Be Bold! Like Wearing Pants to School

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OK – despite the fact that I know you can do the math, I will set the stage for this blog post with a true confession… I graduated from high school in 1969.

So you can imagine I was interested in this post on Mashable called October 1969 Hippie High School.

Now, granted, the photos were taken 4 months later in time (I graduated in June) But still – there is something about these photos that isn’t immediately identifiable today as a BIG DEAL.

But it was a big deal. At the time it was HUGE. That is, some of the girls were wearing PANTs to school.

For some of you who are younger (like, the vast majority of you, I expect) – you can’t imagine that wearing pants to school was a big deal, can you? So I’m going to tell you a story.

1969 was a year of huge social change. It was early in the movement we lovingly called “Women’s Lib” (liberation). Women’s Lib affected everything from politics (the equal rights amendment), to social mores (sex before marriage) to health care (the easy-to-obtain birth control pill.) If you were male, you mostly got frustrated at this whole new world. If you were female, you wondered what had taken us so long.

In spring of my senior year of high school, just a few weeks prior to the last day of classes, Margie, a sophomore and the younger sister of a dear friend of mine, along with a few of her friends, wore pants to school. They were promptly rounded up by the principal and sent home to change. Word spread fast!

My friends and I cheered! We were in awe of those girls who were so brave, so SO VERY BOLD!

As an aside, those were my days of being “the good girl.” I didn’t take social risks, and the last thing I would do was something that would get me sent home from school. I was the Pollyanna, goody-two-shoes, just short of brown-noser – bottom line – I never would have been so brave as Margie and her friends.

As I remember it, a few days later, Margie and her friends – and a few more – wore pants again. And yes, they got sent home again to change. This happened a few more times – and then school ended for the year. I graduated and went off to college… so I wasn’t there the following Fall….

But I remember learning around homecoming time that in fact, as the new school year got started, girls just wore pants and it went unquestioned by the authorities. No one was sent home. No one was forced to change her clothes. That was that. Social change had affected Williamsville South High School, setting the stage for even bigger things to come.

That move by Margie and her friends, to insist that girls be allowed to wear pants, had a huge impact on me. I began to see inequities I had never seen before, having been raised in the cocoon I had been raised in.

In fact, it had such an impact on me that I ran for, and was elected president of the freshman women (at Bucknell University) – because I saw a huge inequity the moment I started college. That was, that freshman women had a curfew (we had to be checked in to the dorm by 11 PM weekdays and midnight weekends) – but freshmen boys did not. So that was my platform, and the one thing I proudly accomplished that year – getting that curfew abolished (to the great consternation of my father, by the way!) Never again were freshman women required to adhere to a curfew at Bucknell.

I had never in my life been so BOLD. But it became like a drug. I realized that I – just little old me – could make a huge difference. I could experience something that was just wrong and not equal, and I could rally the troops, get the right people together, outline the injustice, make recommendations, then work with the right people to make at least a dent, and just maybe affect real change, no matter how small and insignificant it might seem.

No doubt you can guess where I’m going from here….

All these years later (yeah – go ahead, do the math) – I’m still proud of that accomplishment. No, not because it abolished curfews (I suppose the jury might be out on the unintended consequences of that) – rather, because it gave me the self-confidence I needed to open my eyes to even further opportunities to make a difference. And yes, I do think that in my lifetime, especially in my patient empowerment and advocacy work, I have made a positive difference in many lives (maybe even yours 🙂 .)

And so now, I challenge YOU to BE BOLD TOO!

Don’t be daunted by the big things; rather, be bold in the not so obvious things that can make a huge difference. Advocates make a huge difference just by helping people in large and small ways every day. This challenge to be BOLD just means you’ll take a further step.

Examples:

  • Visit your client in the hospital, and when you observe providers washing their hands, give them a small card that says Thank You for Protecting My Client. They’ll be floored, they’ll be more likely to remember to wash their hands the next time, and they will show it to everyone else in the Nurse’s Station. A very nice, positive, ripple effect.
  • Audit your client’s medical bills and negotiate the obvious errors, but take a stab at a reduction that might not be obvious. Tell your client you’re going to try, but you don’t expect to get that reduction. Then they won’t be disappointed if you can’t – but they’ll think you are BOLD if you do.
  • When you encounter a real inequity in how a client was treated by the system (perhaps the reason they contacted you to begin with, like a medical error, a horrendous bill, a frustration with the insurer) then report it to your local federal congressional or state representative once you’ve cleared up what you can for your client. You’ll need to get your client’s permission to do so first, of course. But the people who make the decisions about the advancement of improved healthcare services in the US rarely hear the real , day-to-day horror stories from the trenches. You can improve their knowledge banks which may have a positive effect on decisions made at the federal or state levels in the future.
  • When you speak to other advocates, or even groups of patients (potential clients), challenge them to be BOLD, too, as they go about improving their journeys through the healthcare system.

You’ll recognize the opportunities to be BOLD when they pop up. Alternatively, you can look at even the most mundane parts of your work and ask yourself, “How can I solve this more BOLDLY?”

One of the great responsibilities of starting a whole new profession (that’s you and me!) is making sure it is recognized for the important contributions it can make to humanity – how it improves lives. Let’s be sure that professional patient advocacy comes out on the right side of that balance sheet….

That’s right. We MUST BE BOLD.

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Photo borrowed from Mashable and Chris Wild with thanks and this attribution.

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Comments

  1. Nancy Ferenstein  January 20, 2015

    Wonderful story with absolute significance especially the suggestions for being bold … I call them “pearls” from Trisha

    reply

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