Seeking treatment so far has both put me back in touch with many amazing Practitioners and offers of help I’m very grateful for. Including my GP and the original Gynaecologist I didn’t stop raving about after I last saw his team (because I thought this generation’s patient-centred focus on listening to the Woman first as the expert on her own body, before telling her what she should do with it, is the remedy to everything that’s been WRONG with the paradigm of Obstetrics and Gynaecology for centuries). But then, I’ve also had more than a few messed-around, having been agreed with that it’s urgent, but then pushed back 6 weeks due to schedules, having to do the same ultrasound twice, dealing with the talking about me (and through residents), rather than to me, in earshot, in the corridor moments, and all the extra stress that goes along with engaging with all of this. Both combined, have had me re-reflecting on what specifically makes for a high quality of care in situations like this.
What does it take to help a client to feel truly safe and supported, at such highly anxious times and best facilitates their healing and catalyses their growth in a timely fashion? Not to mention helps them leave feeling they received both what they needed and, hence, a high quality of care?
For those just catching up with who i am, where i've been and what i now do: After 22 years in many client facing and relationship building roles, numerous years working at State Leadership level in Health and Emergency Services, co-managing clinics and RTO's, due to the kind of knowledge and experience you pick up not only having been a Practitioner who's trained and worked in various settings providing Counselling, emotional support, grief, abuse and trauma counselling, due to having worked with A LOT of emotionally vulnerable people in times of crisis, but also having been in constant contact with over 20 000 Allied Health and Holistic Practitioners in the last 15 years, I’d like to think I have a little bit of wisdom by now to share on how to well take care of clients who find themselves in similar circumstances. As well as of what awesome bedside manner and duty of care SHOULD ideally look like, in an ideal world.
And I think there are 5 things many clients need in those moments, in addition to the expertise they're presently getting, that can make things SO much more humane. Not to mention honouring of the client’s wellbeing and the duty of care the Professional has to the client at these times. Those 5 things being:
1- Intention: Yes we might be busy off our head and dealing with bureaucratic and competing demands. But the client still needs to feel us bring focus to the part of us that is there to be of service, more than whatever part of US is all wrapped up in what else we’ve got going on right now.
This is a bit esoteric, but before I ever go into any room, with any client to do work, there’s a question and intention I try to alway make time to align with first. In addition to wishing for the absolute best outcome for whoever is there, I ask the Universe/Divine Intelligence/God/ess (whatever you personally call it) and all the “guides” or spiritual helpers who also want what’s in the best interest of and the highest outcome for whoever is in the room, to help me, help THEM co-create that outcome, in a way that best honours and supports us all.
The spiritual practice part is not the point though. The intention IS. Us re-affirming our intention to be of service and wanting the best outcome for them WILL be felt by them. And it does make a world of difference when we take the time to do it. No one ever leaves your space feeling like a number or like they’ve been de-valued when we do. They leave feeling the love and like you’ve got their back, even if the problem couldn’t be fully resolved right away. The intention changes how WE show up, which in turn, changes the quality of their experience of our presence.
2- Presence: it’s not enough to just be a walking, talking source of expertise in the room, delivering messages that turn people’s world’s up-side-down, from a place of detachment, in order that we get through the day relatively unscathed, when a client is on the verge of a meltdown (and likely crying when you’re not in the room.) In these moments, we’ve got to bring some presence, which is to say be willing to show up, look the patient in the eyes and give them as close to 100% of our attention in that moment as we can manage, while we do our thing. But more importantly, be willing to see them and hear them.
We don’t need to be afraid we’ll have to spend an hour listening to someone therapy style to satisfy them with presence if that is not our main role (though we could also refer them for that, so that they DO have a chance to talk). All it takes is a minute of being there, looking at them, while thinking “I see you, I’m with you, I’m here to help” for the person to start to trust and feel safe in our presence, at a time when things may well seem scary and out of control, while we then get busy on the ‘how i can help’ part.
3- Empathy: it helps to make time to ask the question, what is this like for them right now? Notice their non verbals and listen to how they say that it is for them, to help work out what type of response and energy to respond to them with. No matter how expert or intuitive we might get and how much we might think that we know because we’ve seen it before, or how much we might think we KNOW because we went through a similar thing (which doesn’t actually mean that we get how it is for THEM, it means we get how it was FOR US), where we need to start is still to ask where the other person is at...and then work toward the desired outcome from there.
Not only does this respect them as the expert on their own inner world and respect the uniqueness of their personal experience, it’s a more constructive question to help us stay heart centred, yet centred on their care. Where we lose ourselves in the depths of the feels with them, is when we start imagining us IN their shoes and how WE’D feel, as them. THAT is when we start to conjure painful similar memories and get lost in the emotion with them, separating from our capacity to professionally guide the process. Asking how it is for THEM though, helps us stay heart centred, yet the curious professional observer of their experience. Understand the difference?
4-Acknowledgement: the first step of all healing experiences is to validate their personal experience of the problem and what they want instead, before we start trying to move into what our knowledge of the problem is and where WE think they need to also go. Especially if they keep talking about the same thing, some part of them is likely in need of ultimately self acknowledgement and validation of the legitimacy of their feelings and experience. It’s difficult to move them on into transforming, until you help them acknowledge the thing they need acknowledged. Hence, it helps to validate that they’re right and that it’s very human to feel that way where needed. Then try acknowledging the strengths they have to deal with this and get beyond this.
When we’re present and really listening, it wont take any more than 30 seconds to identify at least one. It doesn’t have to take a whole hour of talking and therapy. But you noticing their strengths and taking the time to affirm them, in a moment where their fears and weaknesses are likely more present on their mind, can make a world of difference in lifting their faith and confidence in their innate ability to overcome their present challenge/s. That is a part of what they most need in these moments. In addition to your own groundedness, calm and strength.
5-Action: I’m going to be honest with you, I’m kind of face-planting a little bit that I need to write this one, because while I’m not a Lawyer, I know there is a good chance this was likely covered in almost every Practitioner training under duty of care. But it has often surprised me in recent years how many Professionals, Practitioners and Coaches still let clients walk away, without any actual resolution to any of the things the client approached them for in the first place, or mentioned during a consult. There are often 4 elements I've seen contributing to this:
1) fearing that you’re being too pushy or might offend them by offering something, or worrying that maybe it’s not wanted. When actually, that is exactly what they came to us for, for us to offer potential solutions to their problems.
2) fearing that I’m not enough and will look incompetent if I don’t know it all or have the right solution. Which sometimes then becomes “I don’t know what to do, therefore I’m going to get busy with other things I CAN do, until I have more of a response to this awkward conversation I don’t know how to resolve yet,” which may then keep getting put off and off and off (but perhaps could be quickly solved with a little professional supervision or consultancy with someone with more expertise in this particular area? Not to mention, it is advisable and actually okay to admit when you're wanting to bring in additional professional support or opinion.)
3) deciding where they’re at is not my area or I can’t help them and then turning them loose, but without connecting them with any other form of support, in line with what the client approached us for and
4) being too busy to see them right now for whatever reason (professional or personal), but wanting to hoard and hang onto them anyway, until WE’RE ready to show up for them, even when making them wait may actually be to the detriment of their wellbeing or circumstances. At what point and by what criteria do we deem a waiting list period too long, and circle back around to looking at another solution?
In all 4 instances, if we can’t, don’t want to, or feel we aren’t able to provide the client a service in a timely fashion, the ethical, A level customer service solution, not to mention (from a legal standpoint) the professional duty of care honouring thing to do, is to either:
a) research and come up with a new solution, where you didn't already have one
b) bring in someone into your team asap who does have the expertise to support them, or
c) refer them to an external service or to a someone who CAN help them in a timely fashion and give the client the professional care that they deserve.
At most, it will take us or someone who assists us the time to do a database or google search, followed by a phone call or two, maybe a bit of advocacy too, to link them with an appropriate referral. But contrary to popular misbelief that they’ll likely feel abandoned, actually the client will often likely feel just as grateful for and sing your praises for a high quality referral that turns out well, as they would if they saw you personally for a high quality consult. They will still attribute their outcomes, to your support given.
Yes it might also take a bit longer to find someone with the appropriate complimentary skills to us for our team, by the time you go through the recruitment process. But if you think of it in terms of how many similar people you’re turning away (and the potential funds you're turning away) because you don’t offer a solution for what they need, IS it really not worth the time and the expense in the short term, to ensure that both the client/s can still get the right aspects of the care or support they need from you PLUS to ensure that you leave them with the kind of impression you WANT to be remembered for?
Just leaving them to fend for themselves and find something else though, after they’ve reached out and we’ve already engaged them, not only doesn’t leave our clientele with a great aftertaste in their mouth at the best of times because we DID just abandon them to the too-busy-too-hard-not-quite-right basket, when we KNOW we could've done more. But, how might it stack up from a legal standpoint, if something goes seriously wrong with them and we’re identified as a service provider, who knew they were in a vulnerable state, or in poor health and didn’t act in a timely fashion on that knowledge? Nobody wants to be in that position, on either side of the care-giving equation.
Sometimes I think though, the best of us, who are great at what we do, can still struggle with wishing we had more resources to be able to DO more and provide a better looking, better quality user experience for our clients. Yet any single of us, in any service, can do the above 5 practices with just a little extra time taken and practice, no matter what our budget, or our clients. And contrary to how lovely all the extra bells, whistles and embellishments are, you might find, in the end, it’s things like these 5 things, in addition to your expertise, that make the biggest difference to how they feel at the end of and beyond your time together.
A big shout-out to all the Practitioners out there doing awesome work. Thank you for all that you give to all that you do.
Sorry for the heavy this week. But may it serve as a reminder of exactly what we all got into this to do and make better.
Until next time....
Nat talks about Self Expression, Heart Centred Communication and Lifestyle for Leaders.