Using Poetry, Story, and Reflection to Understand Professional Self After Personal Loss
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This research investigated professional identity transformation after personal loss. Through autoethnographic methods, I explore how my personal experience of my sister’s breast cancer and death affected my identity as a diabetes educator in the health culture. I discover a transformation of a professional who focuses on evidence-based medicine to a professional who values connection, therapeutic alliance, and mindfulness with patients and self in the diabetes education encounter. Using a holistic perspective on transformational learning, I integrate the poem “Wild Geese” to a collection of written narratives to connect my personal loss experience to my professional life. By unpacking the generated stories and using poetry, I conduct a process of critical and self-reflection to discover how my identity as a health professional has transformed and what makes meaning in my role as a diabetes educator in the health culture. I consider concepts of a conscious self, social relations and language and discover themes of knowledge exchange, food, and empathy as forms of language expression. These language expressions are not present in my professional life as I focus on rational, logical facts of evidence-based medicine and standardized education methods. Through this reflexive process, I hope to understand how my professional practice has changed, where I place an importance on connection, therapeutic alliance, and mindfulness. I move away from always “doing” in my professional life to focus on my state of “being” in my professional world. Rather than knowledge acquisition as the only factor in professional development, this study contributes to an understanding of additional qualities health professionals may consider that focus on the patient education encounter.