Hospital Volunteering Day 2

Today as soon I walked into the hospital, Ms. Ann greeted and escorted me to the Chinese Traditional Medicine department. She prefaced a lot of helpful information for me and we discussed what questions would be productive to ask from an international point of view. Oftentimes foreigners who come through the hospital are not familiar with Chinese Traditional Medicine, TCM. The goal is to reach out to internationals, introduce and bring awareness to the benefits of TCM. As they are looking more into combining TCM and the Western department, how can both ends be preserved and useful for the situation of the patient?

After finding out a little more from Ms. Ann I was eager to chat with Dr. Yen, in Chinese Traditional Medicine on these topics. In the beginning Ms. Ann sat and translated for both of us where needed, as the language barrier was minor. She had to leave and tend to her own duties after a short time but Dr. Yen and I were able to have knowledge-gaining conversations. I had many questions prepared and she answered them well, as I took notes of the intriguing processes, sub-departments, medicines, etc.

What I found the most interesting and unexpected was the fact that some Chinese citizens themselves do not know much about Chinese Traditional Medicine and prefer the Western department, and vice versa. Patients can choose which department to be treated in, and Doctors can recommend. Sometimes the patient can be treated in both departments at the same time. Dr. Yen and I walked around the floors of the hospital and she gave me a mini tour. We met two university students interning at the hospital. Their personalities were young and vibrant, enthusiastic to meet a foreigner like myself curious to learn about the department. Of course, at first glance they thought I was a local since I am half Chinese; Dr. Yen told them I was a study abroad student, and then they were surprised at the decent amount of Chinese I did know, as I usually try to speak Mandarin as often as possible. Dr. Yen told me they are studying both the Western Department AND TCM, a recent major in which students can study both at the same time.

While discussing and learning from Dr. Yen, I learned the main aspects of each department. TCM is comparatively longer process than the Western department. There are no operational surgeries involved; TCM focuses are on sprains and nutritional support. If a patient experiences a fracture, they are sent to the Western department. TCM generally consists of more natural processes. Herbal medicine is a big use; it is used for healing of the body as a whole, rather than specific regions. This is preferred before specific medicines, such as Aspirin in the Western department. There are four departments within TCM: internal medicine (herbal), surgery (in which patients are not cut open), acupuncture, and chiropractic. The last two are especially practiced in TCM. Acupuncture has been popular in China for ages; Chiropractic uses methodology to stimulate nerves. There is a strategy to testing symptoms: wang wen wen qie 望闻问切 –  look, listen/smell, ask, and touching the pulse. Dr. Yen said good Chinese Traditional Medicine can treat most diseases but the process may require patience. A few TCM strategies I learned were massage by hands, and pulse checking. Massages in TCM are done by hand, rather than outside equipment, all with strategy and specific intentions. It can be assumed that foreigners often view massages as a luxury. Whereas the Chinese believe these intentional massage treatments can heal bruises, for example, all done with the hand motioning toward the heart. The heart pulse can show different diseases, if an expert professional can detect the heart rate accordingly. If the heart rate is difficult to detect, it may mean the patient is weak. If the rate is smooth, perhaps the female patient is pregnant. A true story Dr. Yen and Ms. Ann shared with me was how the ancient royal queen was treated for health. Because it was forbidden that the male doctor touch the queen, silk fabric was used to detect it successfully. How intriguing it was to see ancient Chinese methods still in practice today. And the fact that they aim to preserve it and bring awareness to foreigners and Chinese people alike is valuable.

Generally, as opposed to Chinese Traditional Medicine, the Western department treats patients with individual medicine according to the needs and symptoms. An example from Dr. Yen was the use of Aspirin daily in the event of a stroke. It’s crucial that the process isn’t stopped for the safety of the patient. Some patients are afraid of the side effects and choose the more natural but lengthier alternative in TCM. Some patients view the Western department as having a quicker and more convenient form of treatment. Lately, results from the Western department show that acupuncture treatment is increasing. I myself know Americans who have been treated by acupuncture in the past for sprained ankles; they testified that it was healing and successful. More revenue is created in the Western department due to the high use of specific medicines as opposed to the whole body herbal treatment in TCM.

I learned so much today from spending time with Dr. Yen and Ms. Ann. Although these topics are related to my broadcast journalism major, it was intriguing to engage and learn about a different aspect of culture many internationals may not have had the chance to delve into.

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