In my day job, people talk to me. People talk to me a lot.
I guess you could call me the middle man between the people in my workplace and our Union. People often come to me with their issues, questions or concerns. It could be anything from working hours, to classification of duties and pay, or to general conduct in the workplace. I can provide some guidance, go and find additional information, or connect them to someone within the Union.
It’s not exactly a paid job. There are a few perks. Like free lunches. Coffees. Conferences held in fancy venues. Goodie bags, and the occasional freebies. However for the most part, I’m simply an employee taking an active interest in the welfare of my workplace.
All the time, I am asked what exactly it is that I do in this role. And most of the time, my answer is simple.
I’m a good listener.
It’s about being able to listen to someone in the staff room who needs to get something off their chest. It’s about going up to someone and asking them if they are all right. It’s about being knowledgeable and helpful for the inquisitive people (myself included) who like to ask a lot of questions.
Sometimes the concerns are genuine ones, and I will be able to help them out. Other times, I can simply offer them my time. I can offer them my undivided attention. I can try to be as helpful as possible. I can keep these matters in the strictest of confidence. I can also respect that every concern being raised is important to the person asking.
Some healthcare professionals could certainly take a leaf out of my book.
Sometimes I’ve been made to feel like a worry-wort when bringing up issues that might seem insignificant. Sometimes I feel like an absolute idiot when a big concern that I’ve worked up in my head is absolutely nothing. Sometimes those feelings of relief are overshadowed by feelings of guilt for wasting a busy professional’s time. Other times I simply don’t feel that anything helpful has come from a consultation.
However, I don’t know any better. I am simply the patient, with the best of intentions towards my health at heart. It often takes a great deal of courage to raise an issue with one of my healthcare professionals. As a person with diabetes, this could mean accepting that I am ill. This could mean sharing sensitive information about my diabetes management. This could mean confirming a devastating diabetes complication. This could mean setting off a wave of guilty feelings and what-ifs.
I need undivided attention from my healthcare professionals. I need to be treated like the most important person in the room. I need to be shown empathy when I am talking. I need support and helpfulness during consultations. I need to be commended for coming in, and for taking my health as seriously as I possibly can.
I need motivation from my healthcare professionals to keep taking my health seriously, because my diabetes isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
Being a good listener is a good start.