From Book to Healthcare Consultancy, How Dina’s Marketing Project Sparked a New Business

Invisible Stories Episode 1 with Dina Proto

In this episode, you’ll learn how Dina’s quest for a new marketing brochure resulted in a non-fiction book that created a second business and changed her life.

I speak to Dina Proto, author of Identity Impact: When Society’s Expectations Collide With the Authentic Self. We had a really interesting discussion that covered a lot of ground. A few highlights include:

  • When writing or communicating it’s okay to not have the right words to say.
  • The therapeutic use of self applies both in healthcare and in writing which allows us to find a way to relate to a patient or the reader based on our common experiences.
  • Don’t judge how long it takes to complete your book; the comparison game serves no one.

Identity Impact by Dina Proto

In Identity Impact, Dina Proto, RN outlines the clinical connection between the negation of a child’s identity and certain health complications.

Drawing from her twenty years as a nurse – working in the ER, hospice, and everything in between – she challenges us to examine this critical question:

What is the potential fall out when a child’s identity doesn’t fit neatly into society’s box?

Proto believes that while we all struggle through the stages of growth, those along the LGBTQ continuum experience an additional layer of identity development, as well as stages of grief, that impact their coping mechanisms.

She asserts that the very people in our lives trained to mold and shape us into adults are, in fact, ill-prepared to guide the development of those within the LGBTQ community due to a lack of understanding, relevant research, and mandated training. Proto believes that by opening up the conversation around gender identity we can stop the cycle of treating health complications only after they occur, and start providing education to prevent them.

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Key Takeaways

  • Timestamp: 2:05: When I started writing, it wasn’t supposed to be a book. It was just supposed to be a brochure. And I thought I would try your writing program and see if I could write a brochure that helped people understand why I carried the products that we carried. So at the time, my wife and I had Teazled greeting cards, which is an LGBT greeting card and gift manufacturing company. We had a freestanding location on Freemont Street in downtown Las Vegas. We were in several grocery stores all along the West Coast. I thought taking this program would help me write a brochure, maybe 6-12 pages of why the general retailers should carry our products and why inclusive products and services were important for all their clientele, not just the LGBTQ clients but their families and friends and well. And as I did that program and started to do my research, what I had envisioned for that brochure ended up being—and I often say I went down a terrible rabbit hole for research, because the nurse in me kept rearing its ugly head. I did more and more research and found more and more stats and kept being driven back to my nursing core, which I was desperately trying to step away from and transition from. So I guess at some point you’re supposed to listen to what you’re supposed to do, and the universe got you to where you’re supposed to be. And so that’s what was decided for me, was that it needed to be more clinical. And so my 6-12 page brochure turned into I think a 300+ page manuscript.
  • Timestamp: 6:49: It was a very painful Zoom conference with you and Heather [PYP Editor]. Tell you more about that? So we were talking, and I was upset that, you know, when I started writing the book, I had a section about me and my history just to give people a backdrop as to why I was writing that book. So not necessarily a personal biography or a memoir but more like this is who I am and this is how I came to this conclusion. Kind of a short, sweet (hopefully short, sweet) and succinct. And in healthcare they teach you about therapeutic use of self. So I think I was trying to use some of that experience to help other people. And because that clinical piece kept coming out, much of that manuscript was very clinical. And I remember having a conversation and the tipping point for me was—and I don’t know if Heather realizes this or not—but it was when Heather said that she took all of the clinical stuff out because she felt like I should make a consulting business from that. And at the time I remember thinking she was batshit crazy.
  • Timestamp: 9:00: But it does make sense, and it did make sense. And so it was definitely a tipping point in terms of coming to terms with what my book was going to be about. And being okay with it. Picking my lane and staying in it. And the book needed to transition to a space where it was helpful for anybody who read it, but allowed any reader that was in healthcare, education, along those lines, to understand that there’s deeper roots than the average person surface-reading might understand. And that it would maybe be a breadcrumb for them to understand that maybe they need to teach their staff, their employees, their healthcare professionals. And I have been able to find a way to bridge those things together when I go out and do my consulting.
  • Timestamp: 11:04: When I do the consulting and I do my trainings, I kind of love that it’s unconventional and people can just be real in a room. And that look on their face, that “aha!” moment for that doctor or that nurse or that healthcare practitioner, who thinks that they went to medical school or nursing school and they learned everything they are supposed to learn. And then when I connect the dots for them, that lightbulb goes on, and I know that that person, that one person, is going to effect change in a lot of other lives.
  • Timestamp: 14:14: [I look] at our community from each segment of the community as well as a whole. And looking at the healthcare issues that we face and wrapping my head around explaining. So we talk about healthcare disparities, and we know that the LGBTQ community faces them. So those would be social determinants of health. But what I spent that time doing was wrapping my head around getting the decision maker— who was going to hire me as a consultant—how was I going to argue that my consulting was going to improve patient outcomes or their bottom line. So like I can say that the healthcare disparities are important and that’s what we should all have on our radar and tend to those groups and learn a little bit more about them so we can help them more. But the reality is that, unless you can tell your client that there is a return on their investment and show them that piece, what you have to offer doesn’t mean anything unless somebody wants to buy it. So I spent quite a long time figuring out how I was going to make that argument. I think that was probably the next big hurdle for me. And then once I figured that out, it became infinitely easier and my messaging became more succinct and my trainings became more powerful then, because I knew how to bridge that gap.
  • Timestamp: 17:03: So way back in my nursing 101, many moons ago (we won’t talk about how long ago) they teach you about therapeutic use of self. So if I’m taking care of you and you’re my patient, right? So you come in and you have…let’s use breast cancer. So a patient comes in and they are struggling and dealing with breast cancer, and they’re facing a mastectomy. Do I, don’t I? What does that mean? So as a healthcare professional we don’t project onto our patients our issues. But there are times when it’s appropriate to share therapeutically your experience because that sharing might help somebody else. So it’s done in a very mindful way. There have been times when I have had patients that have come in and they’ve been uncomfortable because they have had to disrobe in healthcare, and they’ve had a bilateral mastectomy or reconstruction or not reconstruction. And so often when I have those patients I will just very subtly say I understand completely how you feel. And I can do that because I have had that experience. And so for that person in that moment, it might be that for just that moment they look at you, and you have an opportunity to really look into them, and they understand. Or when I have an LGBTQ+ patient who is struggling and they want their family member at their bedside or their family member is struggling because their loved one is in the bed. And they don’t know what to do. They’ve faced all kinds of challenges and so I might share, ‘We’ve had experiences.’ And I’ve shared multiple times, I am not going to make a judgement about you, and I’ve been in your shoes. I was in that hospital bed, and my wife was prevented from seeing me, or making decisions for me. And so there is therapeutic use of self, and you do it in a way as to not burden somebody else, but in a way to help them, to validate what they are feeling. And help them feel seen.
  • Timestamp: 21:37: I think that part of the reason you ended up with five different books in one manuscript for me is because I was busy trying to control what I was putting down on paper. And I think that when I stopped trying to control that, and I allowed whatever was going to be to be, then we saw the end result. And then when you see what there is in that manuscript after you’ve done that, and I do think you have to step away from it. I think it’s an intense process and I can honestly say that looking back at my manuscript there are still some books I can write from that manuscript. Because it is cathartic number one. And number two, I think that you have to be authentic, and if you’re not authentic and you’re trying to control that process, it comes out in your writing.
  • Timestamp: 24:25: I think number one I am grateful that we know each other so well, because it helped a lot, helped tremendously. I think I would make sure that people know it’s okay to grieve what you think was going to be there and is not. I think that’s what I needed to do. I poured my heart and soul into this thing, and it became a part of me and a part of my identity, which is kind of funny because I was writing about identity. And then when things were edited out, I felt like pieces of my identity were gone. I needed to let that marinate and percolate for a while, it’s true. And I evolved into a much different person from the writing process to the publishing process to my consulting and what I do for a living.

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