Last week, I went to a talk by Louise "Lou" Edwards, ND, one of the elders in the naturopathic profession and a faculty member at NUHS. We talked a lot about compliance, and what to do when patients don't follow our recommendations.
As always, prevention is key. When coming up with treatment plans, it's important to check in with the patient if they are willing and able to make the recommended changes and to strategize solutions to any obstacles that may come up. That way, the patient has the opportunity to vocalize if they don't think they are able or willing to do it so that an alternative plan can be selected instead, or so that they feel equipped with tools to overcome obstacles.
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When patients return for a follow-up visit, Dr. Lou likes to start the visit by asking them what changes they've implemented and when, before moving on to "how are you feeling.” When a patient hasn't made changes, she talks with them in a non-judgmental manner to figure out the reason. For example, for dietary changes, was it because of finances, not knowing how to cook, fear of never being able to eat the food again, or something else?
Being non-judgmental was stressed. We should be the patient's naturopathic doctor, cheerleader, coach, and supporter, not their judge. Telling them this over and over and teaching them that they are accountable to their own body will help them connect the dots between their choices and how they feel physically and mentally.
Having Dr. Lou's perspective is valuable because it helps us learn the art of medicine. Knowing the medicine is important, but knowing how to talk with and work with patients is just as important!