People who work the front desks of medical offices are like gatekeepers. They are ambassadors. They are the first voice or face a person encounters when they are seeking care. And the energy of that first interaction can be important.
Sometimes the person who is seeking that appointment hasn’t always done the best job of self-care. Perhaps they were unwilling or unable to keep up on their medical care. Perhaps they are a little outside of normal, or have in some way not “measured up” to the American standard in terms of class, gender, sexuality, appearance, ability, religious or other self- expression.
This is an opportunity.
As a gatekeeper, you have the opportunity, almost a sacred duty, to help bring this person into the fold of access. To welcome this person who may have obvious or hidden baggage around seeking some type of care into a safe space.
This person has reached out, has made an attempt to do the right thing, to access this care.
And this first interaction can truly make it or break it.
If a person who is trying to make an appointment, trying to ask a question or is in need of care feels judgement, feels pushed away or unwanted, feels uncomfortable, this can potentially reinforce the worldview that they don’t belong.
Or…this interaction could be a turning point.
If they walk into a gym, ready to make the leap of beginning fitness. If they walk into a farmer’s market, ready to add more vegetables. If they walk into an herbalist’s office, a massage studio, yoga class, health food store, running-shoe store, feminist sex shop….making this shift could change their freakin life.
They have taken a step.
What may be just another day to you could be a moment someone else has built up the courage to do for, like, ever.
Many people carry a lifetime of baggage, of judgement, of abuse, of discomfort, of self-loathing around like a big heavy stupid backpack, and it’s just enough to hold them back.
Maybe they already know they aren’t from around here. Maybe they drink too much, don’t take enough walks, rely excessively on quick fixes.. Maybe they already know the pain of rejection. Maybe they already know what that damn raised eyebrow means.
There may be a reason that someone has avoided seeking needed care. There may be a history that you can’t see. Neither the mainstream nor the alternative healthcare systems have always been kind to everyone. It is noone’s fault, it just “is”.
And, to those on the front lines of healthcare, I honor you, Physical care, mental care, fitness, alternative and mainstream– I don’t heap with you blame or anger for being human. Many of you are doing GREAT. And…Perhaps you have your own baggage. Perhaps you are just having a tough day. I thank you for the work you do.
But if you are able to keep this in mind, if you are able to welcome all the freaks into your space, actively welcome, to remember that it may feel foreign to some, dangerous even, to be accessing your services, perhaps you can see yourself as THE ANSWER. Or at least AN answer. This outreach position has the potential to literally shift someone’s feelings about the entire system. This interaction can be THE pivotal moment for a marginalized person. Or this moment can just reinforce the beliefs a person already holds.
“This is not for me.” “I am an outsider.”
They might bring vulnerability, shame, misunderstanding. You can be a bridge.
And around 90% of people are not seeking the lecture that you could deliver–even if, technically, you are “right”.
Maybe there will always be a douchebag who feels the need to yell at less-fit persons who finally worked up the courage to start running. Maybe there will always be a person who rolls their eyes when you say you have never had a primary care doctor. Maybe there will always be an herbalist who insists your colon isn’t clean enough. Maybe some people need to feel superior to those dorks who drag themselves out of bed, try their best, don’t fit in but do it anyway.
But don’t let that douchebag be you.