Engaging the Body's Safety System: Polyvagal Theory in Healthcare

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Moshrefzadeh, Arezu
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Polyvagal theory has played a pivotal role in the development of knowledge regarding the human nervous system's response to perceived threat and has vastly influenced the understanding of how safety is established in a healing alliance. This alliance has gained increasing attention in the medical field as a critical component of providing effective healthcare. This capstone explores how healthcare providers can apply the principles of polyvagal theory to engage their patient's safety systems in order to strengthen their partnership and enhance healing. Polyvagal theory's contributions to our understanding of the human response to threat have highlighted the critical importance of attuning to a patient's autonomic state to understand the subconscious processes that impact their capacity to engage in healing work. This capstone offers a framework for healthcare providers to assess the nervous system state of their patients and to understand the impact of this state on their perceived safety. It highlights the responsibility that healthcare providers have to tend to their own autonomic state in order to be able to act as a calming resource to their patients. It draws attention to the responsibility that practitioners have to develop an acute awareness of systemic and societal harms that patients face which impact their perception of threat in the medical environment. This work equips healthcare providers with the understanding of how to act as a source of safety for their patients and how to engage their patient's safety system to optimize healing and restoration.
polyvagal theory , nervous system , autonomic state , patient safety , healthcare