For over a decade, I was a bedside nurse caring for pediatric patients and their families. I learned to sneak a blood pressure on a sleeping toddler, I mastered the art of getting a reluctant preschooler to drink enough water from tiny medicine cups to stay off IV fluids (a tip learned from an incredible co-worker named Sara). I was taught some of life’s most precious lessons from teenagers who were looking in death in the face and still managed to make me laugh. I was witness to the heartbreaking truth that death can be a welcomed healing. I developed confidence in my nursing intuition and taught younger nurses to do the same. I understood my role within the care team of a patient and I was honored to have a career in health care.
But somewhere along my career as a nurse, there was a shift in healthcare. Policies and protocols dampened that nursing intuition. Patient loads increased, nursing ratios decreased. Chart more, chat less became an unspoken expectation. Our relationships with patients and their families were dictated by administrators in locked conference rooms. Patient outcomes were important but patient satisfaction scores were slightly more important. Near the end of my nursing career, I felt the lessons we were teaching our new nurses had less to do with developing clinical skills and critical thinking and more to do with customer service.
If you have followed me on this blog or on my Facebook page, you will know that I have spent many of the last months as patient’s family member or a patient myself. I have seen the same healthcare system where I used to work from the other side of the bed. It has been quite an experience. And it has left me asking myself over and over again, Is this really healthcare???
For me it’s always about the basics- food! I LOVE food. I believe that good food has the power to heal our bodies more than any medication. I believe that choosing a whole food minimally processed diet will add more health to our years than anything found within the walls of a hospital. But this is what my mother was served at our local hospital. She had to eat this in order to be discharged following her cardiac catherization procedure. Does anyone believe that THIS is healing food??? Those are pourable eggs and “lite” margarine.
Fast forward a month later, the day of my mother’s “big” surgery arrived. My brother and I are sitting in the waiting room with dozens of other families for hours. As I looked around I couldn’t help but wonder how many of those folks would soon find themselves on the other side of those double doors leading to the surgical suites. My heart broke for them and I wondered what can a health care organization do to become more proactive rather than reactive. This particular hospital did take one small step. At Indiana University Health, you cannot buy regular soda. No Coke or Mountain Dew to be found. Not at the cafeteria or the gift shop, not one to be ordered on a patient tray or given out by nursing staff. But I have to wonder about this decision when the cooler loaded with diet soda and sugar free juice is located next to this….
Does anyone else see the irony??? You cannot buy a Sprite but you could buy candy by the pound. Full sugar soda has been eliminated but you can wash down your sticky bun with a Diet Coke…. Healthcare at it’s best.
These are not problems limited to any one healthcare company. According to the American Heart Association, roughly 70% of men and women over the age of 60 have some form of cardiovascular disease. They also recommend low sodium diet where sodium consumption is limited to 1500mg of sodium per day for anyone with a diagnosis of high blood pressure. While talking with the staff at the local nursing home where my mom is recovering, I was told that they “don’t do” a low salt diet. Instead I was informed they don’t salt any of their food (see myth #3 on infographic below) yet all of their food is prepared off site and packaged for delivery. When I questioned the sausage that my mother was able to order for breakfast, I was assured that they “don’t salt our sausage”. A very insightful and lively discussion about cured meats followed..
So this leaves me thinking…what do we want our healthcare to look like? Do we want nurses who will smile in their matching uniforms and can recite the latest PR message? Do we want to be fooled into believing that the lack of full sugar soda equates to good health? Do we want to hear explanations of the rising cost of health care without having the food we eat as a central part of that discussion?
Personally, I think we need to move the idea of “healthcare” away from a doctor’s office or hospital building and towards our kitchen tables. Can we stop the rising trend of obesity, heart disease, autoimmune disorders with more and more medications, doctor’s visits or protocols? Nope. But we can change the trend with more fruits and vegetables, with less processed foods, with more education on what a healthy diet looks like for your family and mine.
If you are interested in learning more about nutrition, please consider joining my 4 week nutrition intensive. During this group, I will be sharing information I have learned in my study of holistic nutrition, teaching other women how to incorporate more whole foods into your family’s diet, and sharing tips and tricks that have worked for me to take some small steps away from processed foods!
I hope that all of you enjoy long days of good health. But if you find yourself, or a loved one, effected by illness or disease, I hope you look not only to doctors and medications to help regain your health but your fridge and pantry as well!