I was working 36-hours in the Emergency Department (ER) every weekend. I loved my job. Each weekend my care impacted many people and saved lives. The critical patients, those who needed immediate life-saving action, were the reason I was there. However, most of the patients were not critical but were instead suffering from chronic issues or preventable illness.
“Healthcare” in the USA is actually “sickcare.” We excel at validating someone’s illness. We do very poorly at helping people stay or become healthy. Many of the people I saw in the ER were experiencing pain and suffering because they did not know how to prevent it—how to stay healthy.
Pain and suffering are common, but they are not normal. I was so frustrated as I daily observed ongoing, preventable suffering. Often I had only 2-4 minutes with each patient to gather all information pertinent to their ER visit. During those brief moments, I would occasionally share prevention tips.
Pain and suffering are common, but they are not normal.
To the dad who brought his kids in over and over for ear infections, I asked if he knew his smoking was a big factor in their reoccurrence. (He did.) To the person with a migraine, I would ask if they kept a log and know their triggers (some yes, some no) or if they incorporate healthy fats into their diet to promote brain health (most didn’t.)
I started looking into paths I could take as a nurse to help keep people healthy. The functional medicine model of treating the roots (causes) of disease instead of focusing on the leaves (symptoms) resonated with me. The day I stumbled upon this model I emailed my husband and said, “I will do this someday.” However, the timing wasn’t right for me to go back to school. I was working full time, starting to homeschool our oldest son, and pregnant with our third. In addition to this, my husband was in school getting his nursing degree.
While I waited for better timing, I still chaffed at short term “bandaid” treatments for the chronic, preventable pain and suffering I saw in the ER. I knew many of my patients could choose health if they only were aware of their options.
About two years later, my fourth son developed eczema at just three months old. Not content to put a salve on his skin, I needed to figure out the cause of his suffering. Now it was not just patients in the ER who I wanted to help, this was my son.
Focus on the person, not the paperwork
Another development in this time period was the rise of health coaching and health educators. No longer did I need to attend school full time for three years to obtain my doctorate and become a Nurse Practitioner. Instead, I could go to school for health education and work one-on-one with clients helping them achieve control of their health.
It was time: I enrolled in school and graduated as a Holistic Health Coach. I was excited about the possibilities of opening my own business—not being constrained by the restrictions and pressures of insurance companies. Instead, I could focus on my clients and provide them with what they needed.
Instead of trying to please insurance companies and focus on paperwork, I can focus on my clients.
Of course, I was a bit apprehensive. I am an excellent Emergency Department RN, but opening my own practice would be new and different—a bit scary. As I contemplated private practice I let myself listen to that devil on my shoulder saying I wouldn’t be able to help people prevent their pain and suffering.
Then I thought back to that father in the Emergency Department. I saw him in the ER without his kids a few months after I asked about smoking and ear infections. This time he smiled proudly and said, “you’re that nurse! Guess what! I quit smoking!”
I thought about my friend who has had a significant decrease in her migraine frequency, intensity, and duration since we started working together. Another friend who struggled with respiratory issues for years can breathe better. Best of all, my youngest son doesn’t itch; his skin is clear and healthy.
I have the knowledge and tools to help my clients change their health; I can help them decrease or even eliminate preventable pain and suffering. Of course I can share that! Good-bye, little nay-sayer on my shoulder! I took a step out of my familiar in-hospital setting and started The Whole You. I am working in true “healthcare” instead of “sickcare.”
Now I work one-on-one with clients. Gone are the brief interactions in the Emergency Department. I choose to work with clients who want to create wellness. I spend six weeks with them as we work together to transform their well-being. After this six week time period, we connect every month to provide support for a full year.
Instead of looking just at symptoms, my clients and I look deeper—after all, if you are standing on a nail, you don’t need pain medication, you need to step off the nail. My clients gain control of their own health. They regain aspects of their lives they might have given up on. They make adjustments at the “root level” which then go on to affect their whole health.
Rather than being frustrated every day observing ongoing, preventable suffering, now I help people overcome it! What a joy it is to help someone change the roots of their health and discover true well-being!