Matthew 8:1-9 tells the story of Jesus healing a man who was paralyzed. Although the story centers on the man’s healing from paralysis, Jesus did more than simply repair the nerves and muscles in his body. He also gave him new life in his spirit and mind. In verse 2 Jesus says, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Jesus wanted to address a person’s deepest thirsts, instead of superficial ailments.
The discipline of engineering (my undergraduate training) emphasizes the identification of root cause when designing a solution. Siloam Family Health Center cares for the whole person (spirit, mind, and body) which enables them to identify root causes, instead of only symptoms. Whole-Person Care cultivates solutions that are not only effective but also efficient. By spending a little more time listening to each patient and their needs, they can address the deeper ailments of their patients.
I got to see this ideal played out during my first week participating in the Community Heath Immersion program at Siloam. I met “Rosita”, who had visited Siloam Family Health Center to see Lauren Smith, FNP, her primary care provider and staff member at Siloam. Since Rosita speaks limited English, Smith conducted her exam in Spanish without an interpreter. I was excited to have a chance to practice my Spanish listening skills. Rosita’s vitals were in the normal limits; however, she repeated a complaint from her previous visit of frequent, painful, and daily headaches. After a series of carefully chosen questions, Smith determined these headaches could be related to stress in Rosita’s life. Rosita shared, “I have three children, but my youngest is autistic.” Rosita showed that she cares deeply about the welfare her son.
Smith referred Rosita to see Rebecca Swift, LCSW, whose office is down the hall. Once in Swift’s office, Rosita appeared a bit more relaxed. Swift asked detailed questions about Rosita’s family environment. Rosita said, “The most stressful thing in my life is that I cannot communicate well with my youngest son.” Not only did his autism make conversation difficult, but her son spoke more English than Spanish as a result of his schooling here in the States. Swift was able to recommend some community groups for Spanish-speakers with autistic children in Nashville. Finally, Swift encouraged Rosita: “You are a good mother!”
Whole-person care is not simply an idealized scenario, it is vitally important for providing good healthcare!
Caleb is a participant in Siloam’s Community Health Immersion.