Embracing Authenticity…To Care

By Dr Gulnar Ali
Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Force of habit, and resistance to change- so great in all realms of thoughts- reaches its maximum in medicine, in the study of our most complex sufferings and disorders of being; for we are here compelled to scrutinize the deepest, darkest and most fearful parts of ourselves, the parts we all strive to deny or not-see... (Sacks, 1991 pg: xix)

Various cogs with icons related to health and social care within

Ontological explorations on personal sense of “being and becoming” are key to learn and practice person centred care. (Kang, 2003; Ali and Snowden 2019). It allows learners to engage with the philosophical reasoning associated with the meaning to care. Psychological perspectives based on existential approaches are also effective in articulating understanding of purpose, and meaning in life to promote holistic wellbeing (Martinsen, 2006, 2011; Rogers, 2016). However, relating transformative ontological perspectives into healthcare practices, remains a challenge in higher education. (Ali, etal, 2018; Wattis etal, 2019).

The concept of tripartite emphasises upon authentic and transformative learning practices in health education and practice (Barnet and Coate, 2005). It recognises transformative learning at three levels: knowledge sharing (epistemological), being and becoming (ontological) and performance (skills and action) (Snowden and Ali, 2017). To facilitate professional authenticity amongst health and social care students (level 04-05), several meaning-based transformative learning approaches are practiced at University of Wales Trinity Saint David, London. This write-up explores few philosophical paradigms that are applied to inspire health and social students, encouraging them to find their own truth and professional aspiration with a sense of vulnerability and availability to care (Rogers, 2016).

Cert HE-HSC level 04 students learn an open reflexive enquiry, while relating humanistic psychology to health and social care in term 03. Such reflexive engagement facilitates students to explore: how social realities are formed and perceived based on individual experiences and affects human development. Students are facilitated to relate their existential quest and meaning making patterns by reflecting upon relationship patterns and mindfulness about their own spiritual and existential, emotional needs using a framework: SOPHIE Self-exploration through Ontological, Phenomenological, and Humanistic, Ideological, and Existential expressions (Ali, 2018; Ali and Snowden, 2019).

Students sitting in a lecture hallSix students sitting in a lecture hall

Self- reflection, as transformative learning strategy is very effective in promoting self- determination and solution- focused learning, as learners develop closer sense to their own self-care needs, realizing the meaning associated with their potential roles as health care providers (Snowden and Halsall 2014; Snowden 2016). Transformative learning approaches allows educators to understand and connect with learners with its fullest potential (Mezirow 2000; Snowden, 2016). It requires strong professional vigour to guide the curriculum and innovate practice environment reflecting the core aspects of transformative learning and human development.

Philosophical perspectives relating ontological aspects of knowledge seeking and meaning making process have always been an essential domain integrated in transformative learning approaches. Such interventions enable learners to create their own ontological space as it facilitates; learning, rather than being directly taught. This facilitation reduces the opportunity for the learner to experience being under threat, subsequently allowing a relaxation of ego boundaries and hence being more open to learning (Bhoyrub et al., 2010: p. 324). 

Self-reflective activities are often followed by large group discussions or 1:1 mentoring, as required. Existential care needs influencing empowerment and resilience are explored. Students were also encouraged to ventilate and share personal experiences of fear, loss and autonomy to relate with compassionate care. Students also appreciated mindful moments using flowers, leaves and stones, as some deep learning transformative activities.

Four students sitting in a lecture hall

Deep learning activities such as: narratives and phenomenological enquires, enables students to explore and relate subjective constructs and ways of seeking knowledge to apprehend reality (Marczyk, DeMatteo and Festinger, 2005). During these in-class reflective activities students are encouraged to design their own ideas based on their personal and professional experiences by embracing their own authentic self and recognizing their own set of values towards self-care and professional growth. Such learning process is known as, heutagogical process where student actively participates in knowledge creation, rather being a passive recipient, who just enrols and fulfil the required passing criteria (Snowden and Halsall 2014; Snowden 2016). Transformative learning practices also foster self-determination and authenticity towards their personal and professional responsibilities as prospective health care providers. Students feel inspired and self-motivated towards their professional aspiration and authentic commitment to care (Rogers 2016, Ali and Snowden, 2019, Wattis etal, 2019).

1. Ali G., Snowden M. (2019) SOPHIE (Self-Exploration Through Ontological, Phenomenological, Humanistic, Ideological and Existential Expressions): A Mentoring Framework. In: Snowden M., Halsall J. (eds) Mentorship, Leadership, and Research. International Perspectives on Social Policy, Administration, and Practice. Springer, Cham.
2. Ali, G., Snowden, M., Wattis, J., and Roger, M. (2018). Spirituality in Nursing Education: Knowledge and practice gaps. In: International Journal of Multidisciplinary Comparative Studies, International Journal of Multidisciplinary Comparative Studies, Volume 5 Nos. 1-3, 2018, pp.27—49. http://www.ijmcs-journal.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Ali.pdf
3. Ali, G., 2018. SOPHIE. [podcast] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l6e7W51uYwE [Accessed 26 April 2020].
4. Barnett, R. and Coate, K. (2005) Engaging the Curriculum in Higher Education. Buckingham: SRHE and Open University Press.
5. Bhoyrub, J., Hurley, J., Neilson, G.R., Ramsay, M. and Smith, M. (2010) ‘Heutagogy: An alternative practice- based learning approach’, Nurse Education in Practice, Vol.10, pp.322- 326.
6. Kang, C. (2003). A psycho spiritual integration frame of reference for occupational therapy. Part 1: conceptual foundations. Australian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 50(2), 92 – 103
7. Marczyk, G., DeMatteo, D. and Festinger, D. (2005). Essentials of Research Design and Methodology. New Jersey. John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
8. Martinsen, K. (2006). Care and vulnerability. Oslo: Akribe.
9. Martinsen, E. (2011). Care for Nurses Only? Medicine and the Perceiving Eye. Health Care Analysis. 19, (1), pp 15–27.
10. Mezirow J. (2000). Learning as Transformation. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
11. Rogers, M. (2016). Utilising Availability and Vulnerability to operationalise spirituality’. In: Practising Spirituality. London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 145-164. ISBN 9781137556844.
12. Sacks, O., 1991. Awakenings. Pan Macmillan.
13. Snowden, M. and Ali, G. (2017). How can spirituality be integrated in undergraduate and postgraduate education?. In: Spiritually Competent Practice in Health Care. London, UK: CRC Press Taylor and Francis Group. ISBN 9781138739116.
14. Snowden, M. (2016). Heutagogy in an Emerging Curriculum. In: The Pedagogy of the Social Sciences Curriculum.: Springer International Publishing. pp. 25-38. ISBN 978-3-319-33866-8.
15. Snowden, M. and Halsall, J. (2014). Community Development: A Shift in Thinking Towards Heutagogy, International journal of Multi-Disciplinary Comparative Studies, 1 (3), pp. 81-91.
16. Wattis, J., Rogers, M., Ali., G. and Curran, S. (2019). Bringing Spirituality and Wisdom into Practice. In: Practice Wisdom: Values and Interpretations, Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Brill-Sense Publishers. Doi: https://doi.org/10.1163/9789004410497_014

About the Author

Dr Gulnar Ali is a lecturer on both the Certificate of Higher Education Skills for the Workplace (Health & Social Care) and BSc (Hons) Health & Social Care programmes.