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  • Writer's pictureKit Wisdom

tele-HEART not just tele-health

Updated: Mar 24, 2020

Healthcare's latest mass pivot to tele-health can open access to the heart skills of practitioners. The power of story becomes vital to connect, support and foster healing through these challenging times.

We are suffering a trauma like none other before us.




Amid the scrambling landscape of the intangible yet wholly present Covid-19, healthcare workers who traditionally work with the body, are finding their livelihoods drastically changing.

Our way of working, our way of helping, our way of caring, our way of being - has moved from spaces where real physical presence and touch once provided reassurance, safety, and guidance for patients to grow, day in day out - to an online space.

An online space where continuity of care looks like figuring out how to even use a tele-health platform, let alone deliver a treatment session.

Where treatment sessions may consist of creative ways to assess the body, checking exercises and developing rehabilitation plans .. and then what?

And for those where the use of touch was the primary delivery of care, how does that get moved online?

How do we stay connected without being able to connect?

How do we meet our patients needs?

Physical distancing has never felt so physically distant in the healthcare realm as it does now.

We find ourselves in a worldwide reaction that is hugely impacting the psychological and social health of every human. Working from a biopsychosocial model of care, we know these elements play a huge role in the management of pain and function. Right now, these elements are front and centre.

Currently, we all have vast emotional vulnerabilities as anxiety and fear are normal responses to what is happening. We are riding the waves of grief and hope not really knowing their size nor ripple effect.

Every day brings a new normal.

We are experiencing trauma that will continue to impact every human in a myriad of ways, as we all have different contexts, different lifestyles, different needs.

Everyone has a story. And each human’s story is complex and individual.

How can healthcare workers provide continuity of care from a distance when all of our stories are constantly changing?

What if we could work in a way that holds space for these stories?

What if we could work in a way that truly values, honours and explores these ever evolving stories?

What if we could connect, reassure, support and foster healing through creating space for each patient’s story?

What if we chose to slow down and deeply listen to our patients? To step into a space of radical understanding as the WAY to treat our patients?

The power of narrative and storytelling.

Over the past two years I have been working differently.

I have seen the importance of narrative and story-telling and have been privileged to witness the power and beauty of holding space for another human, without necessarily having to touch them.

Inspired by studying a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology, I now combine the worlds of physiotherapy and positive psychology. What has developed is my greater understanding of the power of narrative and story-telling.

We now know that pain is an emergent experience and more complex than we ever imagined. Becoming increasingly complex day by day in this current climate.

Pain is subjective. Therefore, a human’s pain experience is their story - impacted by their beliefs, knowledge and expectations of pain, as well as their social and working environments.

In truth, every part of life plays a part in our pain experiences, so it becomes vital to explore and honour the wholeness of each human’s story; each of our patients’ story.

It becomes how they make sense of their world. Making sense through their own narration.

In a physiotherapy world that predominantly attends to the physical elements of pain and function, this means valuing the exploration beyond the physical. This means creatively asking questions that allow emotional and relational thoughts and experiences to emerge. To listen without judging the answers and without jumping to provide a solution.

It means deeply listening for themes throughout their story, listening for what they might not think is important yet is actually central to their own understanding.

It means being able to sit with uncomfortable moments, whilst creating and holding space for curiosity, reflection and vulnerability.

Providing space for each person’s pain experience, celebrates their complexity as a human and empowers their growth. Gaining permission to connect to their own narrative inspires personal meaning and emboldens strength in a world where resilience is essential for wellbeing.

Akin to the human pain experience, the strategies involved in deciphering and utilising each human’s story are contextual and multidimensional. Ultimately, the task becomes one of inviting change through curiosity, conversation, connection and compassion.

Healthcare workers: our patients need us.

In ways you might not yet even realise.

There is always a story.

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