Today I went to the dentist. I hate going to the dentist. In fact I lined my day with treats before and after the dentist so that I would ACTUALLY go. (And truth be told I usually google image rotting teeth before hand, to really give myself the kick in the pants I need. Works EVERY time).
Whenever I go, I’m always humbled and reminded that for many of my patients going to a medical appointment is triggering of past trauma; while in my case there’s never been any real horrific incidents, it’s simply anxiety inducing.
There are some folks that set foot in a doctor’s office and are immediately brought back to a place of trauma. When invasive work is done such as a paps, breast exams, prostate exams, etc we need to remember as caregivers that we often have no idea the past or present trauma our clients/patients are going through. Perhaps this is the first time the patient has ever been physically touched in intimate areas with consent. Perhaps this is the first time they have ever gotten medical care after years of being too terrified to go. Perhaps this is the first time they are being seen right after a traumatic event.
I assisted a Women’s health nurse practitioner a couple of years ago, and she told me ahead of time that the next patient had a history of sexual abuse. She told me that they had built a good rapport over the years through communicating fully before she even started the examination. The interaction was beautiful. I watched the patient gain her power back as she indicated to the practitioner what she was and wasn’t comfortable with. This woman was gaining back her power and establishing boundaries the entire visit, and her practitioner was LISTENING.
As caregivers it’s so easy to get exhausted, irritated, and impatient. The way the medical world is set up these days, we are expected to see so many people in such a short amount of time. But, we need to remind ourselves that we are serving humans beings, not chart numbers. We have that opportunity to teach empowerment and boundary setting even in our short interactions. For some people, we may be the only real human interaction they have in a day. We need to practice self care so that when we are with our patients, we can hold space for them, and not pour from an empty cup. We need to stay present and give them the respect that every human being on this planet is entitled to.
“Do for one, what you wish you could do for one hundred.” -Andy Stanley
Take care of YOU.