In one of my current classes, we had to present on a specific gynecological case. We were to use a patient whom we have treated at least five times in the clinic. It was a three-part project. The first part was the paper describing and explaining the disease and its patterns in Eastern and Western medicine. Next, we created a PowerPoint and third was the creation of a class presentation, the final portion of the project. As students we at times get so bogged down with school exams, projects, papers, patients and clinic hours. We have a lot on our plates and often we cannot complain, because we willingly signed up for this, to be able to fulfill our dreams.
One thing we rarely discuss are non-compliant patients. During the class presentations, almost everyone had a patient who was not adhering to the treatment plan. Although we are in a community of learners, at times we don’t take a minute and discuss our patient caseload. What does a practitioner do when we are doing our best to treat the patients’ chief complaints, yet they pick and choose what they will change in their lives? Some are not purposely trying to be defiant, they just are overwhelmed with health issues, family, jobs, or mental health issues which compound their ability to add another thing to their own plates.
As interns we can only make suggestions and treat patients to the best of our ability. But there is this longing for patients to put forth their best efforts so we can know if we need to adjust or completely change the treatment plan. I was treating a diabetic patient who refused to cook meals at home, because they felt like their lifestyle did not allow for them to cook. I suggested a meal service, as there are many healthy options. The patient agreed and paid for a meal service for the mother who is also a diabetic, but noted the service would not work, because they are rarely at home. Eventually the diabetes led to the amputation of most of the toes of the right foot. However, the patient would show up for treatment sometimes twice a week, and reported the acupuncture was really helping with the neuropathy.
I began to focus on the small victories — that the patient was in less pain. One clinician gave me these words of wisdom, “Sometimes we help people manage the symptoms of their illness.” This was profound for me, because I wanted a complete healing, which is not realistic for every patient. I am grateful to have a robust patient base in the clinic. I am remaining hopeful and optimistic, but there is a part of me that will always yearn for a complete healing of the patient’s disease. But, I think this is healthy, because it will remind me to never give up and have the faith some patients may not have for themselves. May we all find our motivation as we continue the journey of natural healing modalities.
Learn more about Monique’s journey and the acupuncture programs at National University here.