Practising our humanity

Georgia Fuller, Council of Deans #150Leaders

Hello my name is Georgia, I am a physiotherapy student in my second year. I recently applied for and somehow (imposter syndrome) got onto, the Council of Deans #150Leaders programme where I met Joanne Bosanquet.

I’m pretty sure that when I said ‘do you mind standing in-front of me so I can lip read’, she was not expecting me to be quite so vocal. But as anyone who has met me will know, I love to ask questions. In fact, I ask them so much that sometimes I run out of people to ask them to. When that happens, I like to ask myself (also helpful if you are in the middle of self-isolation due to a global pandemic..)!

On the best days at work, we get to see people leave our care and we hope so desperately that they never have to come back. Even on the days where it feels like everything is against you, there is always someone who is grateful for the cup of tea you made, or someone you are grateful for.

In this there is also scope for us to practice our humanity. Personally, I have tried to adopt a ‘Small Acts of Kindness’ approach. As a physiotherapist it is not unusual for me to turn up at someone’s bedside, smiley and full of beans, only for them to say ‘Oh great, not the physio again’. At this point I feel I have two options; I can lay out all the guidelines and advice in the world in front of them, I can batter them with facts and figures and alienate them. Or, I can crouch down to eye level, take a deep breath and say verbally and non-verbally ‘I’m here and I’m listening’.

Sometimes the people I’m looking after haven’t slept, eaten, are in pain, struggling to work their phone, worried about getting home and more often than not, they just want to talk. Yes, primarily, I am trying to ensure you are safe when you are moving, that your muscles and bones and nerves are all intact and functioning. If they’re not, then how can I help to restore a level of normalcy?

But I’m also concerned with YOU, I want to know what you enjoy, what’s motivating you and what you want to achieve, I want to know whose opinions you value and what needs to be done for you to be confident.  I want to find a way for you to achieve those goals because it’s the reason I chose this job.

 I didn’t choose this job to carry around crutches all day, or because I like to give massages (side note; I rarely ever give massages), I chose this job because helping people to feel comfortable in their body, to work with their body and to achieve things that felt impossible means something.

I also make a damn good cup of tea, so, if you are worried or struggling for motivation and I say ‘Can we give it a go? Then I’ll make you a cup of tea?’ and we get halfway through the task and you say, ‘I really can’t do this anymore’, I won’t leave you high and dry. That cup of tea (or coffee!) and knowing I have left you as comfortable as I can is important to me. It’s a small act of kindness.

Occasionally I find myself in a position where communication is complex. I’m still present, I can see you and I will talk to your family and find out what is important to you. I will still hold your hand when I explain what I will do to help, some of this is selfish. It’s selfish because if I walked away from your bedside knowing that I hadn’t tried my best to let you know I am present and listening, I wouldn’t feel I had done my best.

‘Is everything okay?’ is not a discussion we should be afraid to have. I’m a big fan of a silence, it is such a powerful tool, sometimes having a living breathing human next you to, knowing that they are happy to sit whilst you bawl your eyes out is the most comforting thing in the world. Even if we are supposed to be professionals, supposed to be grown up, who said ‘professionals’ are supposed to be immune to emotions?

As healthcare professionals we are not taught to say ‘I promise…’, if we cannot promise. Similarly, when someone is upset, I don’t like to say ‘it will get better/everything will fine/don’t worry’. They are platitudes, it’s okay to be emotional.

It’s okay to sit with a situation that really sucks, some situations look like they don’t suck, but you don’t know that person’s story. You don’t know the ins and outs or what’s happened in their life because you have not lived their life. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt is to say, ‘How can I help?’

Ask people, let them tell you.

Occasionally if someone is walking towards you sobbing their heart out it’s pretty clear they need a hug, tissues and a quiet space. Other people will say ‘I’m not okay right now, I don’t have the headspace to talk about this but knowing you are thinking of me is important to me please check back later’.

We all, whether we are service providers or service users have different ways of coping, we all have our quirks and our nuances, but we are all human.

The values, beliefs, desires, goals and aspirations that we all have in common? As we do all have them, they may not be the same but they are there. That humanity and those small acts of kindness, taking the time to listen, verbally and non-verbally? That’s what person-centred care is to me. I don’t know everything but each and every day I will strive to be better than the person I was yesterday. I will sit with my mistakes and who I am, I will ask ‘said who?’ and I will keep making cups of tea or smiling at strangers; because in a world as strange as this, where lives are changing and so fast paced, humanity is the one thing we all have in common.

Comments are closed.