Who’s the Expert?

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I’ve been reading a book called “Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science” by Atul Gawande.  It’s something I’ve been looking for for awhile.  It asks the question, “How can we as health care providers, admit that we’re still learning, still practicing…even though people’s quality of life, and sometimes even their lives, depend on our being experts…on us being the best that we can be?”  


I’m happy that no one will die from poor quality manual therapy, but still an individual’s quality of life can be affected, pain can be prolonged or other activity limitations could have consequences on a client’s family or their job.  


I’ve always found the pull between needing to know everything I can know, and admitting that I’m still learning to be acutely uncomfortable.  But the truth is that I am still learning. Moreover, I think that if I’m doing this right I will always be still learning.


It was very comforting to me to have all these things talked about with empathy and insight.  How and when do we practice? How can we become the best at what we do if not through practice?  It would be nice to emerge from school as omniscient, but unfortunately there is a lot more learning to be done.


The more that doctors and other health-care providers are seen as being just as human as we all are, the more natural it will become to adopt a truly collaborative relationship.  A relationship in which the individual client or patient…and the doctor, can recognise that each has something of value to contribute.


The client knows what they are experiencing.  They know its location and what it feels like.  They know how it’s impacting their lives. They know how it responds to movement and what sorts of things reproduce the symptoms.  They know how it responds to a treatment. They know the outcome they are hoping for.


The hired helper (the health care provider) knows the anatomy and physiology and the other elements of their sphere, and how to apply those things in a way that fits the condition and the patients needs.


If we can take what you know and what I know and work together we can find a path forward through all kinds of daunting and difficult situations.


That’s the essence of a collaborative healing relationship.

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