To begin to develop a truly integrative practice of healthcare we first need to consider integrating ourselves in our thinking. We all desire what is best for our patients, but too often we think we know what is best for them instead of letting them guide us to their path for optimal health. I believe what we as practitioners need to do is to make space to honor all forms of healthcare and their practitioners.
When we spend long years training in a specific discipline, of course we feel that it is the best kind of medicine. However, our patients have many different ideas about what they need and desire from us and from other healthcare practitioners. While it is true that some people out there will only desire care from a single type of practitioner, many people desire using various types of care to develop their own plan for optimal health. One of the basic principles of medical ethics is autonomy. When we discourage patients from seeing certain types of practitioners, or make negative comments about a certain type of practice, we interfere with their autonomy to choose their own path in healthcare.
As caring practitioners, we can use our knowledge to guide and advise patients but we must use caution not to disparage other practitioners in the process. This is harmful to our patients and may cause patients to leave our practice if we are too forceful about this. Obviously if someone is providing dangerous or inappropriate care we must speak up. That is a different issue.
It is a matter of respect. None of us can know what another practitioner knows or feels. If a patient is drawn to a certain type of care, there is a reason for that. If we are drawn to a certain type of practice, there is a reason for that also. When we decide upon our own personal plan for health we are listening to our own hearts and minds. So are our patients. Let us all learn to respect our patients’ choices, ourselves and each other.