We recently spoke at SUNY Plattsburgh to the Health Promotion and Social Justice class, a group of sophomore RN students. 65 young men and women meet weekly as part of their nursing training. The course catalogue states that students will “explore self-perspectives on health and risk behaviors, gaining an understanding of their contribution to health. The experience of diverse individuals and family access to health is examined within a framework of social justice. Students engage in ethical decision making as they explore how the dimensions of environment, upstream thinking and health policy relate to health promotion. The underlying dynamics of health, such as self-efficacy, genomics and resilience are studied. Students explore the impact of cultural, social and ethnic diversity on health promotion. Evidence-based strategies to achieve healthy people in healthy communities is integrated.” If any of our readers want to renew their faith in this generation, visit a college class, particularly, this class. These young scholars were engaged, intelligent, and hopeful. Their enthusiasm and commitment to social justice was evident in their responses and approach to being a part of the healing professions.
The goal of our interactive talk was to discuss how we get to know our clients in a Life Coaching relationship and the parallels of creating a healing relationship in a nursing setting. We believe that relationships are often forged during the immediate ‘first impression’ stage. So, we began with a “hello” and a quick exercise; “We know you have been paying close attention to us, watching and wondering, since we walked in, so, on the corner of your note page, write down your first impressions of us (Sally and Michele), good, bad, or indifferent. They were very receptive to this exercise and immediately began writing and discreetly eyeing us from their tiered seating in Yokum Hall. We told them we would revisit these notes later in the hour. We began our presentation with a brief over view of who we are, what we do, and why we are passionate about our work. We invited the students to participate in an hour of professional communication and relationship building. About 15 minutes in, we asked them to revisit their impressions and write what they thought of us now, asking if anyone would like to share. Some had kept their initial impressions and some had changed; the point being that as much as we try not to judge, we do. Having an open mind and being nonjudgmental is a learned skill, a choice. Practicing it makes it work! We will still have that inner commentary, but we won’t fall into believing those initial interpretations of another person or situation. We can learn to temper our judgment with the opportunity to get to know someone, before a real lasting impression is made.