Doctors, Nurses Use Alternative Medicine More than Other Workers
The next time you visit one of your doctors, ask if they use alternative or complementary medicine. According to a new study, 76 percent of healthcare workers say they use CAM (complementary and alternative medicine), compared with 63 percent of the general working public.
Alternative medicine use is on the rise
Results of the new study, published in Health Services Research, may surprise some patients, who may be upset that their doctors are prescribing medications while they themselves may be turning to alternative means. Joya Lynn-Schoen, MD, a psychiatrist who practices alternative medicine, noted in a release from Health Behavior News Service that “as insiders, health care workers understand what’s missing in our medical system. They’re more educated than others about orthodox and alternative medicine.”
The study surveyed 14,329 working adults, of whom less than 10 percent (1,280) were health care workers in four categories: doctors and nurses, technicians, nursing assistants and other support workers, and administrative personnel. Both doctors and nurses were more than twice as likely to have gone to a CAM practitioner during the previous year, and nearly three times as likely to have self-treated with CAM than support workers.
The study’s authors considered CAM practitioners who offered therapies such as acupuncture, massage, chelation, biofeedback, and chiropractic, as well as self-treatment CAM, including meditation, herbal remedies, Pilates, and a vegetarian diet. Overall, 36 different CAM approaches used by the National Health Interview Survey were considered.
The most common reason healthcare workers gave for seeking CAM was general wellness (67.8%), and the least common reason was that conventional medical care was too expensive (3.9%). What conditions are healthcare workers treating with CAM? The authors found that back, neck, and joint pain were the ailments for which they visited CAM practitioners or chose other CAM options, while anxiety was the condition they most often choose to self-treat.
Use of alternative and complementary medicine is growing and increasingly making its way into mainstream health facilities. According to the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey of Hospitals, the percentage of hospitals that offer CAM increased from 8.6 percent in 1998 to 20.8 percent in 2007. In addition, a growing number of medical and nursing schools are incorporating CAM into their curriculums.
Lori Knutson, one of the study’s co-authors and executive director of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing with Allina Hospitals and Clinics in Minneapolis, noted that health care workers turn to alternative medicine for conditions that conventional medicine does not treat satisfactorily, which is also why other workers make the same choice.
Knutson also admitted that “we may be opening Pandora’s box by disclosing utilization of CAM by conventional providers.” However, she would rather believe that the use of alternative medicine by doctors, nurses, and other health care providers “will create an opening for both provider and patient in optimizing health for the whole person.”
Health Behavior News Service/Johnson PJ et al. Health Services Research 2011 August
Henkel G. Growth spurt: complementary and alternative medicine use doubles. The Hospitalist 2010
Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons