Calling all physician assistants: have you ever wanted to write a book!? How about a kids book about heart health?
If I’m not recording this podcast, coaching a 1-on-1 client through a job transition or to recover from burnout, or hanging with my family, you can find me with my nose in a book. Or, my kindle paperwhite, to be more specific. I find the process and achievement of writing a book to be so interesting!
Children’s books also abound in our household with three young kiddos who are super into learning how to sound things out, looking at pictures, and reading books themselves.
Kaitlin Pond, PA-C combined her love of pediatric patients with her desire to reach more kids and teach them about the importance of heart health… so she wrote an actual book!
I cannot wait for you to hear our conversation today about how she leaned into this passion for teaching kids about heart health, how she thrives in pediatrics, and what it has felt like this past year for her to be the patient instead of the provider.
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What is it about heart health? We hear about it during February (a lot!) We know that it affects women in a much different way than it affects men. Understanding that the majority of our patients will be affected by and potentially even succumb to heart disease is a sobering realization.
It’s great to be number one unless it’s the cause of death. Coronary artery disease and heart disease in general cause more deaths in the United States than any other country.
Did you know that kids can begin depositing plaques in their coronary arteries by age 3? Heart health matters and healthy habits make a big difference in our long-term cardiovascular health and risks once we reach adulthood.
Taking control of our habits is an empowering thing that, even for kids (but also for parents) can make a huge difference in your life AND longevity. It can be intimidating to talk to your kids about healthy choices, exercise, nutrition and rest, but let me tell you: it is so worth it when they “get it” and start to internalize what you’ve shared.
Kids & Little Heart Health
Kaitlin tells her patients that she wants them to be eating healthy and moving their body. For her, eating healthy includes:
- Eating the rainbow
- Remembering fruits and veggies
- Tuning in to their hunger and fullness cues
- Body awareness and intentional eating
When it comes to exercise, it doesn’t have to be formal, regimented, timed and forced. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of what it looks like to get your kids moving.
Movement for kids should be fun! Find something that they enjoy doing and help encourage them to move with joy and regularity.
Another great way to get those kiddos moving is to model movement for them. Consistent exercise and having our own positive relationship with strength and movement with show kids what we want them to embrace.
More is caught than taught, so beng intentional and careful with your body talk, movement, health and relationship with food will trickle down to your children. Intentionality with these aspects of what you are modeling in your life.
It’s Not How You Look
Kaitlin is incredibly intentional about making sure that nutrition and movement conversations focus on health and wellbeing. This isn’t about how our bodies (or our kiddos bodies) look.
This is about how bodies feel. The goal with healthy habits and mindset is to improve health and avoid long-term disease complications and conditions.
When we have these conversations with our children AND with our patients, focus more on how the feel and the positive outcomes health-wise instead of the external physical attributes in this arena.
Eating for Heart Health
Eating can be a big opportunity for a power struggle. Focus on offering your kids the option for healthy choices at meal times.
Forcing your kiddos to eat certain amounts of certain things can override the kiddos own body sensation and body awareness. Instead ask that they are cognizant of their own hunger cues and be aware of their fullness.
Give them control over so that they can focus on a positive relationship with food that is, largely, independent from our external influence.
From Provider to Patient
Kaitlin opens up with bravery and vulnerability to share about her experience stepping out of her role as a provider and into the space as a patient. Ultimately she conquered the obstacles of being discredited and misdiagnosed to get to a provider who had the knowledge and compassion to properly diagnose and treat her.
When you are a provider you automatically know a little more than the average patient. However, when you are sitting in the gown, describing your symptoms and not being taken seriously it can be just as frustrating when your symptoms are being ignored.
Along this journey she had, unfortunately, a lot of experience with medical gaslighting. Medical gaslighting is a when healthcare providers dismiss a patient’s concerns, symptoms or incorrectly attributes their illness or symptoms on psychological factors.
The most common patients to experience medical gaslighting are women, those who are having fertility and reproductive-related issues (think infertility and endometriosis), children and teens, people of color, underserved and marginalized populations and those who are obese.
We need to do better to be aware of our own internal and external biases and focus on listening and believing in our patients and their reported symptoms. As providers we need to focus on active listening. Instead of thinking of what we are going to say or ask next, actively listening and caring about what our patients are saying.
Here’s how to be diligent about making sure you aren’t gaslighting your patients: active listening, keep an open mind, be empathetic and present in the room.
Diagnosis vs. Judgment
Diagnosis is what you determine a patient to have based on their symptoms, lab results, imaging tests, and decide what’s going on based on this evidence. We have to make judgements to make diagnoses.
However, what judgments are evidence-based and factual vs. what judgments are discriminatory and discounting patient symptoms. Compassion fatigue happens in medicine each and every day. When we are too burned out to be compassionate, we are so much more likely to accidentally gaslight our patients.
Empathy and compassion matters. What if, before you walk into each patient’s room today, you took a deep breath? What if you reset your mind? What if you said to yourself “I’m going to be open, compassionate and caring” before you entered each exam room tomorrow?
Compassion and kindness are imperative. Are you treating patients in the way that you would want your daughter, your son, your partner or parent treated by their provider? If the answer is no, what adjustments can you make? If that answer is YES, well YAY, you! Keep up the good work.