It has been such a learning experience to see Dr Bi's needling and massage techniques, choice of points, and how he manipulates necks and backs. But the lasting impression that I have of this bustling clinic is its beautiful communal atmosphere. Photos cannot capture this special quality.
For starters, the patients come everyday so they get to know each other and the doctors and students well. They spend a lot of time getting treated with acupuncture, massage, cupping, guasha (scraping the skin, especially of the back), and electro therapy, usually staying there 2-3 hours at a time. So there is a lot of time to talk, and talk they do!
They talk about how they are feeling and how their treatments are going. They inquire about each other's family, especially their children. When there is a new patient, they are listening to what's going on (because the consultation with the doctor is happening in front of everyone). And they probably talk about us, the foreign students who are here to absorb as much of Dr Bi's Chinese medicine knowledge as possible in the time that we have.
This morning was particularly beautiful. Dr Bi was alone in the clinic with about six patients. For some reason his students and junior doctors were late to come in, so he had to look after patients by himself. I noticed that the son of a woman patient (he accompanies his mum every day) was helping hook up one lovely older lady to an electro therapy machine -- I guess because he is in the clinic with his mum so often, he knows from observing what to do!
It is such a stark contrast to how acupuncture is administered in the UK, where you normally treat one patient at a time in individual treatment rooms. I will really miss the happy and healing atmosphere in the outpatient clinics here in Heilongjiang University of Chinese Medicine. Maybe I can recreate this by working in a multi-bed clinic back home?