This quarter I started seeing patients as a “Primary Clinician.”
This means that I am the one in the room who is interviewing my patient, performing physical exams and ultimately, having a large[r] input in the outcome of the visit and treatment plan.
What I find to be most important about my role is that I have the power to shape my patient’s view of naturopathic medicine and Bastyr University. I have the ability to show compassion and grace, to improve the quality of one’s life and to provide an outlet to vent frustration and disappointment.
This is the culmination of three long, hard years of medical school.
A miracle of sorts presented itself and I was scheduled to be on a clinical shift with two of the Deans of the School of Naturopathic Medicine. How lucky am I? I am being supervised by and learning from two of the most amazing women and Physicians.
I’m lucky and I know it.
I share one of my shifts with my friend Archer [find her at archerfriendly.com]. Our mutual supervisor recently shared an article with us from the Wall Street Journal about the art of being a Physician and how closely the methodology used to care for a patient can resemble a Mechanic (parts approach) or a Gardener (whole system approach).
Modern medicine provides us with the advancements needed to help patients is an acute situation, but is this fast approach necessary in all situations? The author, Dr. Victoria Sweet writes:
What I discovered was that the two ways of looking at the body—the modern and the premodern, the Fast and the Slow, as a machine to be repaired and as a plant to be tended—are both effective when they are applied to the right patient at the right time. For illnesses that come on suddenly—an inflamed appendix, a rip-roaring infection, a car accident, a heart attack—it is best to think like a mechanic—boldly, reductively. What is broken? What should I do to fix it? Desperate illnesses require desperate remedies.
But not-desperate illnesses do better with not-desperate remedies. Diseases that come on slowly—chronic infections, complex medical conditions, the aftermath of the appendectomy, the heart attack, the chemotherapy—are best approached like a gardener, asking myself as Hildegard would have done, not what is broken but what is working? What are my patient’s strengths and how can I support them? What can I do to nurture viriditas, the natural power of healing?
What she refers to as the viriditas is what I have come to understand is the vis. Our innate ability to heal ourselves once we have removed the obstacles to cure. Obstacles are present for every patient and every person. They can be emotional, physical, financial, dietary…the list is long.
Slow healing takes time. And perhaps as a society we are not quite willing to put the time forward. But, as I have experienced at Bastyr Center for Natural Health, time is often the key. Time is the only way to recuperate from years of insult. Thankfully, many of my patients are at a place in their health where they are willing to risk the loss of time with the hopes that true healing will take place.
Expressing the intention to heal is also something that I have come to regard as a vital component of health. Having intention as you move forward in any journey, be it in life or in health, sets the tone for a positive outcome. We can not move forward with the mindset that we won’t succeed. Instead we should know that on some level, success is imminent, regardless of how quickly we achieve it.