When I was a little boy, my father built for me the biggest sand-box of the entire neighborhood. I mean it was BIG! And lots of friends came to my back yard.
There at kindergarten age I began to be aware of hurts more than just my own. In addition to my own scuffs and cuts, I began to bring my friends’ injuries to my mother’s kitchen door for healing. When such activity threatened to overwhelm her budget for store-bought brand Bandaids, she taught me the basics of wound care: Wash it, apply antiseptic, make bandage of tape & tissue paper. It worked. My friends and I healed. The seeds of caring were sown.
Now I’m old enough that my knees may be unforgiving of the sand-box environment. And the innocent heart which brought my friends to my mother’s door has been battered and scarred. Granted, some of the scars are from wounds of my own carelessness or rebellion, but many of the wounds in my heart are from coming into the pain of others. It wouldn’t seem so bad if my attempts at participating in intervention were rewarded with the healing that so readily occurred with the scraped knees of childhood. But instead, the revolving door of the ER brings a continual flood of sickness and misery; in the face of which I often feel powerless.
The problem is that I still care.
There are approximately 1 million, 612 thousand Registered Nurses working in the hospitals of America. Another 988 thousand Registered Nurses work in other settings. In addition there are approximately 800 thousand LPNs and untold numbers of CNAs and other unlicensed support personnel. In spite of our efforts, the influx of sick and miserable people is never-ending. Thanks to a milieu of factors over the years, we nurses now spend approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of our time proving to government regulators that we take care of the ill and injured. Only the remainder of our time is available to actually do the planning and interventions of your care. In fact, most all hospitals have nurses whose practice involves ZERO patient care and focuses ONLY on meeting regulatory requirements. It is unlikely that the regulatory environment will ease its pressures on my profession. And if you, Dear America, continue without consideration of how your life decisions affect your health and healthcare, there won’t be enough of us to even put on Bandaids.
You have a body that is made with healing mechanisms. The moment a cut occurs, the blood begins to set up the repair. The moment a cold virus kicks out a copy from its process of wrapping its RNA into one of your nose cells, your immune system kicks into high gear. When the hand-germs incubated in that left-over pizza begin to replicate in your gut, the digestive system may either put its mobility into reverse to expel the offensive agent from whence it came, or go into over-drive to flush things through in a hurry.
The cut yields pain and blood is messy. The swollen nasal passages feel awful. Gastrointestinal disturbances are, well, disturbing! But these are not disease. Disease is, among other things, the infiltration of bacteria and viruses into places they don’t belong. Injury is the physical re-arrangement of body tissue or bone. Most of that for which we seek a doctor’s attention are the symptoms of the healing processes! The reported percentages of various problems that “heal on their own” will vary depending on what study or article you read. More than once I’ve heard Family Practice physicians estimate that approximately 70% of what comes through the office door heals up without regard to the physician’s intervention. (A problem on a parallel track is that reducing symptoms often delays the actual healing. But that will wait for another post.)
Dear America, if you would simply seek nutrition instead of just taste, learn to listen to your body, and trust the fact that your healing mechanisms are as much a part of being human as having an opposing thumb, you could stop breaking my heart for all the misery you are carrying. Let the healthcare systems function optimally for the things which require intervention. Stop the over-use of interventions so that resources are available when you or your community really need them. Be unafraid. Pay attention to the feeding of body and soul. Learn to live and heal.
Stay tuned with LifeBidder for simple, effective ways to self-manage your healthcare. “The Belly-Button Guide to Self-Managed Healthcare” is under construction!