In her series outlining her approach and how to achieve your health goals, Dr. Doni discusses the qualities of a good healthcare practitioner.
So far in this series, we have explored what happens when you look at health from the perspective of stress, how to increase your stress radar so you can spot (and stop) stress in its tracks, and the importance of using your intuition in healthcare and how to use it to set health goals for yourself. The next step is to think about what to look for when choosing a health practitioner (or two) to help you along the way.
The Changing Role of the Health Practitioner
What it means to be a health practitioner is changing. In years past, patients looked to practitioners to be an authority figure who had all the answers but, over the nearly two decades I’ve been a practitioner, I have seen the role of the practitioner change before my eyes – and I think it is a much needed change.
Perhaps it is because I am trained as a naturopathic doctor, a doula, and midwife that I have an inherently different view of what it is to be a practitioner. Or maybe it stems from even earlier, when I was a patient observing what it was that I needed and hoped for in a practitioner. Perhaps it is also based on my personality and life experience, observing that it is when people are heard and understood that they are most empowered to make choices and changes that are right for them. I saw that as a midwife researching fear of labor in women with a history of physical abuse. I also saw it when supporting women in labor, whether at home births, birth centers, or in hospitals. Even when communicating in the same language was not an option, supporting women in labor in a hospital in Manila and handing them their babies, I felt that just my body language alone could communicate to them that I was on their side and that I was there to support them in their process.
It is this shift from being an all-knowing decision maker to being a supporting guide that I see as the changing role of a health practitioner. And I see that naturopathic doctors are leading the way in creating this change. This is because naturopathic doctors are trained to educate patients, to look at the body as a whole instead of its constituent parts, and to support the body to heal. In doing their job, naturopathic doctors are inherently the supportive guide that patients seek and that health care in the 21st century demands.
How to Choose a Practitioner
There are many types of practitioners out there. Even naturopathic doctors vary in specialty areas and the services they provide, so how will you know when you’ve found the right one for you? I’ve come up with a list of five attributes I suggest you look for in a practitioner to help you meet your health goals.
Before I go into more detail about these five qualities, I want to share how I went about coming up with this list. I first thought about what I would want if I were choosing a health practitioner. I then thought about what I’m always trying to achieve as a practitioner. If you are a patient, I hope that being aware of these qualities will assist you when choosing a practitioner to support you in your care.
If you are practitioner, perhaps you’ll use this list as a way to reflect on your work and how you serve your patients. Though these are qualities I aspire to as a practitioner, that doesn’t mean that you will all agree with me. My hope is that my thoughts will spark a conversation, or lead to further evolution in how healthcare is delivered.
5 Qualities of an Evolving Practitioner
- Admitting they don’t know everything
The last thing I want to do is to make my patients think I know everything. I’m always learning. In fact, one of the things I love most about what I do is that I get to learn every day. I love when patients send me information they came across that could be relevant to their case. I also enjoy working with and learning from other practitioners. It is when we learn together that we find solutions to issues that were previously unsolvable. Admitting that I am human allows patients to accept that they too are human, and in that manner, self-acceptance increases – as does healing.
- Aspiring to listen
I believe that my patients know what they are feeling, and so for me to help them, I need to listen to them. Sometimes, we as doctors can get wrapped up in our science and learning and forget to listen to our patients. I continually aspire to be a better listener, and I know when I hire a doctor, that’s what I want from them too. It saddens me to hear from so many patients that they have been to see practitioner after practitioner, only to find that they don’t feel really listened to about what they are experiencing, nor about what they need. Part of the issue is that most practitioners are in a time-crunch, required to see a certain number of patients per day. They simply don’t have time to listen. Another part of the issue is that practitioners are trained to identify certain patterns and symptoms, and sometimes in that effort, they stop listening to what the patient is attempting to express or do not have the resources to address situations that fall outside of standard protocols.
- Walking the talk
I believe stress is the thing that makes us sick. If I want my patients to be able to feel better by addressing the stress in their lives, the best way I can do that is by addressing my own stress. This means taking time off on a regular basis, setting boundaries so I have time with family and friends, and ensuring that I have enough time for sleep and exercise. For me to be the best doctor I can be, I need to model what good health looks like. I struggle with this sometimes, mainly because I want to care for my patients in the best way possible, which means I may work longer hours and delay self-care, but it is something I aspire every week to be better at it.
- Being present as a whole person
I value health and have done ever since I was a young child. It is the value I place on health, longevity, well-being, and self-care that inspires me each day as a mom, a woman, a sister, a daughter, a friend, and as a naturopathic doctor. By allowing this value to be part of how I work, I can inspire others to live in line with what they value. And so I aspire to share how choosing foods that support my health, and making financial decisions that improve my well-being and the well-being of those around me, is straightforward because it is in line with my overall view of what is important to me. And in that way, I am authentic in my home life as well as in my life as a professional.
- Using intuition and goals to be strategic
Respecting a patient’s intuition is a key part of listening, and it is also supportive of healing. The more patients are aware of what they are experiencing and what they need, the easier it is for me to help them achieve their health goals. Otherwise we would spend a lot of time going in circles, seeking something that may not be what they really want. Once a patient is clear about what they want, they can identify steps they can take to get there. And those steps are completely unique to them. It is when we arbitrarily assign a structure or end-point that may not work for a person in their life that we see temporary results and recurrent health issues. Why do that when I can help a person integrate changes that work for them in their life that will help them achieve long-lasting results.
How to Prepare to Meet with your Evolving Practitioner
It can help if, prior to meeting with your practitioner, you can determine your health goals and outline your health history. It also helps if you can create a list of what you are currently doing and/or what you have tried already, what helped, and what didn’t. This way, your practitioner can quickly get on the same page as you, listen to you and respect your intuition, and then start helping you to identify the next steps in your process.
As I said, I’m not perfect, but I do want to be the things I’ve listed here. I also believe that any practitioner who aspires to these qualities is probably doing great work for their patients. And I see these five qualities as part of the evolving role of a health practitioner from now into the future.
Instead of fixing what’s wrong, it’s about embracing a way of living that is in support of your health – that’s what naturopathic healthcare is all about and that is what informs my approach. An important part of my Stress Remedy approach is for you to feel heard, for us to learn together and for you to feel supported along the way.
To learn more about how I work, click here, and to see how I’ve shaped this approach into consultation packages that support patients to achieve their health goals, click here. I’m constantly striving to find ways to support people with their wellness goals, whether that is through articles like this one, or through programs like the Stress Remedy 7 and 21 days programs, or with one-on-one consultations. What is important is that you to choose what you feel will help you most at this point in time, and with a practitioner you feel fits best for you.
To learn more about my colleagues, visit naturopathic.org.
To sign up for my free Weekly Wellness Wisdom newsletter, click here.
I’m also working on creating a course for practitioners to learn how to integrate the Stress Remedy approach into their practices. If you are practitioner and are interested in finding out when that course is available, you can sign up for information here. And when you do sign up, I’ll send you an 8-page questionnaire I developed to help patients understand how stress has affected their health, which is straight out of my book, The Stress Remedy.
I look forward to your thoughts on the topic of evolving health practitioners. Please share below.
1st July 2016