Interning as a Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine is a fascinating experience. Finding and committing to the program initiates a personal journey into healing. During the 4 years of studying acupuncture and herbs, life happens. There are pregnancies, births, deaths and divorces. There are illnesses and wrong way turns. Students transfer, drop out, and move away, in the end leaving just a few of us barely hanging on. Interestingly, this is one aspect of the journey that no one will reveal. We all know we could fall prey to it at any time, and even whisper about it sometimes under our voices like the taboo subject it is (if we say too much we may upset the gods of learning), so its kind of understood we help each other through the obstacles where we can and allow the rest to happen.
The other incredible aspect of this experience is being an observer to the patients. Observing is the primary aspect of interning, in which one shadows a doctor or 4th Year student as they treat patients. Sounds easy? Boring? It’s exactly the opposite. Interns are the canary in the coal mine. They see what is not seen. Interns tend to get overwhelmed by the suffering and illness present and fall prey to all kinds of strange events – fainting, nausea, coughing fits, hot flashes – all acute symptoms that were not present before they entered the treatment room, and disappear shortly after they leave the treatment room. It takes time to assimilate the energy of ill people and not have it affect you. After a year of seeing patients as an observer I still experience the wave of illness as it spreads out to reach my senses, scrambling desperately to disengage just enough to let it pass through my body and not stay with me. It is a true art, in which the desire is to use this process to grasp the information needed to treat the patient, and then in the form of the acupuncture treatment, giving them the space to allow healing to happen.