I treated 70 patients (28 were new) in 5 hours on May Day.
But this blog this isn’t about me or my competitive streak. It’s really the opposite: it’s about un-me-ing the clinic.
My first May Day, I didn’t participate because it fell on one of my busiest shifts, and I couldn’t afford the loss of income.
My second May Day, I told my patients about it and treated 20 people for free by myself.
My third May Day–in addition to the help of a second acupuncturist–friends answered the telephone and someone brought us cookies.Together we treated 38 patients in 4 hours.
This year–my fourth May Day–I was the only punk treating for five hours… but I wasn’t alone by any means.I had one receptionist and two friends directing traffic.A DJ and a caterer freely offered their services.A patient, a parent, and even a boutique acupuncturist all loaned me lawn chairs.My landlord did the yard work on Friday and offered me her dry erase sandwich board sign.A neighbor had the boys over for a 24 hour play-date.Dozens of patients reposted our Facebook event, passed-out fliers, and forwarded our e-newsletter to their comrades.Seven languages were used in the clinic, with patients helping to translate for their non-English-speaking friends.Almost nobody walked thru the doors alone.And because the clinic has become a third place of sorts in our community, a local politician collected petition signatures throughout the event.
This year, May Day became a community celebration.
Lisa said in her keynote speech: “You don’t break through the ceiling incrementally, you break through the ceiling with a quantum leap… (but) I don’t mean that it happens all at once, because it doesn’t. It’s not like you’re seeing 30 people one week and then you go through a wormhole and you’re seeing 100 the next week, it generally happens over time, more time for some people, less time for others. ”
My quantum leap began last May when I asked for help .The clinic was stuck.Something was wrong.So I asked comrades whom I trusted to take a hard look at the numbers and give me a no-holds-barred assessment.When the dust settled, I was down one punk, a husband, and 20 clinic hours, but I gained both a receptionist and tremendously supportive community.The next few months were a blur of grief and overwhelm as I struggled to pick-up the pieces and move on.Patients, friends, neighbors brought my family meals, helped with childcare, and moved us into a new home around the corner from my workplace.They referred their friends to the clinic by the truckload.Our CAP stopped being about me—it couldn’t be me, because I had nothing left to give. It became a vessel for the community to hold me and others. The clinic began to thrive.
When she started last summer, I taught my new receptionist that with 6 patients scheduled per hour, we could accommodate a couple of walk-ins, bringing us up to 8 an hour.Which we did…for a while.But our waiting room was filling-up.The volume became unmanageable, and we needed a new solution.Given that there weren’t any other community punks knocking on the door for a job, since I couldn’t offer any more clinic shifts myself, and because the community was making its desire for CA evident, we started scheduling 10 per hour.My treatments are all pretty simple; it doesn’t take me more than a minute to decide which points I want to use.I figured that since I had 10 chairs in the room and most people were only resting 45 – 60 minute, if I could get faster and flip each chair once an hour, my community would have the service it wanted.Which led to me recently thinking: “12 is only 2 more than 10.Maybe I’ll try to kick it up it for May Day, and we’ll just see what happens.”So we scheduled patients every five minutes on May 1.
Going into May Day, I knew that I’d be busier than ever before.I reread Miriam Lee’s “Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist” to visualize how she did it.She was the only punk in her community.I knew that she was seeing 100 per day.I knew what points she was using.I knew that she treated her patients wherever she could fit them in: the waiting room, sitting on the edge of beds, standing on the stairs.At our May Day, we would have a DJ with party music outside, finger food in the reception room, and lots of chatter both inside and out.I let go of what I expected the clinic room to look like (quietly dozing friends snoozing for as long as they like), and reminded myself that this is a celebration. I taught my receptionist divas how to triage the flow (new vs returning, scheduled vs walk-in), gave the politician some parameters, talked to the DJ about setting-up his gig, and then I let go of it all and stepped into the treatment room.Acupuncturing was all I did, all day long.
My new patient spiel went something like this (after confirming that none of the ladies were pregnant): “Today, we’re going to do a very basic stress-relieving treatment.You might find that you sleep better, feel more relaxed, or experience a reduction in pain after this session.The next time you are here, we will talk about the symptoms you would like to address, and then I’ll tailor the treatment more specifically to your body.You will also have the opportunity to rest longer.”With 10 chairs and up to 20 patients an hour (because the drizzly rain kept people from sticking to their scheduled times), everybody rested for at least half-an-hour.90% rebooked.
Repeatedly, I heard from long-time patients: “Wow!You’re so busy!!This is great for you.”I replied over and over again: “No.This is great for the community, because it means that the clinic is stable.The community is invested in it. The clinic is self-sustaining.”Frederick needs more clinic hours.We need another acupuncturist. And we are not alone: dozens of other clinics across the country are struggling to hire punks to meet their communities’ needs.That’s why this summer there are TWO community acupuncture workshops happening in underserved parts of our country on the anniversary of James Reston’s appendix removal: July 16 & 17 in the Great Lakes and Southeast.This summer, you’ll find workshops in Madison, WI; Nashville, TN; Providence, RI; Berkeley, CA.
Punks and clinics across the country are breaking their five minute miles, paving the way for POCA. Have you seen how POCA’s goals and objectives will tie into the needs of both community clinics which are busting at the seams and also those which are working to get there?Membership in our new organization opens this month, and not a minute too soon.
Happy May Day, Everyone! (Be sure to post your numbers here, too.)