On numbers and white lies

Patients have started asking this question again:  “How long have you been in practice?” I always hate to admit I've only been out of school for a couple of years, but really, it's just a horribly flawed question if the person is trying to figure out how much experience you have or don't have, let alone trying to figure out if you are reliable or able to help them at all.  I don't believe that more experience = better at acupuncture, but just in case it does, community acupuncture is the fastest track around.  

One of the great things about using an online scheduling service like Appointment Quest is that it counts things for you, like how many patients you've seen in any given length of time.  A search just revealed that I have had 1576 appointments in the past 7 months since Philadelphia Community Acupuncture opened.  That averages out to 53 patients a week, including the early and slower months.  I am probably seeing about 65 patients a week right now.

Subhuti Dharmananda has reportedly estimated that most acupunks treat 12 patients a week, on average (I think I'm quoting correctly).  At that rate it would have taken me two and a half years to see the same number of patients that I just treated in seven months.  Wow.  I've been working hard.  

Patients want to trust their practitioner.  In response to their question, I imagine that they want you to say, “Oh, pshaw, I've been doing this since before you were born.”  The treatment will probably go better if they are not sitting there thinking “jeez, does she really know what she's doing after only practicing for x amount of months?”  And being worried about that.  And thinking that's the reason the acupuncture is so inexpensive around here.  So if I had the guts and were any good at lying, I would go right ahead and get creative in calculating how long I've been in practice.  Since I don't really have the time to get into the gory details about it, and since I want them to trust me.

Too bad I'm no good at lying.  Next time someone asks, I'll probably spend too much time getting into the gory details about it.  Oh well.  

Author: ellengrover

is a punk at Philadelphia Community Acupuncture and POCA's current membership coordinator. Email her at membership@pocacoop.com.

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  1. No white lies

    Looks to me like you could say you’ve been out of school 7 months and you’ve seen over 1500 patients.  Or you could say you’ve seen an average of 53 per week in the 7 months you’ve been out of school.  No lies there and very impressive numbers, I think.


  2. Pshaw

    I think you should just wink and say, “Oh, pshaw, I’ve been doing this since before you were born.”


    Congratulations on your numbers, that’s terrific. 

  3. less than 9 months

    is the amount of time i’ve been out of school…no easy way to get around that one when a patient asks 🙂 one of my colleagues here at wca told me to say, “oh, well you’re my very 1st patient!” that one usually makes them laugh so hard they forget to pursue the question further…Tongue out

  4. My answer

    People usually ask a more vague question like, “How long have you been doing this?” Now I know it’s a but … whatever … but I assume that they’re asking how long I’ve been needling and count to when I started school. For most of us that’ll tack on 3 years right there.

     If someone asked me your “…in practice” question, I’d say, “well, I’ve been in Davis since last may, but I’ve been practicing since 1999.” (when I started school.)

     I’m not much for the joking thing, but I do think it’d be funny to tell someone “you’re the first.” Until that person believed you. Then what? Or if they just saw you needle someone else? Now you just look like you’re lying to be evasive.  

    Honesty is definitely best. I think you could easily sa, “I’ve seen over 1500 patients this year alone!” and while it’s not really answering their question, it is impressive and may be enough…

     I think that at the core of this is the fact that people have no idea how long we’re in school, so by saying “4 years” (in your case) that should allay their fears that you did a correspondence course for 3 months.

    Good luck!