I still remember what our lecturer told us in our first class of the Chinese Medicine programme at IMU in 2011. “The journey of Traditional Chinese Medicine is not easy. In fact, it only starts when you graduate.” she said. I’m from the 2011 cohort of IMU’s Chinese Medicine programme and after three years of studies at IMU, I transferred to RMIT University in 2014 before finally graduating in December 2015. After completing my final year at RMIT University in Melbourne, I decided to join the workforce, taking into consideration that it would be too costly for me to do a PhD as an international student. However, I do not regret making this decision because I have learnt so much through working together with other practitioners and seeing patients of my own. I believe that gaining knowledge through working is as good as gaining knowledge through studying and my journey begins in Perth, Australia. The reason for settling down in Australia is simple. The pathway to being a Chinese Medicine practitioner in Australia is very clear. Once I graduated, I applied for a license from Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), joined a Chinese Medicine Association and started practising. The system is well-regulated and this guarantees my future and the profession’s stand in the country. The process for me to get a practising license was a little bit difficult because of the English requirement that they need but I’ve managed to pass the IELTS test after a few attempts. It was quite a stressful situation as my visa was expiring and if I couldn’t find a job in time, I will not be able to stay in Australia. Another reason for staying back in Australia after my studies is the life here. I know that my chances are here, to be able to love my work and in the meantime enjoy my life. Like the saying goes: If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day. I want to have a balance in work and life and Australia is a better option. I do like a quieter life compared to the hustle and bustle in Asian cities. I am not saying the life in cities is not good, but just my preference to be laid-back. My work is just like any other professions. Although it is not an office job, I still work 9 am to 5 pm, sometimes till 6 pm or 7 pm. It might sound very ordinary and boring, but the fun part is what I encounter every day. I have the opportunity to meet different people with all sorts of health concerns.
In Chinese medicine, we do not consider patients are diseased unless they tell us they have been diagnosed with one or the other conditions. This concept is very important to help patient feel better themselves and is also crucial for them to know that we are able to help them.
One thing I love about practising here is that I can spend more time talking to my patients. We usually allocate at least 45 minutes for each patient. The time spent not only allows me to get enough information at an easy pace, not to rush into treatments, but at the same time patients can understand me more as their practitioner. They can ask questions if they have any doubts and to discuss with me their worries, building a strong rapport between us.
Let me share something interesting here. Most of you must have thought that Asians or Chinese will make up majority of my client base. Well, it is not like that at all! Local Australians are very much open to Traditional Chinese Medicine nowadays. I would say 70% of my patients are locals and they are very happy with the results that they get from me. They are also very much impressed by how the theory of Chinese Medicine implies to the nature and to our body and health. One obvious example that I always explain to my patients is how emotion affects our appetite due to the relationship of liver and spleen stomach, and this never fails to make them nod in agreement. Even though Traditional Chinese Medicine is quite acceptable in Australia, it is only to a certain extent. I have seen quite a number of people who are not willing to try any other method besides acupuncture. Some may accept herbal medicine but most of the population is not a fan of moxibustion and bleeding technique is not even an option for them to consider. With all these pre-conditions, the challenge for me is to find a way to complement those treatment methods. Hence, I managed to learn a few more needling techniques such as Dr Tan’s Balance Method which I find worked pretty well! One funny “challenge” that I have encounter so many times is the way patients looked at me when they first came into the clinic. I have to do the whole explanation when they ask me about my qualification. “Are you qualified to do this?”, “Have you graduated?”, and “How old are you?” are most of the common question I got. The saying of ‘the older the practitioner, the better skills he has’ is still the main concept in people’s mind when it comes to Traditional Chinese Medicine which I find does not necessarily apply in this time now, at least not in Australia. There are so many young practitioners I met who have deep knowledge and insights for me to learn from them. I have come so far compared to the first time I saw patient in 2014. I am lucky enough to have chosen to study in IMU. During the first 3 years in IMU, learning was so exciting. Our lecturers are amazing. Not only they are the expertise in teaching this field, they are also our friends. Although sometimes it can be tough, memorising facts and stressful exams periods, they never failed to make time easier for us by standing by our sides along the journey. I am also very lucky to some medical friends to learn alongside with. Whenever I have doubt on the medical subject, I know I can always turn to them. They helped us to understand better on certain western medicine facts, and we helped then to strengthen their memories on those topics when they did the explanation. At times when we are all at doubt, we would seek answer from our friendly medical lecturers. This is the advantage that you can only have if you study in a medical university. Before I get too lengthy in this writing, I would like to give two important messages to those who are interested and would like to pursue in Traditional Chinese Medicine. First, the knowledge in this field is so vast and probably I would say endless. So you have to make sure you have the passion to keep learning and know no boundary in seeking knowledge.
Secondly, which I think is a very important reminder, do not use this profession as a money making tool. Being a Chinese medicine practitioner is not about making lots of money, that’s the basic of medical ethics. I would definitely say this is a career that will make you rich in heart rather than rich in your pocket. I could never regret choosing this path because this career is hugely rewarding and has given me sense of accomplishment in life.
Written by Goh Huay Ing