Do patients have a culture?

Well, here I am. I’m writing a post.

I have recently embarked on reviving my career in osteopathy. This is a good thing for several reasons, most of all because i really missed seeing patients. Really.

The upshot is that I am now with the OSD (Osteopathieschule Deutschland) in Berlin and an advantage (if you can call it that) of me being there is that I get to experience patients who aren’t, well, British.

I have only seen a few people in Berlin and I find it all very interesting so I thought I’d share a few of my observations.

Osteopathic students on either side of the channel always strike me as the most difficult patients. Not because they are horrible or non-compliant or whatever, they uniformly seem to suffer from virtually unrecognisable disorders that change every time you see them. There will be dysfunction but nothing that points you to anything really tangible and either way it’ll disappear ere long. It can be very dissatisfying.

The German patients I have seen so far are very generous with information. They will tell you almost anything. I feel the form the students use is designed to make them ask the same things over and over. Patients are asked about trauma and previous operations and illnesses. I try to be rigorous with how much information I’ll allow into my case history because especially in the beginning it can be confusing.

The students here seem to meander and fill out their form still. They will discuss the injury in detail and then ask AGAIN for previous trauma and again for musculo-skeletal complaints. I think this is because patients will indeed come in with complaints that aren’t musculo-skeletal in nature. I find this quite scary. Or perhaps unsettling.

My first patient today fairly provocatively and openly mentioned childhood abuse. Another patient discussed her sex life (sort of) without prompting.

They will come and expect treatment but for what. I’m not in a position to treat their psychic trauma as much as I would like to… well, to tell the truth, I don’t want to do this much. Knowing myself, I would take things very personal and burden myself with someone else’s problems.

Either way, British patients have rarely ‘burdened’ me with this kind of revelation. I don’t recall EVER discussing sex life with a patient – prompted or unprompted. I had a patient I discussed his marriage with. I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with this either (I’m not married) but I felt that it was good he opened up to me in this way and it needed honouring.

I’m interested in how much detail our German patients provide, how much they seem soul-searching when answering. Like, it is important I’m not being lied to. The British often seemed perpetually embarrassed about even wanting to be there. I feel the few patients now are much more confident.

I wonder if a more specific ‘person’ will emerge over time or whether patients will just be patients and they will form a category like that.


About guardienne

I am an osteopathic student.
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