An Interview with Naturopathic Doctor Susan Jacobs

During Naturopathic Medicine Week, we were very fortunate to receive some time with a practicing Vermont primary care naturopath, Susan Jacobs.

Susan’s perspective is one that we need to share, because it’s based on a value system which we at DaVinci also hold true, one that involves whole body wellness, comprehensive understanding and preventative care.

Dr. Jacobs, who practices in Shelburne at the Champlain Center for Natural Medicine, first came across the concept of naturopathy at a young age.

“It was in my junior or senior year of high school and I was at a friend’s house where the family was talking about nutrition and how it could affect cholesterol,” she said.

As an undergrad, Susan studied pre-med and was still on the track to go to modern allopathic medical school, but realized it didn’t fit in with her worldview and philosophy on health vs. disease. She was more interested in “how do you treat with non-invasive methods? Be proactive instead of reactive?”

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A Physician’s Role In Patient Grief

By Karin Krisher

The mental and physical pieces of humans are inextricably linked, so that events that trigger emotional reactions still cause physical symptoms. In light of the recent tragedy in Connecticut and personal experience with grief manifesting as physical symptoms, I wondered what role physicians should play in the process. Talking to your patients about grief is not easy—but that doesn’t mean it’s not necessary.

Why The Physician’s Role Matters

A transformation in our forums for communication has left members of our society with fewer immediate resources for dealing with grief. Where in the past, we might have turned to close-by extended family members, church community members or neighbors, we now turn to the Internet and the family physician. Further, the American culture is one that keeps death in the fear zone, and wants to move past difficult emotions quickly. (Check out this resource for further explanation.)

What You Can Do: Concrete Tips

As a physician, you have a unique role. You are privy to both physical symptoms and emotional admissions. To help your patients move through the bereavement process, it’s important to know the symptoms. That’s tip number one. Be aware that things like sleep disturbances, appetite changes, auditory and visual hallucinations and absent-mindedness can indicate grief.

If your patient is in denial or the grief response is non-normative or delayed, it may be difficult for you to be sure there is actually grieving involved in these symptoms. That’s tip number two: Ask appropriate questions, and listen to the answers. Questions like, “Is there a specific loss you’ve experienced lately that you would like to talk about?” leave the air open for the patient to express himself or herself.

Tip three: Pay attention to recurring behaviors and important dates or reminders. If your patient mentions the date of his or her loss or a special place she or he shared with a loved one, write it down. Two years from now when symptoms of grief are physically manifest, you’ll know why, and that will tell your patient you are truly listening and want to help.

For children, who may lose track of time or not fully understand the value or meaning of certain feelings, tip three can be especially important. Tip four? Children count in this process, too. The role of a family physician is to see to the family’s health, and children’s emotions are a huge part of that. Allowing children to grieve is necessary. Denial of that opportunity may teach them that grieving is abnormal and may harm their future emotional knowledge.

All patients experiencing grief will experience it in an individual manner. Tip five is to recognize both similarities and inherent differences in how people grieve. Nothing is right or wrong. While there are decidedly clear stages of grief, not all people will go through all stages or begin them and end them at the same time. Tip six is to enlist the help of a specialist. Bereavement counseling can be highly beneficial for some patients, and you can work with them to ensure their experience is one of import.

The most important tip to help your patients deal with grief? Be a shoulder. As I mentioned, many former support systems have morphed or disappeared. If someone trusts you enough to allow you to be a part of his or her grief, remaining committed to listening and committed to his or her wellness will allow you to serve as a true helper.

How have you helped your patients deal with grief in the past? We’d love to share in your experience—tell us about your role in the process on our Facebook page.

Grief and grief counseling can’t be explained in one blog post. Check out these other great resources for more information.

Help Them Listen and Act: The Art of Maximizing Patient Compliance

By Karin Krisher

To start, I’d like to address the word compliance. It isn’t meant to elicit thoughts of control, or a controlling relationship. That said, I use it here to imply following instructions—instructions designed to promote your patients’ health.

If you have had patients who have valued their immediate desires over your health advice, you know that ensuring compliance is nearly impossible. You generally don’t monitor your patients 24/7, and you can’t force healthy habits on anyone, especially those with stubborn wills. So, how do you encourage adherence to suggested health regimens?

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Talk to Your Patients About Hearing Loss

By Karin Krisher

In April, 2010, I came down with a terrible cold. My lungs hurt. My ears hurt. After much nudging from my roommates, I finally saw a doctor, who let me know that a respiratory infection had migrated to my eardrums, where it was now causing significant blistering.

Oh. Lovely.

He gave me antibiotics and sent me on my not-so-merry way. Two and a half years later, and my right ear is essentially useless. I have no idea if that’s the sole cause, no inclination to go see a doc, and a terrible, sinking feeling that my social life will never improve.

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Talk To Your Patients About Acupuncture

By Karin Krisher

Over the last 40 years, acupuncture has slowly migrated into the Western consciousness, taking up residence as a legitimate medical practice. However, there are still many doubters of this technique, which involves the manipulation of thin needles inserted into specified points to stimulate the body’s energy flow, known as qi.

Skepticism has a lot to do with lack of evidence, which has a lot to do with lack of ability to create a proper placebo. It also has to do with a general Western aversion to the type of complementary and alternative medicine that is an integral part of Eastern traditions.

Still, several large organizations concede that acupuncture’s use for specified conditions is viable. Among the endorsers: the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Health Service of the United Kingdom.

Conditions mentioned run the health gamut, including: Adverse reactions to chemo/radio therapy; depression; nausea; neck and low back pain; headache; rheumatoid arthritis and many more.

So, why should your patients be aware of acupuncture as a form of alternative medicine? Because, regardless of a general lack of padlocked proof, anecdotal evidence is abundant. Therefore, any one of your patients might have heard about another’s excellent experience with acupuncture, and jump right in with no further information.

Educating your patients about the skepticism surrounding acupuncture and its potential benefits is your role in helping them make effective decisions about their health. Let them know exactly what your concerns are, and if you think they should stay away or that their particular medical condition or history could be exacerbated by acupuncture, tell them. If you notice a particularly stubborn pain or undiagnosed issue in your patients, perhaps suggesting acupuncture is your best option.

Have you ever had acupuncture yourself or suggested it to a patient? Tell us about the results in a comment!

Do You Believe In Medical Record Transparency?

By Karin Krisher

We know that many of our customers (you!) focus on naturopathy, chiropractic care or other forms of alternative medicine. But we still think there is much to be learned about managing a practice and your patients’ care from classic hospital docs. That’s why we highly recommend checking out current studies and new information about doctor/patient relationships that may not directly apply to your specialty.

We ran across an article today about openness; specifically, about medical record transparency. We wanted to greatly encourage you to read this article, as a mere blog post synopsis can’t do all of the information justice.

We also wanted your feedback. What do you think about medical record transparency? Are you for or against it? And why? Many doctor subjects of the studies discussed here were once afraid of that transparency, and discovered their fears were unfounded. Have you ever had an experience like this in your practice?

We know that the world of medicine is ever-evolving, and want to get the conversation started about this critical subject. Tell us your thoughts in a comment!

Humans and Animals: Closer Than Ever?

By Karin Krisher

humans and animalsDid you know about the completion of the canine genome map? It happened in 2005. We hope you were paying attention, because the rest of the world wasn’t—or at least, we didn’t seem to understand the implications of the breakthrough. Luckily for average Josephines like myself, the American Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association were paying attention and came together in 2006 to adopt a new mindset about medical care for humans and animals.

The organizations recognized that “about 60 percent of all diseases move across species and that environmental pollution, animal diseases and human diseases constitute a single interlocking problem.” The mindset, called “one health” or “one medicine,” is changing the way physicians and veterinarians think about working together.

And that’s changing medicine. Where advancements in the two (animal and human medicine) have manifested 10 to 20 years apart in the past, today they happen around the same time.

DaVinci understands the commonalities between the two areas of health. To that end, we’ve worked closely with Research and Development to create products in our line that support companion animal wellness. Our line includes supplements like Joint Support and Serenity Now for Cats and for Dogs.

If you haven’t thought about your options for supporting companion animal health, perhaps there’s no better time than in this emerging era of cross-discipline information sharing.

Learn more about the changing face of medicine with this article—reading until the end helped us grasp the full power of these changes.

Have you ever worked side-by-side with a veterinarian? How did the experience match up to your expectations? Tell us in a comment!

7 Social Media Tips For Doctors

By Karin Krisher

social media tips for doctorsSocial media has become a staple of all large business, with good reason. It’s where the clients are. This quick guide to our favorite social media tips for doctors will help you understand where to get started—and why.

Manage your reputation. This tip is all-encompassing and requires quite a bit of work. You can start by creating a larger social media presence. Create a Facebook page, a Twitter profile, etc. You can let your positives shine through online even though the Internet is an open forum for both criticism and praise. Which brings us to our next tip.

Read your reviews and respond to them with action. You can always be better. Read reviews about you and respond appropriately with making positive changes in your practice. Learn that you can influence your reputation through action instead of reaction.

Get LinkedIn. If you aren’t already, you’re missing out on collaboration opportunities, recommendations and much more. LinkedIn allows you to connect with professionals on a professional level. On top of that, if you’ve ever had a particularly good employee, getting LinkedIn is a great way to help his or her career.

Build a website. You could be missing a huge group of clients. Websites are a great way to filter appointment requests and questions, as well as keep track of your success over time. When you’re reviewed, many patients will point to your website, building your reputation. Sometimes, the cost can seem a little pricey. Shop around and find a good, fair price on website building. It is unequivocally worth the investment.

Embrace diversity. Try everything, but not necessarily all at once. Facebook is cool, but so is Twitter. And Tumblr. If you want to maintain a steadily developing online reputation, jumping around can ensure you reach people who respond to different messages. You can test your audience this way, as well.

Record information. If you see a Facebook post from that practice in the next town that reads, “A lot of our patients have been concerned about measles this week,” or a tweet from your neighbor that says, “My friends are all getting really sick. Some kind of stomach flu. Fingers crossed!” pay attention. This information can be useful to you, but not if you forget it!

Seek out like practices. Observe them. Social media gives you a new opportunity to watch how other practices deal with certain health or clinical issues. If you notice that a lot of your employees have mentioned getting superior customer service at a certain practice, visit that practice’s website and social media profiles regularly. Maybe they just started a new iPad initiative you weren’t aware of. Maybe they just hired a bunch of fresh out of high school receptionists you had otherwise written off. Whatever their tactics, it’s important to seek information about other, successful practices in order to better your own.

Have you been successful in social media use for your practice? What do you do differently? Tell us how you got started in a comment!

Mindfulness Meditation Benefits

By Karin Krisher

mindfulness meditationLast week, we broached the topic of doctor burnout. This week, we want to talk about how to actually handle it with a little something called mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation benefits are far reaching, but perhaps the most obvious and relevant to you and your patients is a better ability to provide quality care.

Mindfulness is all about being present. It’s not about being comfortable when you are all alone in a room. (Though that is still important.) It is about being able to be fully in the moment and aware of the moment. It is about drowning out distractions that might remove you from the moment, and being open to both having and reflecting on the experience, rather than simply regarding it as one average event in a string of many.

Because your patients (and anyone, for that matter, including yourself) can easily sense if you’re running on autopilot, that tendency can be detrimental to your care and the doctor/patient relationship. If you, like many physicians, have noticed yourself slipping away into a sea of electronic distractions and paperwork, rather than focusing on every interaction’s quality, learning mindfulness will benefit both your mental state and your patients’ experiences.

Mindfulness Meditation 101

So, how is serene awareness learned? It isn’t easy to both let go and hang on at the same time. Letting go of distractions and grabbing tightly to the very fact of a moment with your patient seem like they would be mutually exclusive endeavors. But that’s not true: being present means you don’t zone out to ignore distractions—instead, you zone in.

There are meditation groups that can help. Some even specifically address physician burnout. In 2009, The Journal of the American Medical Association published results of a study that examined such a course, wherein physicians learned about “that ability to be in the zone and present in the moment purposefully and without judgment.” (The New York Times)

The results were incredible; “Several of the improvements persisted even after the yearlong course ended. And, those changes correlated with a significant increase in attributes that contribute to patient-centered care, such as empathy and valuing the psychosocial factors that might affect a patient’s illness experience.” (The New York Times)

The study’s author, Dr. Michael Krasner, later stated to a New York Times writer that “One of the most wonderful things about practicing medicine is that you have the opportunity to be in the middle of challenging events. Reflecting on those events while also holding them in your thoughts has to do with not only physician well-being but also patient healing.”

With that in mind, go forth. Seek out your own course, or begin one. Find a personal way to reflect and engage on a daily basis. And most importantly, work on remaining in the moment not only when you’re trying those techniques, but by default, so that every day–every experience—is as wonderful as it has the potential to be.