How do I love my walk-ins? Let me count the ways…

“How do you like your walk-ins?” was the question from Bonny that started this blog.I have a giant sidewalk sign stating “Walk-ins Welcome!”I also advertise such in my monthly newspaper ad and on my website.I’ve had 20 walk-ins this week, 6 of whom were new patients.I schedule patients every 15 minutes, which leaves room for 2 walk-ins per hour.My patients all understand that scheduled appointments are taken before walk-ins.That way, those who are time conscious know that they need to schedule themselves.Those who have flexibility realize that they can walk-in, but might have to wait a few minutes before being treated.

Personally, I love the fact that I can walk-in for my own chiropractic care.As a mother of two young children (and formerly a single-mother of such), I find that meeting the demands of a schedule often compromises the quality time I could otherwise be spending with my children.My son wants to snuggle in my lap for a story, but “Sorry, we have to leave right now for the doctor’s appointment.”What my children hear is: “You’re not as important as my adherence to structure.”I have respect for the time my patients spend with their families, and I want them to cherish those precious and fleeting moments.Having walk-in-flexibility allows busy parents to come for acupuncture when the transition seems smoothest.Besides, getting the family organized for a scheduled appointment can be downright stressful…and healing should not induce stress.

Some patients are so anxious or indecisive that they can’t set-up an appointment.People with busy lives frequently need to rearrange their appointments.(I no longer charge for missed sessions, because I understand that there is an ebb and flow to the schedule, just as we see in the natural world.) I have one patient whose loved one is terminally ill.She’s trying to care for herself, her children, her loved one, manage everyone’s grief, and coordinate their schedules—I can’t tell her that I’ll only see her by appointment.When she happens to drive past my clinic and realizes that she has a few minutes to nurture herself with a quickie treatment, I want her to know that she’s welcome to stop-in for a visit.  (And she does…)

I am teaching my patients to listen to their bodies.I don’t want them following a regimented treatment schedule.I tell them that when they hurt, when their symptoms flare-up, they need to be in more often…when they’re feeling better, they can stretch-out their treatments.Most people who initially come through the doors are very disconnected from their bodies—they’re floating about, lost in their heads.I want them to settle back into their hearts and feel again.Know what?They’re walking-in when they have a headache, a runny nose, or a weekend warrior injury.How many BA clinics are teaching their patients to get an acupuncture treatment within an hour of their headache starting?My patients are learning to use my clinic the same way they would a western center.I’d rather have them walking-in to see me for acupuncture, than walking-in to Urgent Care for a Vicodin.

Additionally, my “schedule” for patients is generally pretty loose.  I want them to learn to go with the flow, to relax and back-off of the schedule crisis that we’ve created in America.One of my good friends in high school was from Spain.She had no concept of “time”—not in the sense that we did.If we said we were picking her up at 7:00 for a dance, that meant (to her) that she should be ready sometime before 9:00.I have patients who will walk in 2 minutes “late” for an appointment with me, and they’re completely frazzled!I’m telling them to just let it be.Everything works-out in perfect timing.People get killed in accidents every day because they’re racing about trying to make their appointments.

I agree that all community acupuncturists should wait tables before sticking needles in a busy clinic.Wait staff don’t get to schedule their tables for the night—they deal with the traffic as it walks through the door.  They learn to let go of the need to control order.  (What a huge lesson it is to learn to let go…)  When things get harried in my space (like on Saturday, when I had 4 people come through the door simultaneously as I was finishing a new patient intake), I think of myself as the calm in the eye of the storm.  The energy can all swirl about me frantically (as it often does before people are treated)…my work is to bring peace and stillness to my space and to each being within it.  

My job as a community acupuncturist is to break-down the barriers that challenge people to care for themselves.I offer a sliding scale to remove the financial barriers.I wear casual or street clothes to reduce the class barriers.I have a ground-level facility to reduce handicap barriers.I offer evening, weekend, and early morning appointments to reduce the time barriers.I invite children to sit quietly in the waiting room, so their parents don’t have to find childcare.And I allow walk-in patients, so that scheduling issues don’t prevent them from receiving care.

I love the excitement that comes with not knowing exactly how my day will unfold.My schedule could look half-empty, but I don’t even let it phase me, because I KNOW without a doubt that I’ll get walk-ins to fill the gaps.Instead of energizing, “oh what a slow day,” I’m wondering how I will be surprised and delighted before the shift ends.If I didn’t allow walk-ins, the only change that could happen throughout the day would be cancellations or no-shows.Allowing walk-in patients means that I open myself to additional prosperity, which balances-out the cancels I might have throughout the shift.

I am delighted, thrilled, enjoying, and LOVING my clinic’s walk-in availability!I find that it perfectly complements the schedule my patients create.The walk-ins and the scheduled patients all fit together in perfect harmony.  Walk-in flexibility helps instill creativity, spontaneity, and softness—couldn’t we all use more of those forces in our lives?

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.


  1. accomodating walk-ins

    This is a great post. Just yesterday after finishing my shift, I was running errands and realized that while I needed to run all my errands, I needed an acupuncture treatment first and foremost. I headed up to CommuniChi and got a much needed treatment from Jordan. I was grateful to be welcomed without an appointment! I think that many of the issues that benefit most from acupuncture (ie stress, pain, fatigue) arise slowly but often present urgently. From a patient’s perspective, it feels so good to be able to recognize what you need and get it, right away with no fuss. From the practitioner’s perspective it is tremendously satisfying to be able to accomodate a patient in need without further complicating their lives. I have a tight/small little clinic and for the first time this week I have 2 shifts booked solid. I have had 2 clients call on the day of the booked shift saying that appointment quest showed no availability and was there any way to get in. Luckily I have one extra chair and told them to come in, that they may have to wait a few minutes. They gratefully accepted. I was just thinking of changing my time slots to allow for more on my schedule through appointment quest, but I am rethinking this to allow for walk-ins or “emergencies”. My location has a lot of foot traffic, but I am in a builiding with no outside door or direct access to the street which I was thinking would limit my walk-ins and I only have 5 chairs. Also my clinic is very small so there isnt’ a lot of room to wait around and I have no receptionist. I am curious to hear other people’s experience with this?


  2. I love this post.  I’ve

    I love this post.  I’ve never been good with rigid scheduling and never really understood why it’s seen as a moral issue to some people.  I’ve never charged for missed appointments and always cherish those unexpected extra moments that so often seem to be exactly what I needed.  I was honestly starting to wonder if there was something wrong with me because others don’t seem to feel this way.  Thank you so much for this post.  

  3. Thank you Jessica for

    Thank you Jessica for opening my mind a little further, it goes to show no matter how open-minded you think you are you can always give it a little stretch.


  4. Jessica!

    You are on fire lately!  It’s great to read your posts, so full of contagious enthusiasm and open-heartedness.  I read this yesterday before going home, at which point my shift today was (unusually, for a Saturday) only 1/3 full; and it cheered me up and resonated with my sense of how things seem to work.  Today, by the end of the shift, I had treated more than twice the number of people that had been originally scheduled, so there you go: la ebb y el flow. 

    We don’t actively solicit walk-ins, since we aren’t in a foot-trafficky area, but we do often end up getting late add-ons – as well as late cancellations – which reminds me of Jenn’s also-excellent post.  Together the two posts present thoughtful, logical alternatives to rigid boundary-setting.   Now, I think sometimes setting such boundaries is helpful for us and our patients, but in other cases I think it can just be about our pride, or control freakishness (both of which I can identify in my own responses to no-shows, for example).  Just this last week though I feel like I got another level of sense of humor about no-shows (one super-spacey, newer patient didn’t make it, and I was unsurprised and amused).  And when regulars don’t show we know it’s for a good reason, and usually find ourselves hoping they’re okay.  And they usually really want to pay for the missed appointment.

  5. I second Nora…

    on the topic of how great it is to feel such enthusiasm from you for your clinic and your patients. Being genuinely happy to see patients walk through the door (whether they are late, early, or not on the schedule at all) is the ultimate marketing magic. I know you will be hugely successful.

    One day at WCA I counted and discovered that almost 10% of our business on that particular day was same-day bookings. A schedule that looks empty in the morning often looks pretty full at the end of the day. I agree that a lot of patients with really crazy-busy lives greatly appreciate the ability to show up without a lot of advance notice, and the more you can stay open to these people’s needs, the more you open up your market.  At the same time, I think there is an enormous difference between happily accommodating unscheduled patients and having no scheduling system at all. A core principle of community acupuncture is flexible structure:  that lovely nuanced shade of gray in between the chaotic white-out of no structure at all and the rigid black lines of refusing to treat people who don’t show up on time. Thanks for another great post that addresses the reality of working with people as they are.

  6. Thanks Jessica, Jenn, and everyone posting on this subject

    It’s really helped me this week.  I had a few cancellations and I took them with grace. It was so nice to not feel like a policeman.  


    I had my first real day in a ‘community’ acupuncture clinic yesterday – there were four people!  I didn’t do it perfect but everything went fine and boosted my confidence and faith that I will get good enough to be able to make some kind of a living doing this…


    Two of my role models for doing my business are my hairdresser of 14 years and a chinese herbalist that I used to see years ago.  They both have businesses that people like coming to – they’re comfortable, welcoming, and reliable.  I still can hardly believe that I’ve made it this far with my business and that I could have the opportunity to follow their great example. 


  7. Jessica, Bless your heart

    Jessica, Bless your heart girlfriend. I am weeping and smilin as I read your blog on time and flow and learning to surf with the Tao.. I knew at age 15 reading A Passage to India, that I was simply in the wrong country. In fact I didn’t have a problem with time at all ! So you have helped me absolutely know that despite what others suggest, walk-in is a policy I choose in setting up my clinic this summer. And I like your respectfulness to those who need a fixed time. That is a very cool compromise. Thanks. -Mary in Belfast, Maine

  8. Yes, thank you to Jessica for starting this thread and especially to LInda for mentioning the concept of moral issue! We’ve been inculcated, those of us who went to public school in this country anyway, to place that fiber of moral rectitude into the discussion: I’ve tried to explain that Horace Mann, help up as a hero by many, really had no less noble a purpose than to be sure that all the new immigrants to this country were brain washed into being good little clock punchers and foot soldiers!