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Acupuncture Today – June, 2001, Vol. 02, Issue 06

Shelter from the Storm

By Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large

The storms of winter have passed into the spring runoffs, and the calmness of summer begins. As the seasons change, so do people and their states of health. These are the patients who as experiencing the discomforts of disease.

These are the same individuals you are going to see in your offices. Is your office a safe harbor - so to speak? Does your office provide safety for you, your staff and your patients? The most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that over 6,000 deaths happen on the job each year. You are responsible for the safety of yourself and your staff.

Is your office in compliance with all OSHA rules and regulations? Is there easy and safe access to the home or building where your office is located? Is the office free of obstacles that someone could trip or fall over? Is the parking area well lit at night? Do you have ample, convenient parking for you, your staff and patients? Are there enough parking spaces? If the parking is in a covered garage, does the attendant know you? Does the attendant know what you do and the suite number of your office? Does the attendant know how to get to your office if necessary? Are there stairs to your office? Are they safe and well lit? Do the stairs have a secure handrail? Is there an elevator? Does it work?

If there is a natural disaster (such as an earthquake) or other emergency, do you have a safety plan for evacuation? In California, there is now the occurrence of rolling blackouts. Is your staff trained on what to do in an emergency? How does the staff take care of itself and care for the patients and the safety of both? Let's assume that you already have a plan for emergencies. The next issue is whether you have practiced any emergency drills or routines. Have you checked your staff on safety procedures so that they know what to do if a problem should arise?

Are you trained in what to do in an emergency? Remember: in an emergency, you are still responsible for the safety of all in your office. Is your CPR and first aid training class up to date? Have you practiced either one lately? These all represent physical safety.

The office of an Oriental medicine provider also offers shelter from the storm for the patient on other planes - for instance, the plane of listening. Time, interest and confidentiality are offered to the patient in the office of the TCM provider. Many patients express feelings of gratitude that someone is listening to their complaints and problems. This can be a two-edged sword, however. It is good and necessary for patients to have someone who listens to them without seeming to be rushed, but some providers have expressed the issue of being too easy and kind to stop or slow the patient down from unloading and rambling about their problems.

I think the skill of being able to work with and control the talking of a long-winded patient comes with time and experience. As a health care provider, you must control the conversation. Try and stick to the issues of health, especially to the ones you and the patient are concentrating on for the patient's health improvement. You must also have the skill to know that sometimes the patient just needs to talk to a listening ear. We all need a listening ear once in a while.

If the conversation gets away from you, bring it back to their health -- the reason they came to see you in the first place.

The office of an acupuncturist is also shelter for the soul. There is some of the popularity of feng shui. The peaceful, calm serenity of the office helps to soothe the inner spirit of both patient and practitioner to get better treatment results.

Do you have a small fountain somewhere in the office environment? When the Hyatt Hotel was built on Maui, the designers and contractors installed fountains throughout the facility. Studies have shown that when the fountains are turned on, people relax and in this environment the retail sales go up about 80%. People enjoy the sound of the water moving and gurgling. This, in contrast to white noise, helps your patients relax.

Your office may not have a retail sales area, but people certainly do relax (or want to). Your office may be the only quiet time in your patients' day. Research shows relaxation from daily tasks and stress can help to heal the body and soul.

What others factors provide shelter in your office? What helps to create feelings of peace and serenity in your office? Are you always rushed, harried or tired? If you are stressed, you will transmit those feelings to your patients. You must possess an element of peace for yourself - the doctor. As you care for yourself, through the environment in your office, your patients will also receive benefits.

The atmosphere in the office must be clean and well ventilated. It should also possess a fresh smell. Special candles or sprays can help with the aroma in the treatment rooms and restrooms. Change the linens after every patient. Keep the treatment rooms well ventilated and warm or cool enough for the comfort of the patients who are in the rooms and resting. One of the nicest experiences I have had in the office of an acupuncturist occurred when I laid down on the treatment table and felt warmth from underneath. It contained a heating pad that ran the full length of the table. This made the entire treatment more pleasant. It was easier to relax during the treatment.

Shelter is also provided in your office through the words you speak to your staff and patients. What do you say, and how do you say it? Often it is said, "It is not what you say but how you say it." I think both are underlying factors for the health care provider and the patient. What you say helps educate your patients. How you say it makes that information meaningful.

Think about each of your patients and tailor your remarks so that they relate to an individual patient's health needs and issues. It is a good habit to practice what you say. Do you arrive early at your office, walk through the treatment rooms and prepare yourself verbally for the patients you are going to see that day? Keep your mind clear and focused. It will keep your energy clean and help you help others.

Remember: People will come to your office, relax, feel better and pay for service rendered in a safe harbor when the storms of life come along. Create a port of safety and rest for people with disease. These are the troubled ones in life you want to help restore to health and vitality.

Click here for more information about Marilyn Allen, Editor-at-Large.

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