Patient Healing: The Mind-Body Connection
In past articles, we mentioned that the old understanding of health, which is based on the absence of infection, is no longer adequate. Neither is the “Medical Model” of health, which defines health as the “absence of diseased organs.” Both of these paradigms are focused solely on the physiological health of the body without considering other aspect of health.
The modern understanding of health is based on the consensus established by the World Health Organization (WHO), which was formed soon after World War II. This provided the foundation for today’s overall understanding of health from multiple perspectives. It includes six dimensions of health: Physical, Emotional, Mental, Spiritual, Social, and Environmental. Each is very important, because when one is compromised, it can tip the rest of them off balance.
At LVN schools in the past, new nursing students were taught mostly about treating their patients’ ailments at the physical level—treatments, tests, lab analyses, medication administration, therapy, and so on. However, in current vocational nursing program courses, we are now starting to see more attention being given to the patients’ mental and emotional states, as well as the other dimensions of health.
Many people have heard of the mind-body connection. A patient who does not want to get better will take a long time to recover from a fairly minor surgery. A patient who believes in their speedy recovery will heal much faster. We can clearly see how a person’s physical wellbeing depends on their spiritual, emotional, and mental state, as well. It is known for a fact that a person’s deep beliefs transfer information into their subconscious, which has a very strong power over the physical body.
One example is the case of a woman who had minor surgery, after which she could not recover for a long time. Her surgical wounds just would not heal, and the doctors and nurses were puzzled. When a psychologist was brought in, he put the patient into a hypnotic trance, which allowed the woman to re-experience the time of her surgery. Even though she was under deep, general anesthesia during the surgery, her subconscious recorded a conversation the surgeon had with his assistant, in which he stated: “She will never make it.” The surgeon was speaking about an entirely different patient, but the woman took it on her own account and her body carried out the programmed scenario. Needless to say, from then on, the conversations in the operating room have been limited to the case on hand only. However, this case demonstrates how strong the connection is between body and mind.
This is why at hospitals, every once in a while you will see a nurse at a patient’s bedside taking a patient’s hand and saying a prayer to help the spirit of the patient or speaking words of encouragement to help the patient believe in recovery. And in vocational nursing colleges and schools we teach this approach to our students: treat the whole person, not just their body. We must heal the mind and spirit in order to heal the patient. This is why these six dimensions of health are so important to understand and connect.
See also: Vocational Nurse Program