November 14, 2005

A Dream Realized: Acupuncture Integrated Into Good Samaritan Hospital

By Jeannette Painovich, MA, LAc, DAOM candidate

I have a dream that one day, all medical disciplines will be looked upon as equal. I have a dream that one day, practitioners of Eastern and Western medicine will sit down together at the table of sister and brotherhood. I have a dream that one day, medicine will be judged by the efficacy of its employment and not the underlying content of its philosophies. Let the dream begin.

Emperor's College of Traditional Oriental Medicine (ECTOM) has teamed up with Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles, California to establish a truly integrative medical program in the inpatient healthcare setting.

The students in the doctoral program at Emperor's College, which began its charter class in January of 2004, are providing acupuncture to the patients in the acute rehabilitation unit and in the emergency department at Good Samaritan Hospital. This unique opportunity affords the doctoral students experience treating patients during the acute phase of illness, an arena rarely touched by acupuncturists in the United States.

Doctoral students working in the acute rehabilitation unit treat patients with medical conditions including, but not limited to, post-stroke, spinal cord injury, post-operative joint replacements, post-operative back and neck surgery, and post-operative craniotomies, as well as cancer pain patients. Doctoral candidates for ECTOM provide hospital coverage six days per week and are integrated onto the floor in the same respect as all other treating modalities, working side-by-side with the doctors, nurses, physical, occupational and speech therapists. If the treating physician deems his/her patient a good candidate for treatment, an acupuncture order is generated and that patient is evaluated.

On initial evaluation of a patient, the acupuncturists do a thorough chart review. This chart review provides the acupuncturists with information regarding the admitting medical condition, concurrent medical conditions, past medical history, current level of functioning of the patient and outcome goals anticipated prior to discharge. After compiling the relevant data, a treatment plan is formulated and carried out. Like all treating modalities in the hospital, the acupuncturist must document the treatments rendered each day in the patient's medical chart so that a continuity of patient care can be imparted throughout his or her hospital stay.

Treating patients in the emergency room allows the acupuncturists to work within the epitome of acute care. Because of the overcrowded nature of emergency rooms, their goal is to treat each patient safely and expediently, and then discharge them home or to other units within the hospital. Using acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment modality can help stabilize patients more quickly, thus allowing for greater patient flow throughout the day. Although maladies seen in the ER run the gamut, conditions we can positively influence include, but are not limited to, musculoskeletal and bone trauma, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, alcohol and drug abuse, psychoses, and vertigo. For the students of the ECTOM doctoral program, this emergency room rotation provides a rare and wonderful opportunity to see the effectiveness of our medicine on truly acute, emergent conditions.

Being an integral part of an inpatient medical system allows the acupuncturist many unique learning opportunities. This arena allows them to become familiar with Western medical language as well as laboratory and diagnostic testing. In the emergency room, the doctoral candidates see first hand how combining the findings from the various laboratory and diagnostic tests help define a diagnosis. Because the acute rehabilitation unit is an extended-stay facility, the acupuncturists get to see first hand the sequelae of and recovery process from, major medical events. They get first hand experience at how numerous medical specialties work together to treat one individual. The hospital setting also provides a truly unique opportunity to experience first-hand the physical, mental and emotional components of acute care and how widely they can vary between patients.

Not only does this unique educational setting present the doctoral students of ECTOM an opportunity to grow as clinicians, but it will also afford the growth of the profession as a whole. Infiltrating a very large, busy hospital setting provides a juncture within which to show the biomedical community and the patient population how beneficial acupuncture can be within the current health care system. According to Dr. Jorge Minor, Director of the acute rehabilitation unit at Good Samaritan Hospital and a medical acupuncturist, "This residency program at the hospital provides us with an opportunity to show the true value of integrative medicine. It is our hope that this collaboration will provide us with the opportunity to conduct studies proving the efficacy of acupuncture within the inpatient hospital setting."

Within the current health care system, both biomedical and complimentary medicines are looking for answers. Allopathic medicine wants a solution to curb skyrocketing health care costs and improve patient quality of care. Complementary medicine wants an avenue to facilitate the integration into allopathic medicine. This union could be the answer for both. If the acupuncture program within the hospital could provide an increase in quality care and patient satisfaction, biomedicine will begin to see the value of integrative medicine and our profession in a much more positive light. Credible outcomes in one biomedical arena could equate to permeating other allopathic areas that previously were off limits.

My aspiration is the triumph of integrating complementary paradigms within the current medical model, specifically today, the hospital system. Although the program is in its infancy, the willingness of Good Samaritan Hospital and Emperors College of Traditional Oriental Medicine to work together affords the opportunity to begin the actualization of my dream for the profession. Following the words of the great Martin Luther King Jr., "So I say to you today, my friends, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream."


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