person-centered practice


What is person-centered practice, anyway?

More and more, health care organizations are taking a data-driven approach in order to improve the quality of care delivered to patients. Great idea, right? Especially for our much-maligned safety net providers who are thought to deliver a lower quality of care, this means that there is a way to hold providers accountable for health outcomes. 

But the funny thing about working with data is that it takes the humanity out of our interactions. It has a tendency to reduce not just patients but also staff to mere moving parts, interaction times and assessments and deliverables and indicators. 

What this means is that everyone in our health care system spends more time on computers and less time looking a human being in the eye to form a meaningful, trusting connection.

What does it mean when you center people in your work? It means that you take the time to listen -- really listen -- to their stories. You learn about their lives with a genuine sense of curiosity and without judgement. And if you choose to give advice, you do so in a way that empowers a person to make the choice that works best for them. You have faith in the ability of people to make change. You can still collect data -- with practice, it's easy to fit assessment questions into a conversation -- and that data will be so much more rich than if you stuck to a script.

I believe deeply in the power of data to move policy change. But I also believe in the power of authentic connection to help us reach people who most need our help. And I believe in giving people tools that will help them to make the work of connection sustainable. 

As the systems that serve the most vulnerable people in our society become more reliant on data to improve outcomes, we run the risk of making the people who providers are trying to reach feel more like numbers on a spreadsheet than people. This is absolutely counter to the intention to serve. Centering people is to convey the sense that each person is valued and that each person is worthy of care. 

What does this mean in my own professional practices? It means listening more than I talk. It means giving people space for their own experiences, even (especially) if they run counter to mine. It means centering conversations with clients on what is important to them, not what I think should be most important. And in yoga, it means that the poses fit the person, rather than trying to twist ourselves into a manufactured ideal. 

Thank you so much for visiting and for reading. Let's build a community that values our shared humanity. 

Alissa Nelson