Norma is part of cohort of nursing students traveling and studying in Thailand. Learn more about OHSU Global Southeast Asia. Read about the recent trip to Thailand in this exchange
Close your eyes…Now imagine yourself in a sauna and you’re profusely sweating. Your pores open, you breathe in, and it’s like breathing in nothing but steam. Now imagine you have stepped out of the sauna and have proceeded into the showers. Your body cools down, you towel off and you have now returned to your air conditioned room. You now feel refreshed, relaxed and energized all at the same time. You think to yourself, “Wow, I feel great!” – This has just described how I felt everyday while in Thailand. Yes, it was very hot and very humid, however, it was a good feeling over all. What made it even better was remembering why I was there in the first place – for an amazing learning experience!
This opportunity offered a basic understanding of the current healthcare system in Thailand. We resided in Bangkok and visited outlying areas that surrounded the city. The visit and presentation at the Ministry of Public Health was a fundamental source of information, that allowed for greater insight into their healthcare system and infrastructure. The healthcare reform goals were shared with us, and one that stood out the most was the integration of Traditional Thai Medicine (TTM).
This was amazing! I am a strong believer in the utilization of complementary medicine and Thailand recognizes its benefits, enough so to integrate it into their healthcare system and encourage providers nationwide to refer patients to Traditional Thai Medicine practitioners, who prescribe herbal therapies, as well as massage therapy that has been practiced for over a thousand years. I have found that here in the U.S. it has been a challenge to include Traditional Chinese Medicine practices, such as acupuncture into services covered by health insurance companies. Often these therapies are more expensive and deter people from using them.
We then continued our tour to the Institute of Traditional Thai Medicine, which was located near the Ministry of Public Health in Bangkok. There we received a presentation from the lead Pharmacist who reported on the extensive research supporting the benefits of the herbal medicines utilized in TTM. Their research would help them produce and patent the products for utilization and export. Throughout their presentation they educated us on the many plants and roots with benefits for muscle pain, inflammation, peptic ulcers and respiratory support. The presenter expressed the importance of listening to the patient and their families in regards to home remedies used. She presented the case of a man who had eaten puffer fish, which can release a deadly toxin if not prepared properly. The doctors could not help the man with the treatments available in the hospital, however, the family told them about a plant that was known to be an antidote. This local flowering plant is known as Laurel clockvine. A tea is made out of its leaves and consumed. This treatment was unknown to the attending physicians, and so they allowed the family to bring in the plant and produce the tea for the patient. There was nothing else they could do for him and he was surely heading for death had the physicians not allowed the tea. Because of this the patient’s life was saved! There are 50 traditional medicines and single herbal preparations from 21 plants in the national list of Essential Medicines. Not only has their initiative to integrate the use of alternative and complimentary medicines into the current healthcare system shown to benefit the Thai people, it has also shown to be cost effective.
It would be interesting to reach out to the Native American community here in the U.S. to find out more about the healing practices, and further research the benefits of the native plants found in our country.
A holistic approach in the nursing profession encompasses many benefits in the care provided and the patient’s health outcomes. A holistic approach must also include the use of patient centered care, which involves actively listening to your patient in regards to their beliefs, needs, and knowledge. It is looking at your patient as a whole and not as the illness they present with. It means to involve and encourage the patient in their own care. These are all key factors for positive outcomes when implementing a care plan. Therefore, this experience has demonstrated the importance of listening to the patient and their family when it comes to their own care, as they may harbor key information that can ultimately save their life.
Within Thailand’s wealth in beauty and culture lies the compassion and drive to provide modalities of wellness for the benefit of its population.