Learning about the Social Determinants of Health so that we can improve clinical practice. Lifelong learning is a foundational element


Learning about the Social Determinants of Health so that we can improve clinical practice.

Lifelong learning is a foundational element of professionalism. I would argue that it is also a foundational element of the human experience. No matter what we are doing, the really interesting thing is whether we can know a little bit more about that endeavor so that perhaps we can get a little better at it. There are a lot of reasons why this is true, not the least of which is that it is good for our disposition. It feels good to learn something new and to gain new skills! As health-care professionals, this ongoing effort is also driven by the necessity of providing the best care possible. If we aren’t always learning, we are falling short on this necessity.

So how do we learn? Certainly, a big question. I have been thinking about this in relation to my recent efforts to get a little better at playing the guitar, and there are some key learning concepts that have stood out. One is motivation merged with time and resources. At my current life stage, I have the time and resources to work with a teacher and to practice regularly. I am also motivated- playing the guitar well is fun! The teacher has been skilled at both building on my previous knowledge and also at sharing new knowledge. For example, Drop-D tuning is something I knew nothing about. Using that new knowledge and my improving basic skills means that I have been able to learn how to play songs like “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles and “Old Man” by Neil Young (send me an email if you’d like a video of that!)

Working with teachers and mentors to build on and gain new knowledge and skills is a no-brainer for physical therapists. Motivation to get better at what we do should be in our hard wiring as well, and so we have to make some time and devote some resources to this throughout our careers. We should also always be on alert for building on our basic knowledge and for opportunities to learn about something completely new. For me, over the past few years, this is the category where Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) falls. The connection is a bit of a stretch, but like Drop-D tuning, I have recently learned that it is critical for physical therapists to integrate SDOH into our clinical decision-making. I think I am at the stage right now where I need to learn some “new songs” that make use of this new knowledge. How best can I integrate considerations of SDOH into clinical practice to optimize the health and well-being of children and families? How best can I help others- novice and experienced clinicians and educators- in learning and applying this information as well? I am very much looking forward to this upcoming course, where we all can learn from experts Senobia Crawford and Casey Nesbit, and from each other, about this critically important topic. Please join us if you can.

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My goal for this blog post is to get you to think

These are two phrases I hadn’t though very much about until reading