It shouldn’t happen to a Herbalist

As you know, I am a qualified Medical Herbalist, having studied 1995-2001 and then practising for over 10 years, with my own clinic for 3 of them. You may recall that various governments have been blowing hot-and-cold over our Statutory Regulation which would protect our title and ensure we work to high standards.

If not, you can read my posts on the subject here:

Doubts and Dilemmas
Learning to meet requirements
Herbal balance

Well here we are, well past Spring 2012 – and 2013 for that matter! – and STILL no Statutory Regulation! So once again I had the dilemma of what to do about my professional membership. This year, even finding the money to register as a non-practising member was a tall order and to be honest, I didn’t feel I gained anything from this last year.

So, I have made the decision to discontinue practising as a Herbalist and therefore to quit my membership and I feel very let down by the government over the whole business of Statutory Regulation both financially and practically.

When I first qualified in 2001 the profession was putting everything in place in preparation for SR and as such, since that time, I have been paying an extra sum of money in my annual membership fee to help this process. Well here I am in 2013 having paid my money but still we have no SR! If and when the profession DOES finally get it, I’ll have paid for it all these years,but not had the benefit. I have also spent a lot of valuable time and energy doing my part in the campaigning, as have friends, family and patients.

I expect I was not alone in feeling, once I qualified after many years hard work, that the world was just waiting for me to wow it with the miracle of herbal remedies. However, the years have ground me down and though I still believe in the power of the herbs and have confidence in my own abilities as a good practitioner I simply cannot live on pipe-dreams and am having to work full time in paid employment to keep a roof over my family’s heads. I am disgusted with the governments and their bad handling of the SR process and have no faith that we’ll ever achieve it. So as well as my clinic, I’ve let my herbal web domain go too.

During my time practising I have worked very hard to cultivate good relations with the local medical profession and in an ironic twist, I recently gave a presentation to them at the post-grad education meeting at the hospital which seemed well received. At the end I was asked how they could refer patients to me! Do I laugh or cry I wonder…. ?

Microsoft MASTER!


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Guess who has passed her last Microsoft Office exam!?! Yep! Outlook was my last one. I am now officially a Master 🙂

My journey began in November 2010 when I passed Excel core
Then I passed Word core
Then Word Expert and Excel Expert.
Then Power Point core and finally Outlook core.

I wonder what I will get up to next…..

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Back to work and Power Point

Having arrived home late on the Sunday night, it was straight back to work the next morning – though I had an odd day.

As you know, I am working towards my Microsoft Office Master qualification and it’s always difficult to book my tests on days that the IT team are at this site plus times when I don’t have a clinic to run. This first day back happened to be the first such time in months so I had booked it for my Power Point testing.

I had half an hour in my office to try and find my feet again, catch up on what was left from the previous week and organise the office and my workload ready for how I like to work. Then I went up to the IT training room and did a practise test to see if I thought I was ready for final testing. We decided that I was so I confirmed my booking for the actual test in the afternoon then went back to my office for an hour and a half to try and do some work. Having done just some of the essential work, I then returned and took my test – and a little to my surprise I passed! 🙂

I am now a Power Point Specialist and have just one more bit to do for my Master qualification – that being Outlook. I was really pleased as I wasn’t convinced I’d be able to do it, especially straight after our holiday.

Not a film star.

The IT training department asked if I would consider helping them out by being filmed for about 10 minutes for a short promotional film for the MOS course that I’ve been doing. Despite my telling them that I didn’t really like having m photo taken and wasn’t photogenic, they somehow talked me in to it.

The 10 minutes then somehow became “around 45 minutes or so” and being interviewed about the course I’d done. Erm….. too late to back out? (Of course it was!)

On the day of the filming, I nervously presented myself at the appointed time and place and was introduced to the production team! (Production team? I thought it was just a one-man-with-a-camera type thing!?!) There was the camera man, the sound man, the man doing the interviewing, a man from the exam-setting company and a man from the NHS training team. And they all sat and stared at me whilst I had to “just relax and talk normally” ! (Shame they didn’t bring a make-up lady, I might have been a little less self-conscious 😉 )

They were all really friendly people which helped, as did having one familiar face from the training department to give me moral support. Oh and I got a shiny new badge since they’ve updated the MOS badge since I got mine. However, this didn’t stop me feeling I made a pig’s ear of it and I felt as though my face was red and my throat closed up – especially when they asked me to talk louder. In the end they seemed pleased with what they got and I scuttled off, with much relief, back to work.

Just when I had come back down to earth and relaxed, I was asked if I would mind going back and being recorded doing some typing and showing my Excel skills. That actually wasn’t as bad as earlier, though we did have to think of a couple of things for me to ask the trainer to demonstrate, which again, made me a little self conscious.

They were filming a few more people at another hospital the next day so hopefully there will end up being little of me on the finished film because I’m really not convinced I came across how they wanted me to. Meanwhile the suspense ISN’T going to kill me, and this will not be the start of a new career…. 😉

Expert with Word.

Last week I sat my exam for MOS Word Expert, and somehow, passed it!

I’d finished the coursework book a couple of weeks ago but not had the chance to look at it again as we’ve been busy. I was booked in to the IT session on a certain date and since the trainers only come to our hospital once a month, I decided I’d still go, and I’d ask to do a practice test and go from there.

I did the practice test which I found fairly hard – partly as I’d forgotten a couple of things and partly because about 1/3 of the questions had not been covered in the coursework. Of those, I could work out how to do most of them, but a couple were beyond me, and I had to ask how to do them.

At the end of the practice, I felt I probably wasn’t ready for the actual exam and said so to the trainers. However, they talked me into having a go as they thought I WAS ready. So, with a bit of doubt still, I went for it.

Just as I started, I realised I should have gone to the loo first and then the first two questions had me at a loss – not a great omen! I skipped those two (you can come back to them later if there’s time) and carried on with the rest of the exam – fortunately, the rest being fine. At the end, I had just under 2 minutes to go back to the two questions I skipped and I managed to complete the half of each that I COULD do, leaving the other half un-done.

I told the trainers I’d finished but that I didn’t think I’d have passed and why. I wasn’t even nervous as the computer calculated my score as I was convinced I’d failed. So I was in shock when it said I’d passed!

YAY! Word Expert now completed……. and onto Excel Expert…… yikes!

I’m a Specialist!

I know I’m behind with my blogging and don’t worry, I’ll catch up, but I just had to stick this post on TODAY!

Today I have passed my Microsoft Office Specialist Excel exam – rather against my expectations – and I am over the moon.

It took several weeks to complete the course and then the exam was quite hard and I had to bluff a couple of questions,(financial formulae are where I struggle most) but I got a decent mark and passed. It feels like such an achievement – and let’s not forget to mention that I get a certificate and a little shiny MOS badge 🙂

I’m feeling very pleased with myself today and I’m pleased for my manager too, who encouraged me to do it and has covered clinics for me so I could do the work.

Working on Word now.

All about the girl.

Nel has had a busy summer:

With her Peppy Paws dog walking and pet sitting service – she has a regular dog walk most days and she has had a couple of holiday customers. She’s looked after : dogs, cats, rabbits, fish and chickens so far. She even brought home the eggs (at the behest of the owner!) from the chickens so we all got to enjoy them 🙂

With a travel – to Manchester for a couple of days to see her dad who was over on a visit from the Falkland Islands, and then to Chester for a week to look after the cat and the house for mum whilst she was away. Her good friend in Chester also stayed with her so they got to play house and catch up with all their news which was nice. She quite enjoyed both of these trips but she said she really does miss home when she’s away and sleeps better in her own bed, so I think she’s a home-loving little thing over all.

With results – she got her AS (in R.E) result, though she wasn’t overly eager as she knew she’d failed. She really struggled at school as you may recall, and she was away from school more than she was there. In the end, the school decided not to enter her for the Philosophy exam and she’d already given up Sociology and Art. On the day of the exam, she worked hard towards the first paper but was taken aback when handed the second paper immediately after finishing the first. She had thought that would be at another time and hadn’t done as much work for it, and was struggling with concentration by then. She felt she’d done well with the first paper but dreadfully with the second. When she got her result, this was reflected by grades A and E respectively. Happily though, the two combined to give her an over all grade of C. A pass! 🙂 She was so very surprised but eventually accepted that it was an amazing achievement. (Well done darling, we’re very proud. Wish we could afford to splash out and treat you, but we can’t yet. I.O.U! )

With Connexions – given that Peppy Paws doesn’t yet bring in a proper regular wage, and that Nel’s not going back to school / education this month she went to the local Connexions office for advice. With her leaving full time education, we will lose Child Benefits and Child Tax Credit, and I anticipate her dad will also stop contributing to her upkeep, as he did when Stephen left school. We already have no income bar a nominal amount, from Stephen as he’s on the dole, and we’re struggling to keep maintaining the kids as it is. I was also worrying about her own tax record and National Insurance contributions if there wasn’t some clear record to show her income and employment history for this period. Happily Connexions advised her that we can continue getting Child Benefit for her until she’s 18 as she is registered with Connexions. After this, she will be entitled to claim some small amount of benefit if she hasn’t got a full wage coming in. We’ll still struggle, but this will soften the blow slightly and it means her own records will be kept straight. She is looking for work now – along with her brother, and the millions of others who can’t find any!

What has been good to see is how much happier in herself Nel is now she’s left school. She really has hated school all her life and he is already looking more relaxed and confident. She’s been confidently catching buses when she’s wanted to go somewhere and she has a really nice seeming boy as a friend. I always said, from her being a little baby, that she needed to grow into herself. She’s not quite there yet, but I think she IS getting there. 🙂

I can’t wait until we have some money because I really want to take her out for a girly day, buying her clothes, spoiling her rotten, like the beautiful young lady she’s become deserves.

Peppy Paws.

As you may recall, Nel has been desperate for part time work for some time now, and particularly since she was told that she can have a dog if she pays for its upkeep, so she has been applying for quite a few jobs. Sadly she rarely gets any response at all, never mind an actual job (this seems to be the norm these days and is very rude and unprofessional, in my opinion.)

Being a determined little thing, she’s now decided that if she can’t get an existing job, she’ll create one herself! Good for her! 🙂

She has therefore set up her own dog walking and small pet sitting service within Hexham and already has her first client. She now walks Max, a 7 year old Labrador, three times a week for 45 minutes each time – and loves it! She’s called her business “Peppy Paws” as she liked the alliteration and “peppy” being another word for “happy” – and she expects to be peppy herself with her love (and experience) of animals to back her.

To support her, Billy donated his mobile phone, and we lent her the money for the first top up on the SIM for it, giving her a separate business number. I have created her a sub-domain of my business website and Stephen wrote her a page on it – just a basic page for now but more detail can be added as and when needed. I also designed (and paid for!) some business cards and a large T-shirt to wear over her normal clothes whilst working so she can spread word that she’s there. I’ve told her the basics of running a business and keeping accounts, so now the next thing is to get herself sorted with insurance and she is on her way 🙂

I don’t know if this will take off for her but we’re very proud of her for trying and for being prepared to work for what she wants. We know she will be reliable and responsible, and hopefully this can become the job she truly loves. Now let’s hope she gets the business she wants and can make it a full time job when she leaves school in summer after sitting her AS exams.

Doubts and Dilemmas!

You may recall that Medical Herbalists have been recommended for Statutory Regulation by a Select Committee of the House of Lords and that the government is backtracking and considering ignoring that recommendation. This resulted in us all having to take valuable time to campaign for this much needed regulation – towards which we have all been paying an annual charge on top of our usual professional membership for the last several years. (Approx 20% a year on top of our membership, so that our colleagues could work with various other health and government bodies to implement the scheme.)

This week I received a communication from my professional body saying:

Urgent Call For Action

Reading the runes it seems likely that Andy Burnham (Secretary of State for Health) is close to making a decision on our regulation and is minded to do so before the election.

Two worrying matters have cropped up. Firstly, Mr. Burnham has received a petition against our regulation that purports to be signed by 2,500 “herbalists”. This is obviously bogus but may be used as an excuse for not awarding statutory regulation. Secondly, we understand that he is seriously considering opting for a so-called “light touch licensing scheme”. I have no doubt that this would spell catastrophe for us – as anything short of statutory regulation will threaten the livelihood of our suppliers, lower our status as a profession, inhibit developments in herbal education and severely dent our practices.

In the light of this we are asking that all members make one final push to fight for our case. We need to overwhelm Mr. Burnham with letters from real herbalists saying that we are committed to statutory regulation and that only statutory regulation will do. To this end we are asking that you please write to Mr. Burnham TODAY or at the latest by the beginning of next week and that you copy your letter to your MP.

So……. more work then. Why on earth can’t the government just make a decision (they did, in 2000!) and stick to it?! For the life of me, I cannot work out what there is to lose by giving us statutory regulation! It’s not money – the HPC seems confident it can incorporate us into their existing professions easily enough – and we’ve worked for the last few years, to make sure we fulfil their criteria. It’s not the public – regulation would protect them from charlatans who have not undertaken the years of training and commitment to high standards of practice that we have. It’s not the manufacturers of herbal supplies – once the new EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive comes into effect in the UK in 2011 many products will only be obtainable from Medical Herbalists as long as we get our statutory regulation, so it is in their interests for us to get it. The only people I can think of who would have cause to worry about us being regulated are any charlatans out there, who are practising as Medical Herbalists without appropriate qualifications or insurance. Or am I missing something?

Anyway, on top of all this…..

It is that time of year when our professional fees are due to our professional bodies, and insurances due for renewal. In my case, that’s £305 I have to find. Find being the operative word, as we are broke!

However, if we are not going to get our Statutory Regulation, I don’t see how I can continue to practice – it’d be like trying to run a surgery using a first aid kit. My patients are worth more than that. My profession is worth more than that. I am worth more than that.

So my dilemma – do I find the £305 or not? Will I just be wasting money I can ill afford? I wondered if other Medical Herbalists were having the same dilemma and which way they were leaning. When I asked, the response I received from one quarter was that if I was committed to being a Herbalist, I would renew.

I was incensed! IF I am committed? IF? I trained for 5 years, costing thousands of pounds (career development loan), required help from various friends and family to help babysit ( I was a single parent of toddlers!) so I could attend training. I then had to pass loads of exams complete with final clinical exam in London on a day when I was very ill and could barely think or speak and should have been in bed. Then I had to apply for membership to my professional body – and pay the fees each year. As with most herbalists, I work to supplement my business as it’s not a high earning profession but obviously this then means juggling two jobs. I mainly buy my herbal supplies out of my own pocket. I work hard to earn all my “Brownie points” for my Continuing Professional Development every year. I work hard at fostering good relations with the local medical profession and I give talks to them to promote my profession and educate them about it – and am making good progress here. I give my patients 100% of my attention and expertise and I work hard to keep my clinic open for them despite my commitments to my other job and my family.

IF I AM COMMITTED ENOUGH?!

Did I really spend the majority of my adult life on a vocation which I love, a calling not just a job, to be accused of not being sufficiently committed? Is having to scrabble every year for enough money for memberships and insurances – and yes, charges for Statutory Regulation too – not deemed commitment?

Do I really want to keep at this?

Honest answer – yes! It’s what I love – and I’m good at it! (Sorry if this is boasting, but I am. If there’s such a thing as reincarnation, then in all my past lives I would have been a healer, wise woman, doctor or somesuch – it’s a part of my very being.) I want to carry on doing what I do best. I want us to get the Regulation. I want to find the money. But what’s the government going to do – will it all be for nothing in the end?