I have been involved with acupuncture for 14 years now. I am convinced that acupuncture is a noble healing profession. There are over 20,000 in the United States today and many of them were struggling financially before the troubled economy we have now. Why is this so? Is it because

  • a)we don’t get enough respect from other medical professions
  • b)people do not make health prevention a priority
  • c)is it that acupuncturists need more formal training
  • d)none of the above.

The answer to the above question is d, none of the above. Before becoming an naturopath and an acupuncturist I worked for a wall street firm who trained me to be successful in business. What I learned from all their efforts was that success did not depend on credentials or knowledge, it was based on your ability to get out there and market yourself. It depended on your ability to provide services to the public in a competitive manner.

I have been a licensed acupuncturist for 10 years now and I have been moderately successful. What I have learned to help me be successful did not come from the lofty halls of education, but instead from the hard road of being a practitioner. I have watched several acupuncture colleagues around me fail in their attempt to establish themselves as viable practitioners. Was it because they didn’t know enough that they failed? Absolutely not. In talking to several of them it was evident that they were skilled to the point of being intimidating to me. Despite this they failed in practice.

My point in all this is we do not need more education in acupuncture. It will add an additional financial burden to graduates who are not conversant in the skills necessary to make it as practitioners. The graduates are not going to learn how to be successful as business men or women in school because most of their teachers are not successful practitioners themselves but learned persons who have found other ways of earning a living to avoid becoming a practitioner.

There are a lot of people who earn quite good incomes on the backs of acupuncturists as well. Many of them earn 2 to 5 times the income of the average practitioner. These are people who claim to add value to the the practice of acupuncture, but in many cases this claim is up for debate. In my opinion if acupuncture is supposed to get the respect it deserves than this respect has to start at home within the acupuncture profession and not with other persons or organizations perception of us. Licensed acupuncture has lost control of their profession. Acupuncture is like a labor union that does not get to elect their leadership. If acupuncturists were successful as business men or women this would not be so. We would be flush with discretionary income and be hiring support personnel to work for us. People such as accreditation, lobbyists and administrative personnel. They would be working for us and not dictating to us as a profession what is best for acupuncture. The fact that this is not the situation is a definite clue that there is something wrong in the governance of acupuncture. I also think that acupuncturists are trained in schools to be set up for failure as business women or men and because of this we look like a sorry group that needs leadership.

I was on the task force for the first professional doctorate. I was asked to do a job and I did as I was asked. After working on the first professional doctorate I came away with the opinion that it is not going to do anything to enhance the viability of the practice of acupuncture. It is not in the interest of all parties involved. It may be in the best interest of the accreditation, board certification and educational administrative personnel, but it will not help the acupuncturist. It might be attractive to schools as an additional source of income, but not the acupuncturist. What will help the acupuncturist is available outside of the formal education network. Learning from other acupuncturists on how to make a decent living so they can put a reasonable roof over their head, pay off educational debt, pay federal taxes, afford insurance, pay state licensing fees, and afford to pay rent on an office or even maybe someday buy their own office space! Organizations such as the Community Acupuncture Network are there to help acupuncturists get out of the mindset they are taught in schools that sets them up for failure as practitioners. We need more of these organizations to help us become successful as business people and gain respect in society. Success as a business person is the main measure of respectability in society. We presently are educated on a master’s level. We are already educated, now we need to go out and hold our own as members of society. More education is not going to solve this problem.

I urge you to realize that the people that make your job possible, the common acupuncturist, is struggling as a group business-wise. Our profession is being coveted by several other medical professional groups whose acupuncture training is vastly inferior to ours already. What will more education do to help here? If you put more of a financial strain on us and ask practitioners to get more unneeded education you may become part of the downfall of the very profession that gives you a livelihood.

Many of you who know me are aware of the commitment I have made to acupuncture. I have served for many years on the Florida State Board of Acupuncture, FAOMRA, and an AAAOM committee. I am continuing to try to be there for my profession by helping struggling practitioners to find their way to business prosperity and I can tell you it involves breaking down a lot of the myths they were taught in school.

The first professional degree is not in the best interest of all the parties involved and because of this it is not a wise decision and should not be implemented.

Acupuncture will become healthy when it’s practitioners can learn how to shape their practice in a way that best fits the needs of the people who really need it, not the few persons that can afford to pay $75-$120 twice a week for acupuncture. Can you afford that yourself? Prove to acupuncturists in this country that you really care about your constituency. Don’t insult us by refuting the obvious, but earn our respect by making the obvious a priority. The first professional doctorate does just the opposite.

Jessica Feltz
Author: Jessica Feltz

<p> I learned about Community Acupuncture while studying at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine (MCOM) in the Spring of 2006 when Lisa Rohleder's first article about her clinic appeared in Acupuncture Today. Coming from a middle-class background myself, I was the only student in my acupuncture class to have not experienced the healing benefits of this medicine prior to beginning studies at MCOM. I couldn't afford it. And my family couldn't understand what I was doing by investing in an education that they didn't perceive to be financially sustainable. </p> <p> The Community Acupuncture model is a perfect fit for me, balancing social justice and taoist simplicity with the patient's innate ability to heal him/herself (with a few gentle nudges from strategically placed needles). I am grateful every day to have found CAN and the love it brings into my life. I want to share that joy by spreading the message about how we can create a new health care experience in our communities through each of our very small efforts...and how those very small efforts can in turn change the world. </p> I enjoy my two sons, my 4 cats, and big stacks of books.  I own and operate...

Related Articles

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.