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Nell Smircina: An Acupuncturist’s Perspective on Healthcare

On this episode of the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast with Rob Oliver, Dr. Nell Smircina shares an acupuncturist’s perspective on healthcare. Dr. Nell is a millennial who works in Beverly Hills, California. She is the president of the California State Oriental Medicine Association.

Here are 3 things that I picked up from Nell Smircina’s answers to the Perspectives on Healthcare Podcast questions:

· Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine can work in conjunction with Western medicine
· Quality healthcare comes from patients making informed decisions
· Communication is the key to making a healthcare team work

You can learn more about and acupuncturist’s perspective on healthcare through Nell Smircina’s website and social media or through the California State Oriental Medicine Association.

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Here is the transcript of “Nell Smircina: An Acupuncturist’s Perspective on Healthcare” —

Rob Oliver: Welcome, welcome to perspectives on health care, thank you for being with me today my guest is Dr Nell supersede she is an integrative acupuncturist she is a Generation Y Member, and she joins me. Dr Nell thanks for being with me.

Dr. Nell Smircina: Thank you so much for having me I think that’s the first time anyone’s reference me being in gen y, but I will take it.

Rob Oliver: Well, so one of the things that I am looking at here on the podcast is to see as people provide different perspectives, we’re looking, of course, at different roles, we’re looking at different areas of experience, but I am wondering, okay, do the different generations look at healthcare and look at things differently and I can’t help but think, yes, however it’s all going to be in how we look at things and how you share what your perspective is so let’s just jump right into it, can you tell me a little bit about yourself and about your role in healthcare.

Dr. Nell Smircina: Absolutely, and I think you’re on the right track about things being different generationally we’re seeing a lot of exciting changes in healthcare so I’m excited to be on this podcast contributing to the conversation with you. Just a little bit about me I actually started out in undergrad thinking, I was going to go down the route of Western medicine, I was very interested in becoming a surgeon, I did Pre MED and started looking into physical therapy and, as I started working I was seeing some gaps in care when it came to physical therapy and there was more I wanted to do for patients and started learning a little bit more about integrative medicine, which is time was you know, a term most people didn’t know. There was an acupuncturist in my office and I tried acupuncture for the first time, which contributed to the healing of my own chronic debilitating pain from gymnastics injuries and I was looking to expand my scope of practice and be able to talk to patients about things beyond exercises they needed to be doing, I wanted to be able to talk about stress and sleep and diet and how all of those factors contribute to your overall health. So acupuncture and traditional medicine was a great fit came out to California, which happens to have the best education in this country for that medicine and have been loving it ever since I did my masters and doctorate there ran a teaching clinic for the master’s program started a private practice, and now I do a lot of work in advocacy. I think it’s so important that people are well informed about their care and the options that they have and I would love nothing more than to see acupuncture as part of the standard of care, I work with a lot of post-surgical patients who need acupuncture right after a surgery so there’s definitely a need just about getting the word out there and helping to educate.

Rob Oliver: Yeah, I love it. So, what does quality healthcare mean to you?

Dr. Nell Smircina: Quality healthcare to me is about patients having the ability to make informed decisions and those informed decisions come from education, on behalf of health care providers and so that looks like health care providers being on the same page and being very aware of the different options that are available, I don’t believe that you as a health care provider is I can’t be everything to everyone and it’s important to be aware of what other specialties are doing what other practitioners are doing and how they can benefit patients.

Rob Oliver: It’s the importance of the team concept is that what you’re saying.

Dr. Nell Smircina: Absolutely yeah, the team is everything I you know, being in the La area in California it’s a very familiar concept this idea of a care team and that could include a lot of different practitioners in many different disciplines.

Rob Oliver: Okay, just beings you’re based in Beverly Hills I’m assuming the first person on the list in every team has to be a plastic surgeon, but that’s just stereotypical. Can you give me an example of quality healthcare?

Dr. Nell Smircina: Yeah, um I mean I do work with surgeons a lot and yeah plastic surgery is one of the things out there. But you know a lot of my patients will see an orthopedic surgeon because they have something that actually needs to be taken care of with surgery, they’ll be seeing me for acupuncture also for more of a holistic supplementation approach with their recovery they might be seeing a chiropractor a physical therapist and then a lot of times a neurologist will get involved either before the fact after the fact, and actually having all of these providers communicating with each other, not having the patient in a position where they go to each one and have to you know reinvent the wheel and figure out the care for themselves, but there’s actually a structured guidance around that whole process, so they do feel, like all their bases are covered, and this team of people is they’re all with the common goal of getting them better.

Rob Oliver: How do you foster that that team communication, so that the patient isn’t kind of the hub in the wheel that there’s got to be some other communication form.

Dr. Nell Smircina: Yeah, you know it takes a lot of work, and I think this is part of the issue we have with why this isn’t more common and why everyone isn’t doing this. I’ve had to on my own as a provider seek out other providers who have a similar patient demographic who are interested in elevated level of patient care and try to put that care team together so, then the patient is the one isn’t the one who’s going out trying to figure out Oh well, Now let me look out for physical therapist. You know they are well aware of what the processes, because I can tell them don’t worry, whatever your needs are I have those trusted referrals for you and I talked to these people on a regular basis, their colleagues of mine. I trust them we’ve worked together with patients in the past, but it absolutely does take a little bit of extra effort or more communication and an extra bandwidth to foster those relationships.

Rob Oliver: Such a such an interesting concept and one it’s not widely practiced I don’t believe. What do you wish people understood about your role in healthcare?

Dr. Nell Smircina: So, I’ll talk from an acupuncture specific area, you know I do a lot of different things within the integrative medicine space, and I like fostering those relationships, but I think there’s a lot of misconception, particularly around acupuncture specifically and you know this idea that you know somehow there’s not enough research or it’s not evidence based, like all of that is false. I wish that you know we were a little more ahead, like some other countries are you know we like to feel like we’re the leaders in the US and, unfortunately, there are other countries that are really passing us by when it comes to health care so from my perspective, as a licensed acupuncturist I would love to see others understanding the role that that can play in a patient’s recovery and overall health. In California acupuncture is actually primary care so you don’t need a referral to go to an acupuncturist you’re able to seek out an acupuncturist on your own and, you know, we’re trained on how to properly refer when that’s necessary and which specialist to do that with so it’s more than just pain relief that’s usually how people get introduced to acupuncture. But I describe it as an adapted genetic modality it basically supports the body stress system and that’s why you get a list of 100 conditions from the WHO that acupuncture can address, because if you’re helping support the body’s natural response to stress that means anything that’s introduced as a stressor.

Rob Oliver: Okay. I think the phrase you said was an adaptive modality, is that.

Dr. Nell Smircina: Adaptogenic.

Rob Oliver: Yeah, adaptogenic modality, all right, give me something to look up once we are done with the interview. What excites you about the future of healthcare?

Dr. Nell Smircina: Well, being blessed to be in California, for the last nine years I hear from all of my colleagues, all over the US that we are like eight to 10 years the rest of the country when it comes to setting trends in healthcare, so I am seeing it become more interdisciplinary more collaborative I actually think something really wonderful that came out of the last year and a half, with the pandemic is it exposed our weaknesses and our inability to see our blind spots when it came to patient care and things got very clear and very simple really quickly and everyone had to kind of reinvent the wheel and say what does my patient experience look like and how can I better bring value during this time and I see a lot of that continuing I think you’re going to see a lot of practices, who are going to maintain at least a hybrid model of you know, having virtual options, having better built outpatient portals, so there is a better streamline of communication with patients, and you are seeing a lot of research come up. Again, I wish it was more in the US, but there was a great you know CNN article out of China that they’re training 100,000 traditional medicine practitioners with acupuncture and herbs to address you know long haulers and issues with coven, so I think people are just looking for more creative solutions and that’s what excites me because it will get more practitioners involved in the patient experience.

Rob Oliver: Yeah, makes so much sense what is one thing, medical professionals can start doing today to improve the quality of healthcare.

Dr. Nell Smircina: I would say, get feedback from your patients about their experience. You know, sometimes we shy away from feedback. We you know might know something’s off or something’s wrong and we don’t really want to get into it or feel like we don’t have time addressing it but for making these decisions were making them in a vacuum and it’s really important to have that outreach with your patient rather it’s one on one or whether you do an office survey something of that sort, to ask your patients about their experience what would they like to see, you know, what would they want to improve upon what did they really like about their experience and you’ll find out a surprising amount of information, the feedback that you will get beyond just what goes on, when you’re in a treatment room with that you might find out information about your staff or your portal, or just how the patient feels when they walk in the door, and then you can use that data to make informed decisions about improving your practice and the patient experience.

Rob Oliver: It’s a great suggestion. Okay, I try and usually stick to my six questions but I’m wondering because acupuncture is typically associated with coming from China, and right now there is some angst about everything Chinese, is that, are you finding that that impacts people’s understanding and people’s willingness to do acupuncture or is it are people discovering it and being like, “I don’t really care where it comes from if it helps me.”

Dr. Nell Smircina: Oh, you know, actually, we get more pushback when it comes to herbal medicine and that relationship, which is a very integral part of the entire system that acupuncture is part of. But when it comes to acupuncture specifically you know professional athletes are getting acupuncture  it’s becoming more mainstream it’s going to be the first the first modality that gets introduced out of the entire system of traditional medicine right now, the WHO is working on double coatings it will be code specific to traditional medicine so acupuncture with that relationship has not been as much of a concern sourcing of herbs and things like that have certainly been more of a concern, particularly in the last year and a half but you know in in Europe, for example, acupuncturists are going to school to become medical doctors for five years and then they do acupuncture training on top of that, and it’s like widely respected heavily researched. So, the acupuncture specifically I haven’t seen that that’s as much of an issue, I just wish more people knew about it.

Rob Oliver: Fantastic, well today is the first step in in this particular audience learning more about acupuncture. Nell Smircina, thank you so much for being here today, I really appreciate you sharing your perspective on health care.

Dr. Nell Smircina: Thank you so much for having me and allowing me to contribute to that important discussion.

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