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Introduction to SNAP

Learn more about SNAP and its steps.

Healthcare professionals often say they have limited time for conversations about values and beliefs, but you can remember how to have an effective conversation in a SNAP.

SNAP stands for self-awareness, staying in the now, asking questions, being curious, and letting the other person guide the conversation. Self-awareness is the first skill for a reason. It’s important to know what your values and beliefs are around health, illness, and dying so you don’t impose them on other people, become defensive, or convey judgement to others when your values differ from their values. These behaviors can bring an end not only to a conversation, but even to a relationship. You will enhance your self-awareness in the upcoming weeks. I imagine we’ve all had experiences when we were talking about something important to us and the person we were talking to seemed disinterested. Staying in the present moment can be challenging, especially if we are thinking about what we want to say, instead of giving our full attention to the other person.

It is that level of presence we want to offer people with serious illnesses. No matter how much we like another person, we cannot know everything about them. In times of serious illness, people are often surprised at the values and beliefs important to others, even with the loved ones they think they know well.

As palliative care providers, we want to listen to everyone with curiosity and ask questions to discover what makes each person unique. You might think about being curious in this way: having a conversation with someone about their innermost values and beliefs is like being invited into their inner world or home. When we visit someone’s home, we typically stay in a public space like a living room. Only after we develop a trusting relationship are we invited into more private areas like a bedroom. We also do not enter someone’s home and start rearranging their things. We respect the way they have their things organized in their home. Additionally, you notice the artwork or small objects in the room that express the unique personality of that person, and you ask questions about those things to better understand them. The last skill in SNAP is letting the other person guide the conversation. Other people are the experts on their values and beliefs. When talking about people’s values, beliefs, and goals of care, the conversation is about them and not about you. In the next step, we will talk about tips to help you put SNAP into practice.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is known for its captivating art forms and performances. One remarkable performance artist, Marina Abromovich, treats every encounter with the same level of attention and respect, which both surprises and touches people. Some come out of curiosity, anger, or a need to understand, while others seek solace from their inner pain. In her presence, it becomes a reflection of their own selves, not about her.

Unlike the brief moments spent in front of traditional masterpieces, Marina’s performance challenges our fast-paced world by asking us to sit and contemplate time. She visualizes time using her body and space, making it feel like a heavy burden. Time becomes an unbearably large object. Marina’s unique approach invites deep reflection on the significance of time in our lives, leaving a lasting impression on her audience.

Optional Reading

1 – Read the attached PDF to learn more about performance artist Marina Abramović.

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Palliative Care: Supporting Patients Living with Serious Illness

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