If you’re a patient who has incorporated complementary and alternative medicine into your health care regimen, you may have bumped up against some resistance on both sides of the healing fence. Your doctor may think your homeopath is a total quack selling snake oil, and your homeopath may think your doctor is a big thug, thwacking his pharmaceutical hammer at anything that moves.
Your doctor may insist that you stop all of your herbs, cancel your acupuncture appointment, and ditch the flower essences that were lovingly prepared for you.
On the flip side, your complementary and alternative medicine providers may poo poo traditional Western treatments that you choose to pursue.
In fact, I knew a brother and sister – he was a gastroenterologist MD and she was a naturopathic doctor. Both went to medical school for four years to learn their craft, and both specialized in gastrointestinal disorders. And yet, they couldn’t discuss medicine without knock-down, drag out, screaming hissy fit fights. He thought she was delusional. She thought he was a closed-minded snob who was merely frightened of what he didn’t understand.
It made Thanksgivings very awkward.
The God Complex
I believe that much of this awkwardness between various types of health care professionals stems from wounds we’ve suffered at each other’s hands. Many doctors lord themselves over other health care providers as if they’re the gods and everyone else should bow at their golden feet, (which is why I offered this global apology to nurses, techs, and complementary and alternative health care providers here).
In fact, when I was invited by a group of acupuncturists, therapists, massage therapists, and nutritionists to come join their integrative medicine practice, they confessed that they had never invited a physician before because they didn’t want someone getting all God-Complex on them, treating them as underlings down the totem pole. They said they knew I wasn’t one of those physicians, and they invited me to come be an equal partner at the healing round table, where all health care providers were on equal footing, not only with each other, but with the patient. I was genuinely touched and honored. It was exactly in line with my own philosophy of how health care should be delivered, as I spelled out here.
And it’s not just doctor-patient relationships or doctor-alternative health care provider relationships that are suffering.
I once heard a respected physician (albeit a tired one) say to a brilliant nurse, “Let’s play a little game. I’ll play doctor. You play nurse. I’ll give the orders, and you FOLLOW THEM.”