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Partners in Practice

June 21, 2016

Building Patient Trust Through Humility & Homage

By: Brandon LaGreca, CAc, MAcOM

How does a new patient come to trust a practitioner? What verbal and nonverbal cues communicate professionalism? How do we convey our sincerity to a person who is vulnerable and suffering? The answers to these questions are many and diverse, but there is one simple sentiment you can offer to a patient to build trust and compliance: Avoid taking credit for your work.

We are all standing on the shoulders of giants.

The fields of traditional Chinese medicine, naturopathy, and chiropractic are highly refined, holistic forms of medicine deriving from long lineages of clinical evidence and a tidal wave of recent research evidence further supporting our success. We have everything it takes to be leaders in integrative care, but we did not get to this place in time by any individual effort.

When you work with a patient, do you think about the generations of practitioners who thought the same thought or performed that same technique thousands of times before you were ever born? Do you reflect upon the wisdom of your teachers and the advice of your mentors that led to your clinical success? Perhaps we are all guilty of not expressing gratitude toward the roots of our professions, but there are several very good reasons why we should.

We all experience highs and lows in clinical practice. When a patient does not respond favorably to our care, we can take refuge in the community of practitioners. Whether through an online forum or a phone call to a friend, reaching out to a greater network of practitioners allows you to tap into generations of experience. New graduates and seasoned practitioners alike would do well to avail themselves of the collective wisdom of our diverse traditions.

It is not a sign of incompetence to tell a patient that you do not have an answer to a health concern and that you will consult the expertise of a community of practitioners. In these instances, a patient is often comforted by the thought of a team of bright minds looking into the case. Of course, one could seek advice from the community without a patient ever knowing and take credit for the insight, but acting the lone wolf does little to further the positive perception of our professions.

We are stronger united; we would all do well to remind patients of this fact.

On the flip side, when you delight a patient with the effectiveness of your treatment, consider deferring the credit by honoring the generations of practitioners who have brought your modality to the level of mastery to which you now act as an extension.

Whether invoking the collective wisdom of the holistic medicine community or simply paying homage to the founders of your tradition, expressing and implying humility is a sincere way to build trust and encourage patients. As patients begin to envision themselves in the bigger picture, they can then identify with being part of a community, a movement, and a revolution in health care.

Brandon LaGreca is a 2005 graduate of the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine, is a certified acupuncturist in the state of Wisconsin, and is nationally certified in the practice of Oriental medicine by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. He lives and works in East Troy, Wisconsin, where he operates a sliding-scale, community-style clinic. When he’s not researching and practicing Chinese medicine, Brandon studies traditional diets and their role as both food and medicine. Brandon also serves as a chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation and provides acupuncture services to employees at Standard Process corporate headquarters.

Opinions and methods presented in this article are those of the author and not representative of any Standard Process view or position.

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.