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Seeing the Whole Person: Oriental Medicine Practitioner Spotlight

Something is missing in Western medicine, and Debra J. Bebell, AP, RN, BSN, knows it.

And well she should -- the 42-year-old has been a critical care nurse for over 25 years, affording her a unique perspective on wellness.

"When the specialists would come through, they were only concerned with their part and not the whole person," she says of her experience working in intensive care.

That approach didn't cut it for Bebell. So she enrolled in the Florida Institute for Traditional Chinese Medicine (St. Petersburg), completed a three-year degree program, and has had her own Largo, FL-based practice ever since.

An acupuncture physician practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine, Bebell believes she's exactly where she's meant to be. "I appreciate the holistic perspective," she says. "Traditional Chinese Medicine takes everything into account during the evaluation. The practice is not only symptom-related -- Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the whole person. It's a much broader practice than just pain management."

The Practice
So what does the work of an Oriental medicine practitioner entail? Bebell is usually in her office from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., seeing five to eight patients each day. New patients are scheduled for two hours, and repeat clients for an hour -- much more time than typically allotted by Western medicine practitioners.

But that's part of the lure of this field. "I treat one patient at a time so my full focus is on them," affirms Bebell. "I never want to get complacent about my practice."

She does have regular patients, and they're able to benefit from the numerous aspects of life that an Oriental medicine practitioner can address. "Each time they come in there are different things affecting them, and that's important to take into consideration," she says. "Increased stress, family company, anniversaries of deaths in the family, upcoming trips, change in medications ... many factors come into play."

Her favorite part of her work? "Seeing patients get great results from the treatments -- either brisk response or the slower progression, but enough that the patient is aware of the improvement."

The Prescription
Bebell places importance on the role of continuing education to succeed as an Oriental medicine practitioner. "Learn as much as you can. Intern with practitioners who you respect and can learn from," she advises. "Acupuncture and Chinese medicine have been around over 3,000 years. I don't think anyone along the way thought they had learned enough."

Ultimately, if you want to be an Oriental medicine practitioner, you have to be committed to complementary practices.

"I believe in Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, and I really enjoy what I do on a daily basis," affirms Bebell. "I have seen some amazing things happen."

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