Nurses as Leaders in the Paleo Movement
If being the most Googled diet in 2013 is any evidence, the Paleo Movement is slowly gaining momentum in mainstream culture. Everyone in the community, no matter what their profession or walk in life, has a role to play in contributing to this forward progress of bringing the Paleo message of true health and vitality to the masses.
A large tenet of the Paleo Movement is built around the concept of “n=1” and the practice of relying on self-made health and nutrition experts that may have no formal credentials, but they discovered the Paleo lifestyle as a way to improve their own health.
I am a huge proponent of individuals taking responsibility for their own health and I also believe that every person that identifies as Paleo has vital input that they can bring to the ancestral health discussion.
Degrees, licenses, and credentials are certainly not everything and there are several brilliant leaders in the ancestral health movement that may not have a health care background, but they have put a lot of time and effort into self-education and they are extremely knowledgeable.
Some may argue that a lack of formal health care training is advantageous in the regard that they do not have to “unlearn” the misinformation that is taught in the mainstream health care system. Unfortunately, I have also observed some unlicensed practitioners and experts step outside of the boundaries of their limitations and give health advice that could lead to harmful consequences.
While self-experimentation and reliance on information disseminated by various unlicensed practitioners definitely have a place within the Paleo community, there is also an important role that conventionally-trained health care providers can play.
One of the greatest catalysts for change is those who serve as leaders from within an institution to inspire transformation. As a registered nurse (RN), I believe that the Paleo community needs credible clinicians who work in the trenches to spread the message to mainstream audiences.
These health care providers are also needed within the community to serve as leaders and contribute their knowledge in order to further the ancestral health movement. There are a few strong examples of health care providers that were educated within the conventional medical system and have emerged as leaders in the Paleo community, such as Terry Wahls, MD, Dallas Hartwig, PT, and Agalee Jacob, RD.
But by and large, there are many more health care professionals that follow a Paleo lifestyle, and yet choose not to participate as leaders within the Paleo community or act to spread the Paleo message within the health care system.
This is particularly apparent within the nursing profession. Despite comprising the largest group of health care providers in the US, nursing has often been marginalized and underrepresented in positions of authority and leadership.
Nurses are often stereoty pically viewed as being subservient to physicians, but in reality, nursing practice is independent and distinct from that of medicine. As with all health care professionals, nurses do work collaboratively to deliver patient care, but they also have unique responsibilities in the areas of care coordination, health promotion, and patient advocacy.
When it comes to the ability to represent the ancestral health movement, modern nursing practice has long embraced a holistic view of the patient, which is a phenomenon that other health professionals have gravitated toward only in the past few decades.
Nurses are the primary educators within the health care system and that places them in a distinct position to be able to educate patients and families about the numerous benefits of eating real food, nutrient-dense diet and adopting other Paleo lifestyle principles.
Of all licensed health care providers, nurses also spend the most time with patients and families, which permits them to have a deeper understanding of what motivates patients, as well as the challenges and barriers that patients face when making lifestyle changes.
As highly qualified as Paleo-minded nurses may be to participate in the ancestral health community as leaders, the lack of nursing representation is unfortunate and disappointing. If you attend any Paleo conference or search for popular Paleo experts, you are likely to find numerous integrative practitioners and a handful of forward-thinking conventionally trained health care providers, but rarely will you find a nurse.
Nurses fulfill a unique role in the health care system and they have an incredible amount of knowledge and experience to contribute to the ancestral health discussion. However, the extent of the impact of the nursing profession on the Paleo movement is dependent upon the willingness of individual nurses to participate as equal partners in the interdisciplinary effort to spread the Paleo message.
I challenge nurses to join in this endeavor by incorporating Paleo principles into their practice and working to educate their patients and colleagues about real food nutrition and other ancestral health principles. It is not always easy to go against conventional medical wisdom and find ways to circumvent the often asinine ways of our broken health care system, but it is important that we try to do so. Nurses must also be willing to step up as authoritative health leaders within the Paleo movement. So, if you are a nurse, what is holding you back?
Nurses as Leaders in the Paleo Movement by Katy Haldiman, MS, RN