Last month I wrote about how things had slowed down quite a bit in June, and how, at the time, it led me to re-consider what I might be able to improve on. I think that the slowdown and the time to consider my work was a bit of a blessing in disguise, because it really did get me thinking about what I could do better – and fortunately I had many wonderful suggestions from many of you to fuel my thoughts and subsequent actions. As always with my practice so far, much like a patient's health improves with acupuncture, there hasn't been a steady linear progression in my acupuncturist skills, but more of a progression-steady-regression-progression-etc. kind of path.
Now in the last 3-4 weeks things have been getting busier and busier, to my busiest point yet, and I find it ironic that it is occuring in August – a time that I hear is classically the slowest month among acupunks. In any case, I feel grateful that things have turned around, and that most of the turnaround is something I attribute to this wonderful network.
What has caused this change? For starters, I have gained a new gut-level understanding that it is truly imperative to communicate with my patients how often they need treatment, and to stay on top of this with every visit. I have been recommending more “aggressive” treatment plans (greater frequency) – much like many of you do and as I have heard repeatedly from Dr. Tan, but somehow always sort of skirted around because I thought it would sound too pushy and that nobody would really want to follow through with such an obligation of time (i.e. 3 times per week or more). When I realized that NOT communicating the necessity of a thorough treatment plan would truly be a DISservice to my patients and would be maligned with the way acupuncture really works, I decided it was time to try and be more clear about the need for frequent treatment and why this is. For me it was getting over a fear that this would not be well-received, but l gave it a try and saw that this actually wasn't the case. Also, I have been more clear about exactly when patients should try and come (i.e., rather than saying “come twice next week,” saying “it would be best if you could come as early in the week as possible – preferably Monday, Tuesday at the latest – and again on Thursday or Friday) and then always offering to schedule patients directly after their visits as much as possible (rather than having them just walk out and go home to do it on their own without any clear direction on when to return). I have found that although the majority of my patients do use the online scheduling and are very enthusiastic about it, there are some who need that little extra push to commit to their next treatment right after they've had their visit. So that seems to help, also. Finally, I have been checking in with people following their first visit (the next day) with a quick and simple email to see how they felt and to let them know that I'd be happy to answer any questions they have or help them reschedule, etc. I know that many of you might consider that this would not be a good idea as it would be too time consuming, etc., but so far it seems to be okay for me. We all have systems that work for us – and so far it seems that people are really grateful to be reached out to and cared for. It seems to me that in this case, a little effort goes a long way.
Aside from the whole practice aspect, I'm still working on relating to patients on a more personal level – particularly those who are in the most severe conditions, who seem to have reached the ends of their ropes. While I believe I have always been able to convey a good sense of empathy, and have done my best to listen and offer the appropriate words in response whenever possible (this is tricky sometimes!), I have had some patients with extremely difficult cases who I definitely have felt challenged by – who I need to pep-talk and convince not to give up; who I need to remind of how far they have come, even though they still have a ways to go; and yet this doesn't generally occur with too many words as a community acupuncture clinic is more about being with yourself, your needles and other quiet needle-nappers in a community room. I have certainly seen some real acupuncture “miracles” of patients with some extremely difficult cases, and each time this occurs it helps me to gain a new faith in the medicine and know that it is possible for the next challenging patient, which is always helpful.
And so, I just really wanted to share some personal explanation of my path of growth in this medicine.
Oh, and to say that despite things becoming busier and busier, I am feeling that the work is not at all difficult or stressful, but is truly becoming more fun and easy (as we all know in any line of work – it's more fun/easy when you're busy then when you're bored), thanks SO much to my incredibly helpful volunteer and student assistants – who I really could not otherwise practice without!
AND lastly – in the last several weeks I have had several new patients who have been referred by many of YOU living in different cities! THANK YOU!!! I've had ones referred from Providence, Philly, WCA and Oakland, CA – each time I get a CAN referral I am so excited – it always makes me so happy Keep 'em coming!