Where and When We're Working - 2018
Alison - musings.
It may seem unusual but I don't have any leave planned at present while I settle in to Ping Ming Health. I will be the only GP there to start with, still Thursdays and Fridays only as these are the days I am in Melbourne. With time, I hope to expand the time available to five days a week.
I have been a GP for a long time now, over 30 years and there is one thing that I don't recall being taught – medical science doesn't have all the answers. I do remember being taught that the body is a wonderful thing and that given a chance, it will often heal itself. I remember being taught several things which have subsequently been “proven” wrong and removed from current practice, and I am sure that doctors of all ages can say this. I have seen several completely new classes of drugs be invented and come into general use, changing the outlook of a disease from grim to manageable. Surgery and imaging has changed a lot too.
Despite these advances, both positive and negative ( i.e. stop doing useless or harmful things), there are still times I don't have much to offer someone.
If I had been asked what I would be doing at this stage of my working life, I am sure I would never have dreamed that I would be given the opportunity to work in conjunction with a completely different medical system.
It is early days yet, but I have yet to find a patient or a condition which benefits from only one of either western or traditional Chinese medicine. I acknowledge that I don't understand how it works from my western scientific training, based on anatomy and physiology I can see and dissect out, image and manipulate chemically. I find the difference in our ways of describing things or explaining symptomatology confusing at times but just because I don't understand it, doesn't mean it doesn't work!
I enjoy having complete autonomy in the way I practise, and I still enjoy the challenges presented to me by patients in general practice. Common things occur commonly but rare and wonderful and decidedly unusual things do also occur. Experience has shown me that sometimes there is little I can do to alter the course of an illness or the outcome, but instead of being restricted to treatments I recognise as not very specific or even very helpful, I am now being exposed to a different way of managing these.
It is fascinating to me that the Traditional Chinese medicine methods are described in language which makes it accessible to all, regardless of formal education or back ground. A “cold wind attack” is a very graphic description of what could be wrong! I am also fascinated by the way that in China, the techniques are used everyday, understood and practised by anyone familiar with them, by the acceptance of herbal “ support” and strengthening and the use of some simple pressure points and acupressure to relieve symptoms. It make sense to me that good medical practice is something that all people know about, and can apply, rather than waiting until something goes sufficiently wrong to seek “expert” advice.
I think western medicine is heading in this direction to a degree. I think it is easy to underestimate the effect of basic education, media information, discussion among peers, on changing community understanding of good diet, the importance of exercise, ways to relax and de-stress etc. I have seen quite a shift in the attitude to western doctors over 40 years from the all knowing expert on a pedestal to someone who will discuss what could be wrong, what options you have, what choices. But, irrespective of which system you use, there are times that as a patient, one doesn't have any answers of knowing what to do next. I think there will always be a role for doctors. As a doctor, I know it is not always clear how to bring relief so I am glad to have discovered there is another entire system which can be brought into play.