Not “JUST”.

At a workshop for allied health students a week or two ago, I witnessed an exchange which stuck with me.

It started when one of the physiotherapy students asked our facilitator: “Are — (I forgot which profession she mentioned) doctors? Or medical personnel of some sort?”

Our facilitator replied no, the mentioned profession were not considered doctors or medical personnel.

“Oh ok.” The student replied. “They’re just allied health then.”

At that, the facilitator pricked back: “Not JUST. They’re allied health!” And because she had a twinkle in her eye, a little ripple of laughter ran around the circle.

The exchange stuck with me, more than any of the content spoken (family-centered philosophies and practice), and more than any of the role plays enacted (though I must say we were given some pretty tricky situations to respond to).

The exchange stuck with me because it occurred how important it is to take ourselves seriously before anyone else can. I know it’s common sense, all linked to the “love yourself before others can love you” train of thought, but the response from that student, the way she used the word “just”, stirred something in me. And I realize I could have been guilty of labeling myself or my profession as a “just” as well. After all, we don’t study for 5-6 years like the medical students do. We don’t sit for rigorous exams and tests. We don’t earn $60 000 or more a year. We don’t have to work shifts or hours as long. We don’t have to make decisions that concern life and death. We’re “just” allied health.

But if we were to think like that, who else would there be to advocate for the professions? To stress the importance of psycho-social experiences in early intervention and it’s impact on the type of adult one grows up to be? To come up with individualized  interventions for possible cognitive development in special needs? To understand how environmental and relational factors interact with each other to form an individual’s worldview and respond accordingly? To look at what a disabled individual can do instead of simply what they are limited by? To help a family through grief when their loved one is dying?

Medicine and science could probably solve a lot of problems, and yes, robots may take over the world someday, but for now I firmly believe: Without the holistic care of the person, existence can be more burdensome than meaningful. And that’s why it’s not “just” allied health. It’s ALLIED health.

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