February 2016

“Healer, Know Thyself” – A New Paradigm of Ethics and Healing in Health Care


Health care is ready for a shift. A grassroots movement to humanize health care from within, through the people, is gaining momentum.

Research has shown that

  • Physicians have one of the highest rates of suicide of any profession.

  • Too often, nurses bully each other.

  • Health-care professionals are challenged with self-care.

  • Health-care professionals tend to isolate or silo and are often splintered through hierarchy and within professional groups.

  • New Mexico is losing its diverse, local workforce.

The research is clear; changes in organizational culture come from leadership. And leadership is made up of people. Humanizing health care involves a two-pronged approach.

The first is to build capacity, resilience and emotional intelligence among health-care leaders who can address organizational change and well-being. This applies to all employers of health-care professionals and the schools that train them.

The second is for each health-care professional to take personal responsibility in implementing positive change. This includes reconnecting to free will, strengthening self-efficacy, personal agency and being responsible for choices made. This is how we begin to change the victim-perpetrator-rescuer dynamic that has been pervasive in health care culture and move to positions of strength and empowerment.

Permaculture teaches that the solution is found within the problem, and in order to find the solution you turn the problem upside down. This proactive approach is helpful as we aim to humanize health care through relationships.

What could it look like if we turned the problems upside down?

  • Physicians, nurses and other health-care professionals prioritize and practice self-care, becoming leaders of their own well-being.

  • We develop emotional literacy by identifying how we feel, without judgment or self-criticism. When we name our feelings, the amygdala in the brain is deactivated, and we move out of the reactivity of the fight-or-flight state.

  • We practice being present in the moment, allowing us to experience empathy and compassion for ourselves and others.

  • We take responsibility for our thoughts, feelings and actions.

  • We develop self-awareness and become aware of our own values.

  • We align our values with our intentions and choices.

  • We build relationships through kindness and inclusion.

  • We understand there is strength in diversity.

  • We pause in the face of challenge, becoming more proactive and less reactive.

As human beings, we are wired to connect through relationships. The relationship we have with ourselves informs all other relationships. For health-care professionals, the guidance to “know thyself” is the foundation to “healer, heal thyself.” According to nurse-theorist, Jean Watson, “To be relational is to be ethical.” Perhaps the first step in being ethical is to know the self.

As Victor Frankl explains in Man’s Search for Meaning, when we lose our “why” or our purpose, we lose our sense of choice. This leads to existential crisis. We all suffer. Suffering is part of the human condition. Making meaning of our suffering is what liberates us from despair.

The following New Mexico health-care professionals provide meaningful examples of empowered choice:

Darrell Gardner, R.N., traveled 6,000 miles, alone, from Mexico to Alaska, over a nine-year period of time, hiking and using a canoe to cross water. On his website, UnderHumanPower.com, Darrell writes, “As a registered nurse, I am reminded daily of life’s brevity. Patients have often shared with me their regrets of dreams unrealized…that life without balance has a steep price. This awareness became personalized when my father passed away early in his retirement. His death brought into focus my life-long dream…a single expedition that would challenge me to use all my outdoor experiences. Being in nature allows me to reach that innermost point of balance by becoming part of its rhythm. Traveling Under Human Power rejuvenates my soul and gives me a perspective like no other.”

Karin Thron, hospice physician, is part of the movement to Humanize Health Care by bridging the gap between nurses and physicians. Supporting the nurses she works with through an interdisciplinary team is one of her priorities. Karin has also contributed to the development of emotional-intelligence skills, training and models inclusion, vulnerability and the value of play.

Marie Manthey is considered the mother of Primary Nursing, focusing on the nurse-patient relationship and its potential for healing. She spent 25 years in hospital nursing, working from staff nurse to V.P. After that, she dedicated another 25 years to developing and running the consulting company, Creative Health Care Management (chcm.com), bringing relationship-based care to health-care organizations. Marie began hosting monthly nursing salons in her home, creating relationships with other nurses, sharing food and conversation. We are fortunate that, in her semiretirement, Marie brings nursing salons to New Mexico, beginning Feb. 18, in Albuquerque.

Camille Adair is a nurse at the forefront of the movement to Humanize Health Care. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Living Bridges and the CEO of Sacradigm. In addition to her work as a filmmaker, consultant and coach, Camille is a candidate for the American Nurses Advocacy Institute Fellowship. She is the Healthy Nurse Specialty Interest Group Chair for the New Mexico Nurses Association (nmna.org). Camille holds a certification in Emotional Intelligence and Family/Systemic Constellation Work and has formal training in mindfulness.

The list of mentors and leaders who have, in their own way, contributed to Humanizing Health Care is long. Some of them will be included in a new documentary film.

For more information or to join the nurse salon with Marie Manthey, on Feb. 18, call 505.470.3838, email Camille@CamilleAdair.com or visit CamilleAdair.com and Living-Bridges.org



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