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Spiritual Care Manager Sharna Ill on Listening As a Self-Awareness Practice

by Sharna Ill, Spiritual Care Manager

Here at Boulder Community Health, we've developed a system-wide self-awareness practice and we call that P-A-R.

PAR is a practice of self-awareness.

It's about being in relationship with every person, every time. It stands for: Pause - Assess - Respect.

What does it mean?

PAUSE: Take a moment to pause and breathe before any interaction. Don't we all deserve to just take a breath? Sometimes, that's all that's required to clear our minds before the next interaction.

Being a better listener in our organization has a lot to do with slowing down: Just taking that breath. Pausing, and then assessing, gives you time to listen.

That interrupts what we habitually do, which is move so fast and go from task to task, to really being aware of whose in front of us, aware of ourselves and aware of how important it is to really take in the people that are around us.

Ultimately people feel cared for in that. They feel they are really being listened to.

It creates a lot of resiliency for staff; it makes people feel a little bit more satisfied in their job; and it makes our patients, our families, and each other feel like someone has really taken a moment to see who they are.

ASSESS:This mean that when we encounter a person or situation, we take a few moments to try to read the person or what's going on in the room. Are people feeling emotional? Tense? Anxious? This is so important in health care when we are often trying to do important work efficiently. It reminds me of an environmental services worker who told me once that he always assesses the tone in the room before entering to do his work. Imagine the power in that.

RESPECT:We respect others by responding and reflecting what is occuring in each encounter. For example, 'I am hearing you say that you are frustrated.'

Sometimes, people just want to know that they have been seen and heard accurately. That their feelings truly matter to us. It can make all the difference.

Respecting, responding and reflecting allows for us to say, 'I hear what you're saying,' or 'It seems like you're anxious,' or 'I'm feeling maybe there's some fear?' or 'Are you in pain right now? ... Is there something that you need?'

I feel very privileged because all I do all day is listen.

It's the most meaningful thing and one of the most powerful things we can do in health care.