Wednesday, January 1, 2014

How much do we owe our patients?

I asked this question of myself just before Christmas when a long-term patient of mine unexpectedly appeared after quite a long absence abroad and expected a treatment at the start of my Christmas holiday period, almost, I felt, as though by right.  In the past I think I would have felt compelled to make every effort to fit him in, even though I was officially already on holiday, and I did a lot of heart-searching along the lines of, “Why did he not have the good sense (and courtesy) to get in touch beforehand to check whether I would be available?”

At the start of his treatment, many years ago, we had done a lot of good work together, and he attributed the regaining of his good health entirely to his acupuncture treatment.  This long and successful association made me feel very close to him, and has in the past persuaded me to make every effort to fit him in on his infrequent and very brief visits to London from abroad.  But when I heard his voice on the answering machine I realised that, with my new-found aim of looking after myself a little more and not placing myself under too much stress, a good Christmas break was more important for my well-being, rather than re-adjusting my schedule to fit  him in at the last minute, as I used to do.  So I didn’t treat him, but suggested he contact a colleague of mine, which he decided not to do.

Each practitioner has to work out the parameters within which he/she works.  Mine, I realise, have not been as rigid and as carefully delineated as I have told my students they should be.  In other words, I am often a bit of a push-over for patients in need.

Perhaps this recent example is a sign that I am at last learning to harden my heart a little more than I have done in the past.


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