Episode 5

Welcome to the Sacred Gyre Podcast, Staying connected to your deepest values as you work for change.

In episode four, I talked about one way in which living our values can be challenged on a personal level. I'll have more to say about that in the future, but today I want to talk about another side of this challenge. We are not isolated individuals, but deeply embedded in societies and cultures that are a part of how our values develop and change over time.

Those societies and cultures also both support us in living our values and at times can be a source of pressure to not live by them. I would like to use an example from my own life. I have a job in healthcare helping to bring the voice of our patients into the conversations where we work to improve healthcare delivery.

I love this work for many reasons. The people I've met who work in healthcare are really devoted to helping patients and their families stay healthy and to overcome health issues as they arise. Medicine is an ever changing field, and we work hard to change so that we can continue to do this well.

We call this Person and Family Centered Care. It is a national movement in healthcare to involve patients in both the decisions about their personal care and in decisions about how to change the systems we set up to make that care possible. It is a culture change for the healthcare system we knew as late as the 1990s up until the turn of the 21st century.

Inviting your patients into the room when you talk about making systemic improvements can feel like a vulnerable place. After all, you are including your customers into a conversation where you reveal your organization's flaws. I found my way into this job through the back door. I was an advocate for transgender healthcare starting back in 2010 because I needed gender confirming surgery and had to pay it for myself.

Like other transgender people and Medicare and Medicaid were denying payment for these surgeries. This was particularly harmful to trans people from marginalized communities who more often have to depend on these government agencies for their healthcare.

I was able to play a role in getting these denials overturned. One reason I was successful was a decision I made to assume that people who stood in the way of this change were well meeting human beings, that they were doing the best they could, given their circumstances. It was a challenge, but I am still happy about how I spoke and acted.

Now that decision led to my being invited to serve as one of what is called a patient partner by the organization I now work for. This was a change for me. From being an advocate on the outside, I now needed to be willing to sit with healthcare staff, working collaboratively to make systemic improvements.

In my former advocate role, I put going anywhere I could find to push my agenda of overturning the prohibition on gender confirming surgery at the top of my to-do list. As a patient partnering with healthcare staff, I needed to bring my training and mediation and group process more to the fore.

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