POCA Tech, POCA Tech, I cannot wait for you!

I just had the saddest, most infuriating and perhaps ultimately enlightening thing happen in the clinic this morning.  We had a long-time patient come in after her vacation. She has been coming in for pregnancy related issues and smoking cessation and is trying really hard to stop smoking.  She thought it would be great to get treated while out of town.  Keep the ball rolling and what not.  So, she went to an Acuschool Clinic that someone she knows attends.  They raved about it. Oh boy, she was not raving after that appointment.  She was hurt, upset and totally humiliated.

The clinic supervisor had the gall to tell her that she was going to have a “retarded” baby if she kept smoking.  And didn’t she know what she was doing?!  And didn’t she CARE about the baby?! Then he went on and on about her Cold Uterus and how she doesn’t do basically anything well.  The same supervisor told her father that he has 6 months to live.  (I have no idea what that was based on.)

Our poor patient, though her tears and in the middle of our reception area, then goes on to say that she has never been so thankful for community acupuncture and is so grateful that we are here.  And that we don’t judge.  We only offer resources, love and a nurturing place to be.  

I will admit that throughout the story I rabidly inserted a load of expletives, rolling of my eyes and ugly looks.  Then I teared up, too.  I did this without thinking.  I got really caught up in the shitty injustice that was served to this wonderful woman who is doing the absolute best she can. I definitely called the supervisor a F**kface and perhaps a douchebag and I meant it.  I still mean it.  Luckily, the patient felt loved by my outrage and the new patient filling out paper work on the couch just looked up and said,  “Wow.  I feel so at home right now!” And just went back to her paperwork. I guess they both could have been totally upset by my lack of decorum and left, but that isn’t our style at Little Bird. We have very little decorum and a whole lot of love.

So after the tears were dried, the hugs were dispensed and people went off to get a great acunap and I was left sitting at the front desk checking folks in, I realized that I was so excited.  I was beyond happy.  I might have even been a bit gleeful that this shit isn’t going to be the norm in AcuEducation anymore. (For those of you who are like, “That can’t be the norm! This is an isolated incident!” I am here to tell you it isn’t isolated.  I have had my reproductive life judged in the harshest of manners in school clinics and heartbreakingly hear this shitty shit from patients way too often.  It isn’t isolated.)

 It doesn’t have to be like this and with any luck this crappy self-important and degrading form of patient care will be erased by POCA Tech https://www.pocatech.org.  Holy hell!  How liberating is that?!  To know that we are working to create a school that will not only be affordable for its students but will teach future Acupunks to always treat patients with respect and dignity as a basic rule just makes my heart soar.  

Now for my fundraising plug!  Please consider donating to POCA Tech.  Donate what you can and know that you will be helping not only future Acupunks avoid crushing student debt, but will also help patients receive much needed care.  Do it!  Oh and here is the link to the POCA Tech Fundraising page- just in case- https://www.pocatech.org/donate/index.php?q=civicrm/contribute/transact&reset=1&id=6.

Author: suzzanne.lohr

I was the proud owner of Little Bird Community Acupuncture located in Washington, DC for 6 years and am so happy that the clinic is thriving without me at the helm.

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  1. Great post, Suzzzane. I just want to second the statement that this type of behavior by clinic supervisors is *not* isolated in acupuncture schools. When I was in school, one of the supervisors I worked with on occasion, who also happened to have a reputation as a fertility “expert” made patients cry on a regular basis. (WTF is it with those fertility practitioners!) Once I watched her refuse to give the patient a treatment altogether because the patient did not bring her lab work in or tracked her cycle that month. What kind of a crazy freaking role modeling is this for students!?! After this happened to 2 of my patients, I absolutely refused any of my patients to be seen by this supervisor, expertise be damned. POCA Tech cannot come soon enough. Heart. Hands. Head. That’s the order. And we will get there.

  2. Fund POCA Tech! Because we won’t use the r-word.

    A year ago or so I would’ve suggested asking for the name of the clinic and the supervisor and sending them an email — because acu-school culture being what it is, I bet this person doesn’t think there’s any problem with what he said. And there’s certainly reasons for that kind of education and feedback. But acu-school culture being what it is, it’s not going to get much better. What we really need is a new paradigm. As Skip said this morning as we were working on the school catalog, “acupuncture schools lecture at their students, they model lecturing as professional behavior, so the students go out looking for patients to lecture”. POCA Tech is going to model COOPERATIVE behavior so our students go out looking for patients to cooperate with.

  3. The r-word is the worst and it hurt to even write it. How is that a term that still seems ok for people to use?

    Cooperative behavior. That is perfect! And exactly how this should be done. I really feel like even on an energetic level that is what is happening between punk and patient. All we are doing is finding a way to cooperate with each other and our bodies in order to feel better. Thanks, Lisa!

  4. “We have very little decorum and a whole lot of love” = new favorite POCA slogan. Thank you, LB!
    Love this, too: “POCA Tech is going to model COOPERATIVE behavior so our students go out looking for patients to cooperate with.” Yay!

  5. The whole time I was doing my internship at OCOM, I mostly felt like I was protecting my patients from the supervisors. The fact that we are taught to model our behavior after people who don’t depend on their patients to make a living is yet another failure of the “education” that we have gotten.
    GO GET ‘EM POCA Tech!

  6. the only happy part of this story is that she was getting treated at Little Bird BEFORE she went to that awful clinic. could you imagine if she walked away with THAT being her experience of acupuncture??? I cannot wait for POCA tech to hit these schools the only place it matters to them… their wallets.

  7. Well, that is all a very terrible shame. Just to give a slight counter-point: I loved my supervisors, every one of them. They were caring and professional, and modeled that to each of the patients we saw. Practicum time was always my favourite time at school, for that reason.

  8. Like Stillpoint acu, I had mostly very good, caring Clinic supervisors at school. There are ways to influence people to take steps towards health without insulting them.

    David Villanueva
    Oasis CA

  9. What really burns me up — it is not at all clear that smoking itself has an impact on IQ. See —

    So many LAcs so geared up to provide primary care, and so many talking about stuff they know nothing about.

    I think it would be great for the client to write a letter to the school. Not because it is an isolated incident, but because it isn’t. If it were me I’d start by pointing out that, not living under a rock, I am aware of the impact of smoking on me and on my baby. A proper intake would have revealed that I was aware of the risks and that I was doing all I could to quit. Instead, an addiction was treated as a choice, and incorrect medical information was shared using language that is not acceptable. And, to get the attention of the clinic supervisor, I’d make sure to include that I’d make sure others who were thinking of receiving treatment at the clinic were aware of the poor level of care I received.

  10. This post brings back some sad memories for me. I had a clinic supervisor and teacher who I was very close to. We were so close, in fact that we argued like we were related to each other. I cringed and complained when she lectured patients on their lifestyle habits, but I was modeling myself after her and doing that very thing.

    I had a patient who treated frequently. He had Hep C, IBS and chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. He smoked and he drank a pot of coffee everyday and he never ate vegetables. She belittled him during the intake process about his coffee drinking. I was so unnerved, but I can’t say I was any better than she. I took it personally that he would not change his life to a higher standard that I was learning to set for him. He was perfectly fine with the results of his treatments. He had less pain, and he could drive long distances to see his daughter and new grandchild, but it just wasn’t enough in my mind. When I wrapped up my clinic internship and was getting ready to graduate, I coldly referred him out. My loss. He was a good friend. I tried to call him a few years later and the phone was disconnected. I do not know if he moved or if he passed away.

    I have thought about this a lot in the process of deprogramming. I am embarrassed and ashamed of this story and I never intended on sharing it…EVER. We do need a new paradigm. The POCA Tech students won’t be programmed at all in order to need de-programming.

    We are plugging away at planning a Halloween party fundraiser at MAS. the food offered will be a macrobiotic nightmare. I am so looking forward to eating donuts and drinking beer with our patients to raise $$$$ for POCA Tech.

  11. We heard many times in school that we couldn’t take our patients further than we had been, or we couldn’t advise them to do things that we ourselves weren’t willing to do. In other words, you couldn’t just act holier-than-thou without actually BEING holier-than-thou. I was so glad to abandon the clinic structure I spent 2 years immersed in, not because there was so much overt condescension to patients (thankfully I can count those incidents, harsh though they were, on one hand) but because when we went back into the staff room to confer there was just so much judgment, so much disdain for all these people who just “wouldn’t” do whatever it was they were “supposed” to do to improve. As though they didn’t know what was good for them. What a disconnect from people to hold – I mean, find someone who doesn’t drink much water who hasn’t heard they should drink more, or what have you. People know. They don’t need another lecture they need more compassion and some peace and quiet. Thank goodness POCAtech is on the horizon, indeed.

  12. “To know that we are working to create a school that will not only be affordable for its students but will teach future Acupunks to always treat patients with respect and dignity as a basic rule just makes my heart soar.”

    Respect and dignity – the more I offer to others, the more I create for myself. Those words mean so much to me as a soon-to-be acupunk! That is, if the California Acu Board lets me.


    Someone else wrote about addictions being treated by practitioners as a choice. Yes, I witnessed that a number of times as an intern. I refused to treat patients under one supervisor because he had no room for compassion concerning overweight patients.

    Though I used every student presentation assigned to me as an opportunity to talk about the power of language and tolerance for obese patients, I was often looking out at glassy-eyed students who just wanted to go home and take a much needed nap.

    And lastly, Roppie, it takes great courage to show your underbelly. A wise friend once told me, “We are only as sick as our secrets.” I respect you more because you speak your truth.

    POCAtech fills me with great hope!