It’s been two years since I graduated NESA and got my first job practicing community acupuncture.  In October of 2007 I began my work at Manchester Acupuncture Studio, where I took to my reclining patients with my stack of cheat sheets, which included such notes as balance method channel connections, extra points and internal balance patterns.  I was excited to be working and trying all this new stuff on my patients, and working, really jumping into my career, for the first time in my 25-year-old life!  It was also scary.  I remember distinctly my first patient, and feeling the same sense of “oh my god what do I do?!” as I did when I was a student in clinic facing my first patient – even though I wasn’t entirely clueless.  I had wonderful patients there, and those patients were great teachers.  I was building my communication skills with my patients, and had an awesome, encouraging boss/teacher who I could always turn to for information, advice and support.  It was great.
8 months later, I was at work in my new clinic, on my own, starting from scratch.  During the first several months I was fairly steady on my feet with acupuncture and with communication skills, although I still was, more often than not, unsure of what to tell people in terms of how often to be treated or what they might expect.  I also began incorporating herbs into the practice, which took a lot of extra training and a fair amount of trial and error in terms of how to incorporate it in with timing and combination with the acupuncture.  I was experimenting with different systems of how to run things. The progression of patient flow was never linear from week to week or day to day.  Patients didn’t always come on time even though I fantasized that everyone would stick right to the schedule.  I could have nothing to do for hours, and then suddenly be slammed.  People canceled at the last minute. Some people praised my work, and others left me nasty voicemails.  Money was tight.  I didn’t always know how to answer peoples’ questions. I compared my clinic’s progress to other CAN clinics and felt badly when I realized I was way, WAY behind TCA (which started just around the same time as I did), although I was on course with several others.  There was a lot of fear and insecurity.  But underlying all the challenges there was always a feeling of optimism and contentment with my path.  It took me awhile to realize that maybe everything came to me just as I was ready for it and not sooner.  It was a challenge for my patience and an opportunity to think about what I could do to improve.  I took it upon myself to always learn more and see what I could do to be more helpful and effective for my patients.
Fortunately over time the patient flow became more consistent and I became more comfortable at work.  Communicating and having an idea of how to approach most conditions with confidence has become easier.  I feel the hard work paying off more and more.  I am helping people, seeing results and also making a living.  
In addition to enjoying all this, I have had some great experiences beyond my normal work.  Last week I was invited to talk at a class at NESA along with 3 other acupuncturists in a panel discussion about our clinics.  I was really happy to be there, because I was able to talk to them about community acupuncture – introducing many of them to the concept for the first time (Diana did this when I was a 3rd year, and I will be forever grateful!).  I was able to smash myths and misconceptions about the things that we may have thought or been told as students – such as the suggestion that we could all be making 150-200k a year (which one other acupuncturist stated, and I flatly and clearly fired back at) and that anyone who really wants acupuncture would pay $80 a treatment.  I let them know that it isn’t any more tiring or difficult to treat treat six patients in an hour than it is to treat one in an hour, once you work your way up to it.  I made it clear to the students that acupuncture isn’t something that everyone just gets once a week or less, and that you can get results without back shu points – etc., etc.  I truly believe I was able to stoke the fire of interest in many of them, and I felt great about that.
Then, this past weekend, I went to NYC for a course on Tung’s points with Susan Johnson.  WOW.  Awesome.  It was fascinating.  And despite my complaints at times (I was unfortunately struck with a cold on Friday afternoon so I wasn’t feeling so hot) I really did enjoy it.  I had the chance to meet some other CAN acupunks, which was truly a delight, and was filled with a new enthusiasm for adding these points into my repertoire. I immediately began throwing some of the points I learned in most of the patients I saw yesterday – and in myself when I got out of work!  I can’t wait to see the results, and I’m psyched I have the opportunity to develop new skills.
It’s so great to be able to always grow in our practices… and I can’t wait to see what lies ahead.

Author: Justine_Myers

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  1. Thanks Justine

    Thank you for posting your experience, Justine. I’m feeling a lot of those growing pains now and it’s good to hear there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. Many days I feel like wheels are spinning around and around but no traction.



  2. Yes!

    I appreciate reading posts like these so much! As an almost 4 month old CA I can identify to your words so much. Thanks for the encouraging words and faith!! As hard as it is sometimes I am also eagerly looking forward to what lies ahead, while seeing the beauty in the present:)