Musings from a CA Newbie

New to the CAN blogs, I think it best that I introduce myself. I’m Steve, a newbie in the  Community Acupuncture movement and one who’s returned from a long hiatus after my BA practice. In essence, I’m starting fresh with almost no previous patients to draw from.

Prior to acupuncture, I was an engineer and database developer. A “techie” who enjoyed building, measuring, and improving things. Lots of interesting challenges, but my heart just wasn’t in it. I found my volunteer work with the ambulance and Red Cross much more fulfilling.

So why the intro? Because some of you out there may have similar backgrounds in science or engineering or you just might enjoy building, analyzing, and organizing. If so, then good for you. I’ve found it very important to set up reliable “systems” in the clinic. Systems for registering people, treating patients, managing inventory, and controlling finances. In any business, having your ducks in a row is a necessity.

That said, I have to share that my ideal personality for someone in a successful practice is not that of an engineer, but of a gardener. You’ve got to take time to understand your climate and location, to decide what you’re going to grow and how you’re going to nurture it. What I mean is, where will you locate your clinic, who do you want to serve, and how will you attract and treat them?

These are heady questions worthy of some decent pondering. You’ve got to pick produce that you really enjoy! Otherwise, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll let it wither and die on the vine. So, there’s my first thought for the CAN blog. When planning for a practice, take time – plenty of time to think about and decide the “who, what, where, when, and how” for yourself, your clinic, and your future patients. You’ll only grow and prosper if you enjoy the gardening.

To help get you started, check out the wonderful CA-101 guide available on this website.

“CA” is not short for “carrot”, although it’s definitely filled with excellent, nourishing advice. Keep in mind that gardening takes time. There’s a “bunch” to learn, including the all-important patience for letting the seeds grow. If you’re starting “fresh” like me, your new practice is highly unlikely to produce a bumper crop of patients within the first 6 months to a year. Cultivation takes time. For now, good luck planning your garden, and for goodness sake…don’t overwater!

~ Steve

Author: SteveKnobler

I am a Licensed Acupuncturist who graduated from NIAOM in 1999. I'm nationally board certified (NCCAOM) and have had post-graduate training in orthopedic and sports acupuncture with Dr. Whitfield Reaves of Colorado. I enjoy treating everything, but my focus is helping people who are injured, pre/post surgical, with structural challenges or who desire improved physical performance.

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  1. good seeds for planting

    Hi Steve,

    Gardening is a good analogy for almost anything – like business – which requires patience, stamina, and an appreciation for nature – both the human and Mother kinds.

    Expanding the analogy – Big gardens (and healthy ecosystems) require a lot of teamwork and a non-self centered viewpoint. 

    I see CAN as being like a collective of gardeners trying to restore the ecosystem of health care which has been ravaged by internal disease (e.g. greed/self-interest) that has lowered the seed and soil vitality.

    It’s a pleasure to weed and till alongside of you brother – my North Seattle brother!

    Hey Google key word master computer, that’s Steve Knobler talking from North Seattle Community Acupuncture near Northgate…great guy….great acupuncturist!




  2. Thanks so much Jordan!

    I really like your expansion of the analogy. Nice “big picture” thinking, and so true. It’s definitely great working with you as well. You inspire me, and I’m sure many others, too.

    In keeping with the gardening theme…I guess you could say that my passion for community acupuncture makes me a “CA Hoe”!

    Many good wishes (and a few laughs). If we’re not having fun, then we’re not doing it right!

    ~ Steve

  3. hardy har har

    Steve, I truly love your sense of humor and the lightness with which you participate on this site.  Thank you for that.  Your heart is open and your sense of compassion and integrity really shine through in all that you do. 


    The gardening analogy is spot on.  We’ve just got our plot all set – tilled, planted, and fertilized – and we feel like perhaps we cheated a little by putting in some already blooming annuals (we just had a very successful open house and so far have had a great opening week), but having a little “instant color” in the garden helps to manifest a thriving crop!  That’s what I imagine what’s so fab about Free Days. The space fills up with the energy that you are manifesting.  Instant success!


    We’re still too Pollyanna around here to admit it’s likely to slow down, but I know who to come to when the snails show up… my master gardener friends here at the CAN shed.


    happy gardening,

    the BAP Hoes (sorry, couldn’t resist)

    julia in berkeley

  4. Say Hey Julia!

    Thanks so much for your kind thoughts and for adding to the gardening theme. I really do think that it’s “spot on”, and it’s much more fun being a “hoe” than a “rake”! (…oh how many more bad puns can arise from this???)

    I’ve got a free day coming up this Saturday. I tried to tie the day to something notable/national/special. The only thing I could find was “Talk Like a Pirate Day”. So I’ve got my hat and parrot (really!) and I’m ready to “shiver the timbers” with lots of new clients.

    For all the fellow CA newbies reading this blog…I’ve got to keep it real and agree with Julia that there will be the inevitable slow-down after the free day. I know it’ll happen. Some people come by just to sniff and then you’ll never see them again. The good news is, those who enjoy it will spread the word, and even some who don’t return will spread the word. Ya just never know.

    I believe in Bellingham’s law of energy and optimism: It takes much less energy and effort to be optimistic than pessimistic. So do something good for the environment. Be positive!


  5. Thanks for the lovely

    Thanks for the lovely reading, Steve. You are doing a wonderful job. It shines through all your posts. Have fun on pirate day.

    All best wishes for continued successful cultivation.


  6. Great to be in print is so true…

    Really nice article! I like your parallels with agriculture and how well you explained the problem of access to good healthcare. Thanks very much for your comments.


  7. Thanks Nora!

    Each week, I wonder if I’ll have anything worthwhile to blog about. Eventually…something comes to mind, but this blogging stuff is so new to me. Sometimes, I feel like I’m back in English Comp and the teacher’s just assigned a 500 word essay on the history of the turnip, due tomorrow! Yikes!!

    Best to you ~ Steve

  8. With hat and parrot in hand…

    How can I not have fun on Pirate Day!?

    How are your “free” days going? Whenever I see BCA announcements pop up in my Google Alerts, I immediately think of white sandy beaches and big powerful rolling waves. It must be beautiful down there at your clinic. I’d love to see it some day…

    Best wishes Nicole. I hope things are going great for you!


  9. I believe it’s “shiver ME

    I believe it’s “shiver ME timbers.”

    Good thing you’re not in Boston.

    Do you know what a pirate from Boston says?


    AHHH!  (do your best Boston accent to the standard “arrrrgh”)

  10. Too Funny!

    Thanks for straightening me out there Justine!

    I’m originally from New Jersey, where it’s

    “YO! like, shiver my f**k’in timbers!”

    Ahh, it feels good to speak my native tongue again…

    Happy “Speak Like a Pirate Day” to you!


  11. It’s a stuffed felt parrot ~

    It would be cool if it was real, though. Then, I could have it perched in the corner saying stuff like:

    “De Qi! De Qi!”
    “This one’s cooked!”
    and “Polly wanna poke!”

    Well…maybe not the last one… {8^)


  12. Hey Justine – thanks for asking

    First, I’ve just got to start off with a big “Arrrgh!!” to get it out of my system. That felt good!

    Turnout was not as good as I’d anticipated, but after reviewing the day, I’m happy with it, and I learned some good lessons, too.  Thirteen people signed up – most by my appointing software (appointment-plus), and some by phone. Ten actually came – three got lost and then caught in traffic, so I rescheduled their free treatments for another day.

    On CAN, I’d read about some terrific free days with 30, 40, and 50+ people showing up, people waiting in line, and folks getting coupons to return on another day. I was hoping for a 30+ day, but it didn’t happen. Funny thing is, I was concerned about a big turnout because folks would probably flood the parking lot, which would really tick off my finicky landlord.

    By Friday afternoon, I was in a great frame of mind. The clinic was all set up for Pirate Day and I was resigned to treat all the people who graced my door, no matter how many or few. 

    Saturday, things went very smoothly. Holly (my wife) came in and played “Admin”, which was incredibly helpful! It was wonderful just focusing on patient care. Before I realized it, the day was over and Holly and I were splitting a bottle of wine.

    So the lessons for me and other Newbies (which many veteran CAN’ers likely already know):

    1. Advertise in LOTS of different places. I didn’t do that enough.
    2. Have an Admin person for the day. It was great to have everyone booking his/her next appointment before leaving the clinic. As a “one-acupunk” show, I don’t always get to do that and consequently, patient returns suffer.
    3. Have the clinic all set to go the day before the event. I slept well the night before, knowing all I needed to do was show up on Saturday.
    4. Be cool about patient volume expectations. Whoever shows, shows. The important thing is to treat them well, which is how things played out on Saturday.
    5. When looking for clinic space, make sure it includes a reception area – even if you’re a one-acupunk show. Eventually, you’ll get busy enough and hire someone to sit there. Having an Admin is priceless.
    6. Last, but not least…have fun, which is what we did throughout the day – even though I didn’t wear my pirate hat and parrot while treating people!

    Best wishes to everyone. I’m already planning my next free day!


  13. Admin person

    Ahoy there Northern Matey! I’ll be shooting needles across your bow if ya dares to sail south of the Lake Washington Ship Canal! (Kidding!)

     Great job….just one quick thought….I wouldn’t say that either invisible receptionist or paid Admin are the only options…sometimes people will get inspired by what you are doing and volunteer.

     We’ve had lots of people do that – some for short periods of time, some longer. Keep that in mind (and maybe put it out on your blog)…and read the CAN practitioner blogs for more info on this topic.

  14. Ahoy! I wondered how it went, too.

    Just want to say I loved your blog and your moxa guide.  I see that you’re a pretty meticulous one, and I predict you’ll have lots of grateful patients and rave reviews, as you are laying a strong foundation with a great attitude.


  15. Ahoy Capt’n Jordan!

    I completely agree with your comment about an Admin, and I’ve read alot about it on CAN. I plan on asking for a part-time volunteer or trading someone for acupuncture treatments. I have a patient right now who’d be a very good fit.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have any room in my tiny clinic for a receptionist. Arrrgghhh! The small waiting area outside my office actually belongs to the audiologist with whom I share the suite. I’ve got to find a bigger clinic space asap. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking it might be worth asking her how much it would cost to rent that area from her…I’ll never know until I ask, right?

    Good to hear from you skipper! Keep yer sheets tight and your head into the wind my friend.


  16. Thanks very much Lumiel ~

    I’m glad you loved my blog. I haven’t received much feedback about it and I’ve been wondering if people are finding it valuable. As for the moxa guide, it was fun to make and it’s really helped folks (and saved me a ton of explanation time).

    Best wishes and good thoughts to you. Thanks for your positive predictions!


  17. smooth sailing

    I’ve been using call forwarding (to my cell) on times when I’m not in the office….I just keep a sheet of paper with me that has a list of currently scheduled times for the day….it’s not a fool proof system, but missing calls during business hours is like having leaks below the waterline.

  18. I call forward to my cell as well

    and it’s been very useful in catching calls to the office. Do you find that having a live receptionist makes a difference in getting patients booked into their next visits?

    Thanks – Steve