01 December 2007 at 12:50
As I began my working life as a nurse, I’ve been asked for my thoughts on the relevance for nurses of training in homeopathy.
I didn’t discover homeopathy until many years after training as a nurse, and I often remember patients who would have benefited from such treatment had they only received it. Holistic therapies in hospital are not yet used on a daily basis, but pilots in the NHS have taken place and results are promising.
Nurses and homeopaths I think are quite similar. Of course, a homeopath offers healing advice and prescribes homeopathic medicines, while a nurse takes care of the sick, yet we both are keen observers of our patients, watching for changes, listening to our patients’ stories. We stand alongside them on their healing journey and help when we can. We are supporters and hopefully, empowerers. When a person feels empowered, their treatment is on course and they have a better chance of returning to health.
After I began my next career as mother, after my third pregnancy, I discovered the NCT (national childbirth trust) and became a teacher, helping parents prepare for their families. During this baby-phase I was introduced to homeopathy by a talk given by a man who was to become highly influential in my future: Misha Norland. He had just begun his School of Homeopathy in Devon and I was so amazed by what he told us that I asked if I could interview for a place there. He spoke with such inspiration in such a “joined-up thinking” way, about pregnancy and the often missed opportunity to treat Mums and their unborn babes. It was what I had been longing for; to make sense of the symptoms doctors would put down as idiopathic. That word does not exist for the homeopath. Too often women would complain to their GPs of disturbing problems, only to be told to wait for 9 months, that nothing could be done. If a woman has a symptom in pregnancy that she has never experienced before, then this can be treated and cured. Furthermore, the likelihood would be, said Misha, that the symptom would be the baby’s, inherited from his/her father or mother, and expressed through the mother. (In our children’s clinic we have often seen such cases.) So, not only is homeopathy safe in pregnancy, it can seemingly prevent inherited problems occurring in the unborn child.
Another thing I love about homeopathy is that no opportunity is wasted. Every tiny thing about our patients is noted, from their voice, their food desires, the way they move, colours or sounds which energise them, in fact all the instinctual attributes which make them unique. These idiosyncrasies are taken note of by the homeopath, they help us to make our decisions as to what medicine to use to promote a return to health. Generally people love this level of attention, and they notice things about themselves which they may not have realised before.
As a nurse, this was what I felt we lacked; an individual assessment of patients and their needs. There would be a policy decision, e.g. colitis people were either to be given high or low residue diet. Half the patients would thrive and half would worsen. This undifferentiated approach totally frustrated me, that’s why, when the idea was introduced of treating people individually, giving good time and attention to them and their story, making sense of their past, their family history, I was very excited.
Our present form of homeopathy was begun by Samuel Hahnemann who was a doctor in Germany, living over 200 years ago, and was expressed by him with the Latin maxim,"Similia Similibus Curentur " – "Let similars be treated with similars". The system is based primarily upon the principle that the cure of a disease is achieve by medicines that are capable of producing, in a healthy individual, similar symptoms to those of the disease to be treated. This idea was stated originally by Hippocrates, but it had also been expressed by Paracelsus. All three maintained that this is a basic law of cure. Since the discoveries of Jenner and Pasteur, the medical profession has utilized a similar principle with vaccination and innoculation. But here the dose of the attenuated disease used to protect against the actual disease has not been administered in the special way that homeopaths prepare their medicines. Some would attest that this can lead to cot deaths and to a host of chronic health problems, because the dose is crude. I will return to the matter of refining the dose in a moment.
To determine the curative virtues of substances, Hahnemann suggested that they should be "proved" upon healthy persons – that is to say, they should be taken by individuals of both sexes in a controlled and supervised manner. The symptoms of the substance’s action thus produced were and are carefully recorded. So as not to kill them (some of this stuff is highly toxic), he diluted their potions in a special way. After rendering the substance into soluble form, he submitted it to a series of vigorous shakes and discovered, on the administration of these prepared remedies, that the progressive dilutions were not only less toxic but also far more potent in their healing effects. Hahnemann called this process of serial dilution followed by vigorous shaking, potentisation. This is the part which some science-based people have trouble with. However, the results spoke and continue to speak for themselves.
The principle that only the minimum and potentised dose should be employed is based upon the understanding that the stimulus of the medicine works from within the vitality and is not imposed from the outside. Only enough is administered to initiate the healing which then carries on, driven by the bodies own internal and vital processes.
There are observations about the direction of cure, introduced by a student of Hahnemann, Hering, which state that cure proceeds from within outwards, often from above downwards, and that symptoms tend to vanish in reverse order of their appearance. Over the past two hundred years more observations, principles and laws have been discovered which cover most situations, so that we can make sense of illness and understand how to reverse this trend, often bringing about cures. There is no place for random, coincidental or unrelated events in this world view of health and disease.
In twenty years of practice my passion has only grown, as has Misha’s school. It goes from strength to strength, has become one of this country’s most prestigious Colleges. It fosters an atmosphere of mutual respect, as well as knowledge of remedies and their uses. More recently supervision has been pioneered at the school and now all students, as well as having tutors and mentors, have their own personal supervisor, not only to verify their prescriptions but also to help them develop a process of reflection, to notice where they experience difficulties, to look at their reactions, and consequently help them to self-nurture (and not burn out.) This model of supervision has been taken up by other colleges and can be used in other areas. I believe that this could be a fabulous resource for all health professionals as most sick days seem to be due to stress nowadays.
Homeopathic treatment can help so much in many situations other than childbirth. Such things as Arnica for shock after accidents and major surgery and Rhus-tox to help in limbering patients up after operations – these could save the NHS millions of pounds a year. Arg-nit can be helpful for anxiety, phosphorous in cases of haemorrhage ( I have observed bleeding stopping immediately after a single dose of a phosphorous 200c), and for people nearing the end of their life where they may exhibit strange reactions (often due to medications), carefully chosen homeopathic medicines can bring relief to them and their family. After bereavement too, homeopathic medicines can really move people on where they had remained “stuck” in their grief, unable to function. We can never prescribe routinely for a condition, only specifically for the individual. And this is where paying close attention, getting alongside the patient, is especially important, and where a nurse, with experience of listening, is geared up to receive the case in a homeopathic way. I would say that having a homeopathic training can only enhance the skills of a nurse. It will deepen their understanding of themselves as well of their patients. It will put them in touch with the miraculous power of healing which resides within each of us and can be stimulated by a homeopathic medicine.
By Andrea Rogers