From Barnyard to Bedside
How Doctors are Learning Better Bedside Manners from Horses
by Carol Marriott
In the sick room, ten cents’ worth of human understanding equals ten dollars’ worth of medical science.
—Martin H. Fischer
As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, service is “the action of serving, helping, or benefiting; tending to the welfare or advantage of another; friendly or professional assistance, the occupation or function of serving others.”
Through thousands of years, horses have been in service to us. According to the University of Missouri there are 7.5 million horses serving people in the United States alone. Horses are all about service. I am encouraged every day as I learn about the variety of ways that horses are changing from being “beasts of burden” to “companions in our physical, emotional and spiritual healing and growth.”
In a unique and savvy new program called Medicine and Horsemanship developed by Beverley Kane, MD, founder of Horsensei (www.horsensei.com), Dr. Kane trains medical students and other healthcare students and practitioners to develop awareness of the subtleties of self-presentation and communication that are necessary for the provider-patient relationship and all other professional encounters. In other words, horses are now teaching doctors about exceptional customer service.
In order to enable other EAL professionals to conduct her program, Dr. Kane has written The Manual of Medicine and Horsemanship – Transforming the Doctor-Patient Relationship with Equine-Assisted Learning (www.authorhouse.com/bookstore/ItemDetail.aspx?bookid=49669).
Following is an excerpt from Dr. Kane’s Medicine and Horsemanship handbook:
“Horses develop in us the three non-intellectual, non-rational aspects of our intelligence—instinctual, emotional, and sensory—that may have atrophied in our quest for the correct answers on exams, the right diagnosis, or the most relevant journal article.
“Unlike our patients, horses will tell us when we have violated their boundaries and have not clearly set our own. They show us when they’re confused about our instructions. They let us know when we have touched them too roughly or inattentively. They show their appreciation for gentleness and honesty and clarity of intent. Because horses react to the most subtle human signals, they hold up a magnifying mirror to ourselves and our behaviors. In this mirror we see the image and path for our professional development and our personal growth.
“Horsemanship requires an appreciation of the nonverbal as well as verbal messages that we give to others. It requires patience, gentleness, self-confidence, perceptiveness, focus, and awareness. Horses are large, but nevertheless easily frightened, prey animals whose survival has depended on becoming exquisitely sensitive to body language, innuendo, and emotional tone, and to the position and movement of objects in their sensory fields. By reflecting back to us the signals and intents of which we aren’t even aware—much less aware that we’re communicating outward—horses train us to notice at all times the information that we convey.”
Similar to what body workers and massage therapists are taught to do, letting a client know where you are at all times, by gently keeping your hand on them as you move around them or change positions, is exactly what we are taught in horsemanship. While grooming a horse, you keep yourself safe and the horse comfortable by keeping one hand on the horse as you move around behind them to the other side, therefore allowing the horse to know where you are and what your intentions are, and by not surprising them by showing up on the other side and suddenly touching them.
Speaking gently and reassuringly while grooming or examining a horse relates entirely to how medical staff or health practitioners can improve their bedside manner during physical exams and medical procedures. Rushing, distraction, or gruffness leaves patients confused, unsure, and distrustful, just the same as these actions might leave a horse feeling.
So the next time you visit your doctor or health practitioner, think about how the experience might be, if you were a horse!
Horses in service to humans…once again these magnificent creatures remind us that, “In this life, we are all connected.” (Native American quote)
Carol Marriott is a Certified Equine-Assisted Learning (EAL) facilitator and the “Lead Mare” at Ravenheart Farms near Humboldt, SK.
For information, workshop dates and/or
private or group sessions call (306) 682-4641, email: email@example.com, or visit: www.ravenheartfarms.com, and also see the colour display ad on page 43 of the 14.5 January/February
issue of the WHOLifE Journal.