Lessons learned from downward dog
There’s a woman I notice in the yoga class I attend on occasion – she really irks me. A perfect, tiny, blonde and cellulite-free specimen of humanity, she celebrates her six-pack abs and rockin’ bod by working out in just leggings and a sports bra. I swear, she showers pre workout. She arrives to morning sessions with loose curls intact, falling down her perfectly toned back. Her designer gym attire always matches. So annoying.
In contrast, I roll up to the door of the yoga studio, crookedly park my car as a result of chronic lateness, shlup into the building wearing my slippers, mascara smeared left over from the day before. I’m disruptive as I slap down my mat in the studio where on-time attendees lay meditating in silence. Rather than relax, I choose to do some extra stretching before the class begins, which I’m sure is an annoyance to others. Sorry, I’m not a big savasana person.
This morning I entered the yoga studio in my typical uncoordinated, baggy sweats-wearing, far-too-loud fashion and noticed the buxom blonde in the corner of the room shaking out perfect curls before pulling them into a perfect ponytail. Abs on display, of course. Sigh. As I slid my feet out of my worn-in slippers (I love any workout that can be done in bare feet), I noticed the running shoes the hot yogi was placing in her cubby to store during class. These kicks were the perfect athletic shoes, sporty but comfortable. An avid runner, I had to have a pair for myself.
So, I approached my nemesis, the yoga hottie, to inquire as to where I too could purchase the perfect running shoes. I was shocked when she spoke. A thick European accent came from her mouth. No wonder she sported seemingly inappropriate workout attire. Coming from a place where going topless on the beach is the M.O., she suddenly seemed to be dressed a little more conservatively. English skills a bit clumsy, she seemed less ‘perfect’. Her accent thick accent squashed my preconceived notions of who she was and where she must come from. Suddenly, she became more dynamic and human. She must have a story.
Many times, as a nurse practitioner, I find myself approaching patients with a similar attitude. Patients requesting pain medication must be malingerers. Teens with tats must be trouble. Gun shot victims were definitely up to no good. I become disillusioned with humanity. Overweight patients never seem to heed my advice on healthy eating. COPD sufferers leave the emergency department only to light up as soon as they reach the parking lot.
Changing patient behavior and working with individuals coming from much different backgrounds than I can be tough. But, everyone has a story. We all have our flaws. Mine are just different than yours. Often I get too busy to take a step back from the routine of my job and remember to consider patients as people, not as ID numbers or diagnoses. This is one thing the nurse practitioner community prides itself on, but without intentionally maintaining this position we will get dragged down by the day-to-day of our practices.
Next time you notice yourself judging or stereotyping a patient, pause. Ask a few questions about his or her story. You might be surprised as what you find.
Has working as a nurse practitioner left you disillusioned with humanity?
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