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Who is the Healer?

What identity am I inhabiting when I am working as a “healer”.

Most of us have simply adopted the “persona” granted us by our professional guild. Freshman medical students assume their “healers identity” when they are invited to participate in the so-called “white coat ceremony” that seals their allegiance to allopathic medicine, and its strict adherence to ethical, philosophical and regulatory principles. I doubt that many of these freshmen “inductees” are even aware of these principles that will straight jacket their future behavior and identity. Whilst it is certainly reassuring to experience that we are part of a larger supportive and self-affirming community it is important that we are very consciously aware and actively chose what identity we chose to inhabit. The possible identity we might chose to inhabit as a healer may assume many personas. However, one framework for understanding the characteristics and differences between these different “healer personas” is to recognize the difference between doing a task “by me,” “with me,” and “through me”. These approaches not only reflect one’s personal and professional mindset but also significantly influence the nature of our care and interaction with patients. When we align these concepts with the notions of a profession, a career, and a calling, and compare them to the roles of a technician and craftsman, we uncover deep insights into the ethos of healthcare provision.

By Me: The Technician and the Profession

The “by me” approach is characterized by a sense of personal responsibility and control over the task at hand. It embodies an attitude where the individual believes that success or failure is directly attributable to their actions. In healthcare, this approach is often seen in professionals who view their work as a series of tasks to be completed or problems to be solved, largely focusing on the technical aspects of care.

  • Technician: In this context, the healthcare provider acts as a technician, applying specific skills and knowledge to diagnose and treat patients. The emphasis is on the execution of pre-defined tasks and procedures with precision and accuracy. In the realm of healthcare, the technician represents the embodiment of professionalism through a rigorous adherence to standardized procedures, evidence-based practices, and a focus on efficiency and outcomes. Technicians are highly skilled in the application of medical knowledge, the use of state-of-the-art technology, and the execution of precise procedures. Their approach is grounded in the scientific method, emphasizing measurability, predictability, and control. The role of the technician is crucial in ensuring that care is delivered with a high degree of accuracy, safety, and consistency, which are indispensable in treating diseases and saving lives. Technicians operate within a framework that prioritizes technical competence, adherence to guidelines, and the optimization of processes. This perspective is essential in a healthcare system that deals with the complexities of human biology, the unpredictability of diseases, and the challenges of delivering care at scale. The technician’s professionalism is characterized by a commitment to continuous learning, certification, and maintaining the highest standards of clinical practice.
  • Profession: This aligns with the concept of a profession, where the focus is on acquiring and applying specialized knowledge and skills. The healthcare provider is motivated by the profession’s standards and expectations and adheres to established protocols and guidelines. The scope and nature of healing practice are governed by a professional authority, and individual creativity is prohibited in favor of defined metrics and a hierarchical system of authority.

With Me: The Craftsman and the Career

The “with me” approach signifies a collaborative engagement, where the task is carried out with the individual rather than solely by them. This perspective invites a more relational and participatory experience, emphasizing the dynamic interaction between the healthcare provider and the patient.

  • Craftsman: Here, the provider is akin to a craftsman, who not only has technical skills but also invests personal care, attention, and creativity into their work. The craftsman brings a sense of artistry and commitment to excellence, treating each patient case as unique and deserving of customized care. The craftsman in healthcare represents the dimension of healing that transcends the mere application of technical skills and enters the realm of artistry and intuition. The craftsman views healing as a calling, an endeavor that involves not just the mind, but also the heart and soul. This perspective emphasizes the individuality of patients, the importance of the healer-patient relationship, and the art of tailoring care to meet the unique needs and circumstances of each person. Craftsmanship in healing is about more than just solving problems or fixing bodies; it’s about nurturing well-being, fostering resilience, and supporting the holistic health of individuals. Craftsmen bring to their practice a deep sense of empathy, compassion, and commitment to the human aspects of care. They recognize that healing involves addressing not just physical symptoms, but also the emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of health. The craftsman approach values the nuances of human experience, the subtleties of clinical judgment, and the importance of narrative and context in healthcare. Craftsmen are attentive listeners, keen observers, and thoughtful responders who engage with patients in a way that honors their stories, values, and preferences. This approach requires flexibility, creativity, and a willingness to venture beyond established protocols to find solutions that resonate with the individuality of patients.
  • Career: This approach corresponds to viewing healthcare as a career—a journey of personal and professional development where success is measured not just by competency but by the ability to connect, adapt, and grow with one’s work. It reflects a commitment to long-term growth and satisfaction in one’s chosen path.

Through Me: The Calling and The Transcendant

The “through me” approach transcends the individual, suggesting that the work is being conducted through them by a higher purpose or calling. It indicates a deep sense of connection to the work, where the individual serves as a conduit for healing or care that is guided by greater values and principles.

  • Calling: In healthcare, this equates to viewing one’s role not just as a job or career but as a calling. Providers with this mindset feel a profound sense of purpose and dedication to their work, often leading to a holistic approach to care that considers the patient’s physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. They experience themselves as not being the “owner” of knowledge or skills but rather as being the vessel for the transmission of transcendent purpose, and they do not identify themselves as belonging to any particular mundane professional or social identity. Being a healer as a calling embodies a confluence of compassion, intuition, dedication, resilience, and a deep sense of purpose. These characteristics not only define the healer’s approach to their work but also profoundly impact the quality of care and compassion they provide. The journey of a healer called to their work is one of continuous giving, learning, and serving—a testament to the transformative power of healing when it stems from a deep-rooted calling.

What Identity do I assume as a Healer?

It is essential to recognize that these “healer identities” are useful in specific circumstances. We should also consciously identify which “base of operation” we are inhabiting at any given time and whether this is the most effective stance in that particular situation.

Technician (“By Me”), Craftsman (“With Me”), and Calling (“Through Me”)

AspectTechnician (“By Me”)Craftsman (“With Me”)Calling (“Through Me”)
FocusExecution of specific tasksPersonalized care, creativity in approachServing a higher purpose, holistic care
MotivationMastery of technical skillsCommitment to excellence, patient-centeredDeep sense of purpose, desire to make a difference
RelationshipTask-orientedCollaborative, patient as partnerEmpathetic, spiritual or holistic connection
OutcomePrecision, accuracyCustomized care, satisfaction in craftsmanshipComprehensive healing, fulfillment

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