how to get you into good form. Others may have been abstract thinkers who encouraged you to dream big and reach for the sky. Maybe one perceived your “shortcomings” as more of an edge, showing you how to cultivate and use them to your advantage. Another may have seen something in you that you never knew you had, helping you recognize an untapped strength and bolster your confidence. Maybe one was just a great listener, checked up on you during a bad day, or gave you a hug and some words of encouragement when you really needed it.
Whatever these characteristics were, undoubtedly their influences in your life shaped you into the person you are today. They provided you with an experience and knowledge base that propelled you into your days with a sense of power, control, and decision-making ability you previously didn’t have. As a result, it helped you feel as though you can take on whatever was brought to your plate – in a word, empowerment.
Now, how many of you would say that when in the midst of a puzzling health crisis, or being diagnosed with a serious condition, your doctor has ever made you feel empowered? Not quite as easy to say, right?
Conversely, when patients are told they will be living with a chronic disease, an overwhelming sense of powerlessness is experienced. Having to face stifling lifestyle changes, treatments, and the idea of living in discomfort instead of relief, patients feel as though they lose complete control. Instead of an individual acting in the world, they are resigned to feeling acted upon.
Personally, I feel this is a growing issue in our society and healthcare system, and remedying this could very well be the best medicine a practitioner can provide to and instill in their patients, for both a healthier clientele and prosperous career.
In fact, one of the clauses in the modern Hippocratic Oath states, “I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or chemist’s drug.”
It sometimes feels as though this notion has been lost in today’s traditional healthcare system.
However, when lucky enough to experience a practitioner, whether it be a psychologist, medical doctor, massage therapist, or even a physical trainer, who provides you with knowledge, a toolbox, and some positive reinforcement, many individuals feel they can perpetually help themselves and navigate a seemingly impossible circumstance. Instead of being told what they can no longer control, they are given hope by understanding what they can control and do to get better and improve their quality of life.
Health education is key. If people learned how their body works and how simple it is to make changes in their diet and lifestyle, there is no reason why a large majority of us couldn’t live healthfully into our later years and ameliorate current disease states. Even at the most basic level, nutritional education and empowerment helps to reverse Type II Diabetes, improve one’s behavioral and cognitive issues, and smooth out hormonal issues that contribute to infertility, acne, and weight gain.
A research study evaluating the significance of patient empowerment selected elderly individuals to participate in a holistic interactive process in which nurses and these ill patients established a caring relationship. This involved active listening and presence, positive and non-judgmental responsiveness, and mutual knowledge not only of the patients’ medical conditions, but also of their lives as a whole. In one patient, it was revealed that “developing conscious awareness of her own patterns and strengths empowered her to better mobilize personal resources for everyday living; that is, for being healthy.”1
Personally, I have experienced both ends of the spectrum. In my first post, I discussed the wild twists, turns, and challenges of having a health problem that does not fit into an easy diagnosis code. I have been to brilliant doctors at some of the best hospitals that would just read off of lab work without even looking me in the eye, never asking what may have been going on in my life prior to experiencing symptoms. Or, some would repeatedly write scripts for anti-depressants because “they seem to work for everything these days.”
On the other hand, I would have a casual conversation with a doctor that wasn’t even treating me, who would inform me of the importance of good sleep, or the avoidance of toxins in food, or provide a book recommendation on the link between stress and autoimmune issues – all of which would drive me to research and feel that I could absolutely help myself get better, easily.
The information is out there, folks. You just need to find the right person to open your eyes.
This is certainly what I plan to do after I graduate. I’m starting out now by trying to reach audiences that wouldn’t necessarily have access to the kind of information that will educate and empower them to take charge of their health – and as a result, their career and life. Knowledge is power. In this case, it’s empowerment.
Have a great weekend!!
- McWilliam, C.L.; Stewart, M.; Brown, J.B.; McNair, S.; Desai, K.; Patterson, L.; Del Maestro, N.; Pittman, B.J. Creating Empowering Meaning: an interactive process of promoting health with chronically ill older Canadians. Health Promotion International, 1997, 12, 111-123.
- Aujoulat, I.; d’Hoore, W.; Deccache, A. Patient Empowerment in theory and practice: Polysemy or cacophony? Patient Education and Counseling, 2007, 66, 13-20.