Case vignette

Acknowledging non-allopathic medicine and healing practices.

Inclusive Language Illustration

Acknowledging non-allopathic medicine and healing practices.

A doctor and patient discuss both non-allopathic healing practices and allopathic modalities (aka “western” medicine).

Doctor

So Sara, your blood pressure is looking a bit high today. Have you had any trouble taking your blood pressure medication?

Sara

I've been taking it. I’m feeling really good actually, do you know why it could still be high?

Doctor

Let’s figure out why together. Could you share with me what your medication routine usually looks like? Also, you mentioned you have been feeling really good. Are you taking or doing anything else to make you feel this way? Even if not from this office.

Sara

Sure, any day I have headaches or notice my blood pressure is high at home, I take the pills you prescribed me. Usually once or twice a week. I also always drink a tea called uña de gato.

Doctor

Thank you for letting me know. I’m not familiar with that. Could you tell me more about it?

Sara

It is also known as cat’s claw. My mom suggested it and I think it has been helping me a lot.

Doctor

I am so glad you are feeling better and that you have a family member so supportive of your health. Even though you’re feeling great, your blood pressure still being high is hard on your organs. How do you feel about coming up with a new plan for the next month to see if we can get your blood pressure down AND have you feeling great?

Sara

That sounds good to me. What do you suggest?

Doctor

The medications I originally prescribed to you actually work best taken every day, too. Just like the cat’s claw. Whether you feel good or not the medication should work better and better the longer you stick to taking it consistently.

Sara

That makes sense. So I should just start adding in those medications every day?

Doctor

Taking those medications every day is great. Over time we can tell if that is the right medication for you by testing your blood pressure at home, in the office, and by how you feel. However, it can be hard to do that if you are taking multiple things, because then we aren’t sure what is helping or not. Are you okay pausing the cat’s claw for a month while we test if this medication is working?

Sara

Sure I can do that, as long as we can talk about trying the cat’s claw again in a month. I really do like it.

Doctor

Absolutely, and in the meantime I will learn more about it so I can support you in safely using it with your other meds. Are there any other herbs or remedies you have been thinking of using that I could look into?

Sara

Not right now, but I’ll ask my mom if there is anything I should mention next time. Thank you!

Things to consider.

01

Respect cultural differences in treatment modalities. If a patient is self-treating with a method that is unfamiliar to you or not consistent with your practice of medicine, meet them halfway rather than taking a hard line approach.

02

Practice “Both / And”: When speaking, substitute “and” for “but”. This practice acknowledges and honors multiple realities. Refrain from blaming or shaming self and others. Adapted from Visions Inc. “Guidelines for Productive Work Sessions”

Question to think about:

What is something you or your family uses for healing that may not be considered in western or allopathic medicine? Would you feel comfortable talking about it with your health care provider?

Ask for pronouns
Ask how the patient is doing
Ask for consent before touching
All of the above