Do You Know What You’re Getting Into?

If you've been following the progress of POCA Tech inside the forums, you know that a bunch of POCA volunteers are working hard on our admissions process. One of the issues occupying everyone's mind is, how can we make sure that prospective students know what they are really getting into? Acupuncture can be a tough gig. And as the person who reads POCA Tech's inbox, unfortunately I can testify that we've already attracted some, um, ungrounded applicants. Did I have a conversation with a prospective POCA Tech student who referred to himself, without irony, as a bodhisattva? Why yes, I did.

So we are going to add a prerequisite class to our list. In addition to Biology and A & P, POCA Tech prospectives will be required to take a free online class, offered by POCA, called “Do You Know What You Are Getting Into?” In the process of putting this class together, we made some new videos. I don't know if we will actually use these particular videos for our class — they might have just been practice — but I posted them because I thought they'd be useful, regardless. One of the cool things about POCA Tv is that it can make interactions available to a much wider range of people than they would be ordinarily. These videos are of Cris and Skip interviewing each other about their respective acupuncture education experiences, what happened once they got out in the real world, and how they deprogrammed themselves from their acu-school brainwashing. I don't know about the rest of you, but this is the stuff I talk about with my friends whenever I get a chance. I often wish that lots of people had been able to hear those conversations, and I really wish that prospective POCA Tech students were among those people. It's hard to get your head around the reality of the acupuncture profession without hearing the experiences of lots of different people; it's easy to think that you're the only one who couldn't make what you learned in school work in the real world.

When you get a chance, please watch the videos — you can find them here, 1,2, 3, and they're free! — and if you're an acupuncturist, please share your story in the comments below: tell us the truth about what your acupuncture education was like, what happened when you started to practice (with or without the support of POCA), and how you deprogrammed yourself. If you're a POCA Tech prospective, watch the videos and tell us if you feel like you're getting an adequate perspective on what it's really like to be in this profession. Do you feel like you know what you're getting into? And if anybody has any ideas about how we can help prospective acupuncture students who are enamored with “the medicine” (yes, we're hearing from them) and who have either turned off their bullshit meters or maybe never had a functioning bullshit meter in the first place, please, please let me know.

Author: lisafer

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  1. In ’95 I was told I would get out of school and easily, *easily* start making $60,000 in a short amount of time.

    Reality is a hard bitch sometimes… like most I worked other jobs while trying desperately to get enough experience under my belt that I could feel really confident in my training.

    What took me about a decade to really understand was that the training, while good in its way (ie. taught by well-meaning and dedicated teachers), sucked. I mean, I remember getting out and saying to my wife, “well, at least I know enough not to kill someone.” that’s how prepared I felt.

    Not to get all ‘this school is better than that school’ on anyone, but man, TCM does not prepare one to be a really good acupunk.

    Fortunately for me, I’m a simple guy, and I like things to be simple. Miriam Lee’s work was transcendent for me, as was training with Dr. Tseng in Taiwan (who would have found much in common with Ms. Lee). Simple treatments done often was shown to be just as effective (or moreso) than 10 questions, 6 levels, 8 directions and a Rubix cube solution that I had learned to do in TCM school.

    It was my wife who googled the terms “community” and “acupuncture” because I had been talking about not wanting a practice, but a community. And there was CAN and it was as if a spotlight went on my brain. I never looked back.

    I was very fortunate to have a friend who had made a big wad of $$ betting on the right internet horse, who said he’d rather take a loss on my clinic than hand the money over to the government, and so I was the recipient of a “pay it back whenever” loan which enabled me to open the clinic of my dreams.

    You couldn’t get me back into a one-room private practice again if you put a gun to my head.

  2. My school also told me that no one has a problem paying back their loans and reassured me that it would be fine to take out as much as I needed. The school boasted a program of “Classical” Chinese medicine, which was supposed to be based in the “classics”, some of the first books written about medicine in ancient China. There was a lot of push to spend money on extra classes and seminars on esoteric practices like medical astrology or cultivation practices like caligraphy. Being impressionable and pretty young I bought into this and spent a lot of money on extra endeavors.

    You can probably guess that I don’t use much of that these days. It’s true, I don’t. I don’t regret what I did (but wish I had less student loan debt). I needed that lesson on some level. I was lucky enough to have a couple jobs lined up straight out of school. One was at Working Class Acupuncture and one at a local public health community clinic. I jumped right in and had to figure out real-world acupuncture real quick. I had done some community clinic work during school but that was like learning to snorkel in a swimming pool and then applying those techniques to scuba diving in the Bahamas. Thank goodness I had great teachers to learn from at WCA. I had only little snippets of what I needed from school. What’s surprised me most, though is that the most important thing I’ve been honing in the past 2 years of practice is how to be with people, and how to be with myself with people. I’ve learned some very useful point protocols (all on the job, very few from school), but the hardest thing has been getting over the ego-trip I learned in school. During those four years I heard over and over, in various ways, that I was the most important piece in the healing puzzle. If I was good enough, smart enough, diagnosed precisely enough, then people would get better. In reality people got better when I got out of the way. THAT’s what I learned in the real world and school never ever addressed that in a direct and meaningful way. It’s sad when I think of it because thinking I was the crux of the issue made me so damn anxious. I never had any fun in clinic. When I started to relax everything got so much better, and so did the patients!

    In the end I paid a lot of money for a piece of paper that said I could stick needles into people. I did learn how not to physically hurt someone. And, how many different perspectives and opinions there are on this very old practice. But, I didn’t really start learning how to help people until I got out of school. All that other stuff was just talk, talk, talk.

    Not to mention the rampant sexism, classism, racism, heterosexism, and abuse of power at that school. Ugh. I guess I also learned how to accept what I could not change, but only after more than a few run-ins with administration. The president even screamed at me once. Looking back, I take it as a compliment 🙂


  3. I got so much dietary therapy in my program, that by the time my licensed arrived in the mail (it was WAY too long a process) that I felt more comfortable telling people what to eat, then how to give good treatments.

    I opened a CA a young nursing student came in to see me for back pain. We talked about her diet. There was no one else around so I took time to acusplain why Western nutrition has got it all wrong and that she shouldn’t be eating so much dairy. I made extensive recommendations on what she should be eating and where to buy the products. Right before her next treatment she called to cancel with the main reason of being that she couldn’t afford it. I said “but the treatments are only $15.” Her response was that it wasn’t the treatments, it was all the stuff I suggest she start buying and cooking to live a “healthier lifestyle.”

  4. I love these convos! (Though I may be a little biased since it stars my hometown punk!) What a fantastic format to intro prospective students to the whole POCA pie. It certainly reflects everything I have come to know about CA and PTech. I can’t wait to see what’s next.

  5. I started acu-school while I was pursuing a black belt in karate (visions of David Carradine as an itinerant “healer” with just a leather bag full of needles and herbs, lol). Because I was involved in a hard contact style, I needed to be able to apply what I had learned right away, for myself and my karate pals. As soon as I learned something “useful” in school, I used it on someone and determined pretty quickly that most of what we learned in school was theory that didn’t translate well to practice.

    This led to my transferring to another school which was, IMO, more practical-than-theory-based. And it led to my taking responsibility to see that I learned what I needed to learn in order to have a practice where I got results. I spent a lot of time on ear and scalp, sports injuries, studied anatomy and physiology in-depth. A lot of what I learned in school I knew I wouldn’t use so I learned the test for those subjects, and promptly blew them off when the course was done (until the licensing exams).

    So, I had few illusions about what I would encounter after school – and I was STILL disappointed that I just couldn’t get enough traction to make a living. Until I moved and found CAN. I’m looking forward to the people graduating from POCA Tech hitting the floor running, with reasonable expectations of their short- and long-term futures, and with patients who are already educated to the benefits of frequent, affordable acupuncture.

  6. one of my newest co-workers is a recent acu-grad AND has been a CAN/POCA member since her first year of acu-school. She has observed and worked in a total about 5 or 6 clinics. I am impressed by how she has hit the ground running. I hope we can get her to share more and lurk less.

  7. The reason I am interested in studying acupuncture is that I want to spend my working life helping people, and from personal experience, I believe acupuncture to be one of the most effective ways to help a wide variety of illnesses, conditions, and emotional issues. I am grateful that the CA model exists, because for selfish reasons, I could never afford $80 for a single treatment, and also it seems the most effective way to help the most amount of people in the shortest amount of time due to the frequency of visits the low cost sliding-scale permits.

    The more I study these forums and videos, and the more I volunteer at my local clinic, the more I am drawn in, and I hope my head is in the right place, as I am painfully aware of what a large commitment this would be. I feel like the videos provide a pretty good idea of what its like to be an a community acupunk, but to be honest, I wouldn’t know for sure until I gave my first few treatments. As of yet, I have not been scared away.