A Trip to China

By Kate Henley

I am honoured to be chosen to amongst the 10 participants to be travelling to Harbin in the Heilongjiang province in January. This exchange programme is sponsored by the BAcC and is a partnership between the London Confucius Institute for TCM at the South Bank University and the Heilongjiang University of Chinese medicine.

Harbin is located in northern China and borders Siberia and North Korea and is a very unique part of the world – and also very cold! The Heilongjiang University building is a huge, modern, state of the art building and within its confines hundreds of acupuncture and TCM treatments take place every day.

At CCA I am teaching the course module that relates to the understanding of how to build the patient-practitioner relationship, a fundamental cornerstone to the process of healing. This relationship starts the moment the relationship is established, often at the moment of booking an appointment.

Pivotal to the understanding of this relationship is the knowledge of the emotional states. These emotions, notably grief, fear, anger, joy and worry are depicted with the 5 Element cycle and will be uncovered in a series of lectures throughout the course. Students will be encouraged very early on to start a reflective journal to ascertain the strength of their own Qi in the areas of these emotions, as seeing them in themselves is key to seeing them in others. In my own clinic I am listening carefully and observing non-verbal cues to uncover an imbalance in one of the emotional states. I am then observing without judgement and with compassion so that patients are able to engage their own inner strength to start the empowering path to healing. I am finally selecting the points and intend to treat my patients from the heart, truly connecting to my own spirit.

I am interested to see how the dynamic of compassion and non-judgement plays out in the Clinic in China. I have an idea that the clinics will be busy and full, often operating under a multi-bed structure with little time for private interview and 1:1 attentive listening. I suspect that the diagnosis will be arrived at rapidly after details of the symptoms, observation, palpation and tongue and pulse enquiry. I think that the difference will be in the time and empathy that is dedicated to each patient. My interest will be whether the time is a fundamental part of the therapeutic outcome or not.

In my view the therapeutic relationship is of paramount importance. I think that this is fostered around creating a safe healing space for patients to enable healing. One of my key reasons for my visit to China is to witness how this is achieved in their hospitals. I am not sure that I will find the same techniques, but I will be sharing my findings with the students.

Safe spaces and treating from the heart are further down the healing experience. Initially knowledge and competence are the fundamental pillars that need to be put in place and I intend to learn in China how the 5 Element model is understood and used in the treatment space to affect the therapeutic outcome.

In Harbin I will be spending time in a variety of specialist clinics – these will include Bell’s palsy, stroke, chronic fatigue and dermatology. These will all be overseen by some of the most eminent professors based at the hospital who will aim to give key protocols to bring back to practice in the UK.

It is expected that the learning will be fundamentally based on seeing the techniques used within an acute hospital setting – seldom witnessed in the West. It will also be a chance to witness eastern medical interventions working alongside western models. This will be an inspiring experience to return to the UK with as we all attempt to forge stronger links with our western partners and aspire to move towards a more integrative approach to meet our patient’s needs.

One of the previous participants noted that patients were put ‘at the very heart’ of their treatment plans and that they took responsibility for their own health with a very integrated approach. Another previous participant enjoyed seeing the text-books become reality and saw the outstanding results given by acupuncture – something many practitioners question when working in their solitary clinics in the West. Another said that the success stories that emerge from these incredible edifices are nothing short of incredible.

For my part, I am intrigued to witness the hospital setting. I set up and ran with several colleagues a successful multi-bed maternity acupuncture unit for pregnancy and fertility acupuncture. Because of this, I am familiar with the dynamics of a hospital environment and the challenges we faced having 2 medical models under the same roof. The experience in China will allow me to see how this is managed, presumably putting the patient at the centre of the process and allowing choice – two principles clearly stated on the NICE guidelines when I was working in Hertfordshire. I am intrigued to see how these two models sit together – and imagining it will be a far cry from Stevenage!

Whilst I am there I will record what I see and experience in a blog and I hope to share the intricacies of my trip in detail with the students at CCA as we all strive to learn this medicine and to support our present and future patients to the best of our ability.