Inspiring Change And Healing In Mainstream Healthcare
What if healers had the power to build the bridge to a new healthcare system that truly supports us all?
In the holistic health community, the mainstream healthcare system is often seen as an oppressive force: only serving as sick-care, causing harm and danger, and closed off to new perspectives and modalities that encourage true health and healing for all. But what if we, as healers, had the power to create the change we yearn for, and build the bridge to a new healthcare system that truly supports us all?
In many ways, holistic practitioners do this already. We host “Heal the Healer” clinics to provide services to frontline health workers. We introduce integrative care programs into hospitals, such as Reiki for cancer patients. Some practitioners take health insurance in their own practices to provide broader access to services such as acupuncture and massage.
While these solutions have been helpful, they face many limitations. Burned-out nurses may gain temporary relief from going to a wellness day, but they still have to go back to work, facing traumatic stress and moral injury day after day. Integrative care programs in hospitals are often underfunded, and often rely solely on volunteer support, which ends up being unsustainable. And while it’s great to see health insurance covering holistic services, this typically only benefits patients with top-tier private plans, and also creates an administrative hassle for practices, leading many to give up on dealing with insurance companies at all.
Knowing all of this, how do we improve upon what’s not working, and create lasting change?
Real Change Is Systemic
If we want to make sure our efforts have a lasting impact, it’s not enough just to work at the level of individual patients and practitioners. We should continue to do these things, and also inspire change at the systemic level. Systemic change is about making decisions that affect many people at once, changing core assumptions and biases that drive the everyday habits, practices, and processes that make up our current healthcare system.
Systemic change requires large amounts of money and resources — on the order of millions or even billions of dollars — to be moved and reallocated to efforts that support change. If this reallocation doesn’t happen in time, organizations continue to tread water and spend money on unsustainable efforts, enabling things to stay the way they are and creating more struggle.
The decisions to invest into new types of efforts happen at the level of executive leadership: in the C-suites of health systems, health insurers, medical technology vendors, and life sciences innovation companies. Government also plays a role, but federal- and state-funded efforts and policies around healthcare are largely guided by corporate leaders, many of whom — believe it or not! — have a longing for genuine change and want to use their influence in both the public and private sectors to support new types of healthcare models that can benefit all people.
As healers, we have the ability — and the calling — to support, facilitate, and encourage leaders making the best decisions about how the community is able to access and receive health care. Many of us will be able to influence the necessary changes at the level of mainstream health leadership, even if we don’t feel qualified enough at the beginning.
I know this, because I have done it — in spite of my initial resistance and fear.
From Chronically Ill To Effective Healing
I know firsthand that the healthcare system has many pitfalls. In 2008, I was diagnosed with MRSA which spread to the bone and became resistant to a series of several different antibiotics I was prescribed. As my immune system declined, my condition was compounded by severe eczema, psoriatic arthritis, and other autoimmune symptoms. After almost a year of struggling, going from doctor to doctor, trying medication after medication, getting lab tests but finding no answers, and fearing for my life, I realized it was time for me to take more responsibility for my health.
From there, I started to change my diet and support my body with more nutritious foods. I became a student of herbalism, got trained in Reiki and other energetic healing modalities, and even ended up becoming a certified health coach. I became a sponge, soaking up books and documentaries about health and healing, and getting to know many holistic practitioners and experts.
Thanks to this pursuit, I found truly effective ways to resolve my chronic infectious issues and protect my body from getting sick, as well as free myself from the burden of autoimmune symptoms without having to take immunosuppressants. It wasn’t an instant miracle cure — although I had hoped for that at many points — but a personal healing journey of 10+ years where I learned so much about who I really am, and what it truly means to be healthy. I’m grateful to now experience thriving health, continuously growing in happiness and peace.
Along the way, I became a holistic practitioner, and had my own professional practice and online business for several years. It was only natural that I took all that I learned for myself, and passed it on to others. Yet it reached a point where I felt like I wasn’t making the impact I wanted to, nor the income that would support me and my family long-term.
As I reached a reckoning point with my personal finances, I realized I had to get a 9-5 job. At first, I rejected the idea of getting a job related to healthcare, because after all of the trauma that the healthcare system had caused me, I had no desire to further support it. After several months of job searching, nothing came to fruition, and I felt discouraged and hopeless.
Then, in a series of events that felt completely unexpected, I was offered an opportunity to work on a large healthcare merger that was valued at $70 billion, involved multiple areas of the healthcare system, and set a historical precedent that attracted a lot of controversy. In the role I was offered, I’d be a gatekeeper and direct advisor to corporate VPs and C-Suite leaders, helping to make decisions worth millions of dollars that would impact people all across the nation. I had always loved business, and this offer was nothing short of a dream come true – except, of course, for the fact that it was in healthcare.
I went into deep inquiry, wondering how after months of being rejected from even the most basic entry-level corporate jobs, I was offered this chance of a lifetime, yet in an industry that seemed so out of alignment with what I believed in. In this process, an intuitive message came through as I woke up one morning: “There’s going to be a big health crisis, an epidemic. Your help will be needed. You’ll need to be ready to help.”
At that moment, my decision was made. I accepted the offer, with joy and trepidation.
Many people leave corporate jobs to pursue their healing practices full-time. I did the opposite, leaving my holistic practice to work in corporate healthcare, because in spite of my discomfort around mainstream healthcare, I felt called to make a deeper, more systemic impact with my work.
Since I made that choice, it’s been my mission to learn as much about the healthcare system as I could, by engaging directly within it and helping leaders with their very real challenges. Miraculously, I was able to go from having zero experience in corporate or the healthcare field, to serving over 500 healthcare organizations over the past four years, advising top leaders both as an employee and a consultant, and helping to bring dozens of new health innovations and services into the market. I’ve continued this work through the pandemic that I had been so graciously warned about, and am proud to be supporting the systemic change that unfolds every day all across the health sector.
Some of this change has looked like:
- Helping clinical and health insurance leaders launch a program to make it easier for people with depression to get long-term counseling to support their healing, instead of just being on antidepressant medication.
- Facilitating collaborations between notable data science researchers and clinical executives to help expand access to opioid recovery services.
- Encouraging a VP of patient care to move forward on an initiative to measure health outcomes in patients who took nutritional and herbal supplements.
To all those who want to assist and create further change: I know there is a place for you, and important work that you can support, just like there has been for me. And I hope my story will inspire you to engage more deeply with the healthcare system, as scary as it may seem.
How To Make A Mainstream Impact
For healers who want to influence the mainstream healthcare system, the first thing you need to realize is that, yes, you are qualified. Your qualification to help bring about systemic change is about more than degrees or credentials. You will understand how worthy you are of this work by first leaning into your personal lived experience of health and healing.
Lived experience, such as navigating and healing through illness, injury, or trauma, gives us a deeply-learned and deeply-felt understanding of what it really means to heal. That deep sense of real health and healing qualifies you to help mainstream leaders who have made it their mission to improve healthcare. Your role is to help keep these leaders aligned to their true mission of supporting health for all they serve, while providing space, wisdom, and safety for the new and courageous risks that must be taken in the process of change.
My opportunity started when I began working as an employee within organizations. I was then able to use that experience to define my value independently as a consultant and advisor. You don’t have to get a 9-5 job to learn how to influence healthcare leaders, if you don’t want to, but being successful at this does require some learning, implementing some new habits, and putting yourself out there to meet and speak with new people.
Following these steps will position you for the most rewarding opportunities you have access to:
- Get emotionally resourced and cared for. The healthcare system is traumatic for many people, and it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind this trauma can produce. This is where remembering your role and purpose comes in handy. Remember that in order to deliver true care and healing to others, especially at the institutional and systemic levels, you must be fully cared for yourself. Don’t be afraid to invest in self-care, therapy, and getting all of your personal health and wellness needs met. It’s worth it, because it allows you to provide more abundant support for the people who need it most, and your resourced, available energy will open doors for new opportunities for business and income. In short, self-care pays for itself, many times over.
- Immerse yourself in executive culture. Trying to get noticed by corporate healthcare leaders can feel like trying to access an exclusive club, and that’s no accident, but when it comes down to it, these executives are humans too. You can get to know managers and leaders by joining professional groups, attending networking events, and reaching out to people individually to offer your help. You can attend events held by professional associations (such as American College of Healthcare Executives), sometimes for free, even if you’re not currently working in the field. A mentor once told me, “The first step to being part of a conversation is listening.” Even if you feel like you have nothing to contribute, listening in on these conversations and seeking to understand the experiences of leaders will set the stage for new and meaningful connections.
- Speak the language of healthcare leaders. In order to be heard and understood by busy healthcare leaders, it’s important to use language that they can understand and relate to immediately. Like corporate culture in general, corporate language can give off an elitist vibe, but it’s actually more accessible than you think, and doesn’t require an advanced degree to become well-versed in. If you don’t want to work full-time in middle management, the easiest way to start speaking the language of leaders is to read the same kinds of media that these leaders consume. Make a regular habit of reading articles from Harvard Business Review, McKinsey, and healthcare-specific outlets like PracticeUpdate and HealthExec. Familiarize yourself with business concepts such as ROI, organizational cost savings, goals, targets, metrics, and KPIs. As you meet and interact with more leaders in the healthcare space, you can over time become a source of support on their most challenging issues, using your own healing expertise and wisdom, with the language of leaders as a vehicle for connection and resonance.
From Healing Presence To Executive Presence
As you work through these steps, you may wonder exactly what role you will play in bringing about the change you seek. That will depend on your specific talent, expertise, experience, and your ability to cultivate and strengthen connections with others.
Here’s what’s most important to remember: No matter what kind of role or function you play, your presence is what heals, catalyzes inspired action, and supports real change. Change is alive — not a mechanical process — and your humanity is needed at all stages of the journey.
We often talk about healing presence when it comes to our work with clients. Being conscious of our healing presence helps us know that healing is about more than just a step-by-step plan or formula of material actions to take. Both the personal and systemic kinds of healing are alive, continuously growing, and integrated with the wholeness of how we show up and grow into authentic versions of ourselves: “being” as well as “doing”.
In the business world we often talk about executive presence, which is the presence and humanity that allows us to lead, influence, and command authority. In our culture, we are often led to believe that healing presence and executive presence are in conflict with each other, but the truth is you can embody both, in synergy and harmony. For many of us, embodying leadership and healing as a singular presence is more than just an opportunity; it’s a calling we must pursue for the sake of our humanity and our collective future.
Kian Xie is a strategic advisor to healthcare industry leaders, supporting patient care innovation, frontline workforce transformation, and health outcomes measurement. Kian is also the founder of ResponseMBA, which provides executive training for holistic professionals who want to impact mainstream healthcare. For more information visit www.HealingTheSystem.com