Finding Balance in the Clinic
This past December, I celebrated 11 years in practice. I seriously don't know where the time went. I feel beyond blessed and grateful to be practicing our profound and beautiful medicine and to be helping guide my patients restore a state of optimal health. I am sure many of you agree. However, as I enter yet another year of practice, I am really keen on finding more balance in my clinic. It seems as each year passes, I strive for even more balance in my personal life so that I can hold true to a core tenet of mine: practice what you preach. I feel strongly that if we are preaching balance to our clients, we sure better have it in our own lives.
So, how do we find balance when we are not only trying to practice what we preach, but we are running a business, we are working to pay bills, to support our families and our livelihoods? And, we spent so many years focused on building a busy practice, we can't just stop seeing patients a few days per week to find balance. Not to mention, for most of us, when we don't work we don't generate income. It's sort of a conundrum.
I can say for myself for the first year or two, my practice steadily built and I had a good amount of down time, then there were several years where I worked too long and too hard, too many days a week. Now, I do my best to refrain from that. I find that if I feel I am working too hard or that I'm too focused on getting all my clients in because they need treatment or that I'm rushing through a treatment because I am running behind schedule, it doesn't feel good or true. And, in fact it's a real disservice to my patients. I could be missing some real important pieces of their diagnosis.
I recently took on a new patient who was coming to me after deciding to leave her current acupuncturist. In that situation, I am always curious as to why patients switch practitioners, so I inquired. She told me she really liked the practitioner she was seeing but that the clinic itself had an extremely rushed energy to it. This patient was simultaneously undergoing fertility treatments at a western medical clinic and the way she put it to me was, "When I'm at the fertility clinic, I feel rushed and like I'm just a number. When I go for acupuncture — which is a huge stress reliever for me — I don't want to feel rushed and I definitely don't want to feel like a number."
Her remarks really resonated with me. She was being treated at one of the most well-known clinics in New York City and I know she was under the care of a seasoned practitioner, but unfortunately, that practice was too busy and left the patient feeling under cared for.
Not to mention, her diagnosis was definitely cold and she never once received moxa in the other clinic. And, her pulses were only checked once in a while, definitely not at every visit. I'm assuming that timing issues limited the patient/practitioner interaction but personally, I don't think that's the kind of care we should be giving our clients. Rather, we should be extremely present during our treatments (as well as during our every day lives) so that we can offer to our clients all of our attention and more importantly so that we don't misdiagnose the client.
Balance in the clinic is key. If we are balanced, we are present and if we are present we are seeing the patient and the whole case and our treatment plan is on target. Alternatively, if we are moving fast, we could miss something. And, as it was in this case, we could lose a patient.
As my studies continue and my practice continues to build, I am focused less on the volume of patients and more on the quality of my care. That's not to say I haven't always given quality care, as I truly believe I have — I truly believe that is all of our intentions — but as more clients need our care we have to maintain balance so that we can offer the best balanced care.
So, this year my promise to myself is to no longer book on the 20 minutes (something I began doing a few years ago to get all my evening patients in) and rather go back to booking patients at 30 minute intervals. To have even less of those super busy days where I'm overbooking myself because I need to get everyone in. To religiously meditate before my clinic shift starts. To honor my lunch break. To take extra time with clients if need be. To never skip on moxa or cupping or anything because I'm behind schedule. And to really, truly do a detailed intake each and every time so that I can best treat my clients and get them on the path back to their optimal state of health. It's also helped that I have a few associates now that I refer to. I no longer feel guilty about sending new clients to my associates or telling a new client I am on a waitlist, as it really is for their benefit. For me, taking these steps to maintain proper balance at work really helps me live an all-around balanced life and truly show my clients that I do practice what I preach. I encourage all of you to ponder, how are you maintaining balance in your clinic and in your personal life?
I truly feel that we are not just acupuncturists, we are a sort of health coach whose job is to guide our patients back to optimal health — mentally, emotionally, physically and nutritionally. Displaying how we maintain our own optimal health is the first step in assisting our patients with their health.