Boots on the Ground: We Have a POCA Tech Grad at Our Clinic!

by Chris Rogers of Wasatch Community Acupuncture

I know it’s been said before many, many times in the POCAverse and on the forums, but it’s worth pointing out again: not every acupuncturist can be a good punk, no matter how good their intentions are. Many acupuncturists are “sympathetic” to what we do and will express how much they would like to provide affordable treatments to “those in need,” but this, however, doesn’t mean they want to be down-in-the-trenches punks, or that they are able to even if they want to.

Many of you know how difficult it is to keep a clinic fully staffed and it can be entirely frustrating when the need for treatment is so high. Many of you also know the feeling of being overbooked, understaffed, and full of heartache because you know that you’re not able to keep up with the demand. The heart-blood that goes into running a thriving community acupuncture (CA) clinic is a very real thing and it can be exhausting, especially if you’re doing most of it alone. It’s also beyond exasperating to offer a service that is simple, accessible (or should be), in great demand, and highly effective at alleviating suffering in a field full of licensed professionals, some of whom would, rather than work in a CA clinic, prefer to complain about not being busy enough to make a living–all while you are doing your damndest just to keep your head above water with your overbooked and understaffed clinic.

Unfortunately, many POCA clinics have hired experienced acupuncturists to work for them only to find that their experience doesn’t transfer very well or that a POCA clinic ecosystem doesn’t jive well with their sense of entitlement. Imagine, for a moment, the following scenario that has played out countless times in many CA clinics around the country: Small clinic hits a growth spurt and now the single punk/owner needs help. Want ads, newsletters, word-of-mouth calls for help ensue. Enter interested candidate (usually a traditionally trained acupuncturist). The interview seems to go well, everyone seems to be on the same page, and the clinic owner feels relieved to have finally found someone that really “gets” CA. Fast forward a few weeks or months and the realization that things aren’t working begins to sink in or, worse, the proverbial shit has hit the fan and it’s far more terrible than anyone could have imagined. Now, the person who was going to be the clinic’s key to future growth has to be fired or, more hopefully, both parties realize that it isn’t a good fit and a mutual departure solves the problem. This unfortunate story has repeated itself too often in too many CA clinics throughout the country. Sometimes a conventional acupuncturist can step up and learn the necessary skills to be a punk–but usually only after one or more years of experience at a CA clinic and lots of extra time and work on everyone’s part.

That brings me to the reason why I am writing this, which is to tell everyone how the creation of POCA Tech is changing things for community clinics in a very real and significant way. We here at Wasatch Community Acupuncture have been fortunate beneficiaries of what POCA and POCA Tech are doing. Like many POCA clinics, we’ve had experiences with both worlds, punk and not-so-punk. We’ve had traditionally trained acupuncturists come and go who were obviously not punks, and we’ve also had some who became real punks. Now, fortunately, Wasatch has had the honor and privilege to have someone from our clinic’s own community come full circle: going from patient, to front-desk employee, to POCA Tech punkling, and finally to full-fledged (and kick-ass) punk. Her first shift was this week, which was entirely full, and I nearly cried tears of joy at the occasion, not to mention the fact that I’ve not spent even one minute trying to deprogram this acupuncturist by teaching her the essential skills of punking (thank you POCA Tech!). In fact, I’ve already learned some pretty great things from her, which isn’t surprising since she has been learning from some of the greatest minds and hearts in American acupuncture for the past three years.

Punking requires a very particular skill set, a special mindset, and a good deal of open heart-space, and POCA Tech is creating punks who are ready to hit the ground running. Eventually, we won’t need to continue spending countless hours encouraging acupuncturists to learn a new and difficult skill set, or even more difficult, a change of heart so that they can become great punks. We are now able to hire acupuncturists who are trained to be punks–even better, those who actually set out to be punks. This means we get to keep more of our limited energy and resources focused on sustaining and growing our clinics and our profession so that they reflect the values that are important to the communities we serve. And I say, hell yeah, that feels really good.

POCA Tech is just the beginning point for this sea change and it needs our continued support. If you can give time or money to support POCA Tech please do it–it will be greatly appreciated and will ripple outward to our communities in unforseen and positive ways.

Thank you POCA, and with deep gratitude, thank you POCA Tech.

Author: lisafer

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Conference Keynote: Breaking the Ceiling

The theme for this conference is “Breaking Barriers”. You know, there are so many barriers to break in acupuncture that it was really hard to choose which ones to talk about for this speech. But since I’ve spent so much time talking about classism as a barrier, I thought it might be fun to shift gears a little and talk about numbers.


  1. The ripple effect. A situation in which, like ripples expanding across the water when an object is dropped into it, an effect from an initial state can be followed outwards incrementally.

    With each graduating cohort, more punks are thrown in the water,expanding the Mission incrementally.

    At Providence Community Acupuncture, We have James. He stepped right in, and never looked back. We too say Thank-You POCA/POCA Tech!

    Let’s see how far the outer ripple ring can reach!!




  3. I am a recent graduate from Cohort 2 of POCA Tech and I am the newest punk at Wasatch Community Acupuncture. It feels somewhat uncomfortable to receive this praise, but at the same time, I have a growing feeling of humble confidence that I am in fact a competent punk. In my first five weeks of working full time at Wasatch I have treated over 400 patients. While I am still very much a novice, I feel as though I am a well-prepared novice with the necessary skills and experience to feel prepared for this role. Like Chris Rogers, I am incredibly grateful to the POCA community and to POCA Tech. I am also grateful beyond words to the community at Wasatch CA who have welcomed and supported me.

    I started as a patient at Wasatch almost six years ago and it has profoundly shaped my life. I have never had a private room acupuncture treatment, and I never considered going to a traditional acupuncture school. I set out to be a punk within this community and that’s what I am actually doing now. I think it was a huge advantage to feel from the beginning that “the clinic ecosystem” really does jive well for me; amidst other doubts and insecurities, that was my bedrock of reassurance.

    While I am keenly aware of the need for continually improving my skills, I can also recognize that my experience has given me the tools I need to already be a competent punk. Really I have been training for almost six years to step into this role. As a patient, I was empowered to use the clinic and learn how it functions. My time as a receptionist was also invaluable. Brent Ottley was the owner of QiWorks CA (before we changed our name to Wasatch) and one of my mentors, and before I began school he pointed out to me that working with patients at the the front desk really wasn’t all that different from what the punks did. I now know that he was right. So much of what we do as punks is about the “soft skills” of working with people: helping to efficiently wrangle them into their recliners, listening to their story and helping them to feel heard and safe, and helping them to understand and experience how they can use the clinic to get what they need, on their terms. My time at the front desk and my time in the classroom and student clinics of POCA Tech gave me over five years of experience practicing all of those skills.

    POCA Tech also gave me the “hard skills” I needed to feel capable even on day one of punking. I had probably given close to 1000 treatments before I started as a punk at Wasatch and I knew how to needle patients fairly efficiently, manage the room, do a brief intake with new patients, and comfortably communicate with patients about expectations around their treatment. I also felt pretty good about the treatments I was giving and confident that they would be effective.

    I believe that the education that I received at POCA Tech helped me to avoid getting pulled into insecurities that I am naturally inclined to feed. I have felt and seen many times over that acupuncture works, and I know from experience that I can help people. I am not constantly afraid that I will do it wrong and cause them harm. I am also not desperately attached to getting patients to love me as a practitioner. I do care and I want them to get the help they need, but I don’t feel I have to push in order to “make them” come back or keep me in a job. I am aware that this is a privilege of joining a busy CA clinic, after many people fought hard for years before me to create and grow Wasatch, POCA and POCA Tech. I feel so very fortunate and grateful.

    All that being said, I have still felt flustered, insecure, and exhausted at times. I have lots of room for improvement. I can only hope to learn – from the examples of my mentors and through my own awkward growing pains – how to more effectively help people feel held and cared for, how to move more efficiently when needling and managing the space, how to fine tune how I treat conditions from sciatica to anxiety, and how to refine my clinic persona. I also know that a huge part of my continued learning will be more effectively managing my energy during shifts and in the rest of my life. So far, stepping into full-time work with fairly busy shifts certainly takes A LOT of energy! With my tendency toward taking on too much and being too hard on myself, I am so very grateful to have attended POCA Tech and to feel the assurance of at least being well prepared, and the assurance that there is a wide community of support from so many experienced punks who have already been through this.

    Thank you to the staff at Wasatch, the faculty of POCA Tech, Skip and Lisa, and each and every punk and POCA member who has cared and worked hard to build this movement and its structure. I feel empowered to give lots of acupuncture treatments in the years to come and help lots of people who really need it, and that’s what it has always been about, right?