As I was editing Cris and Skip's video about deprogramming, I got to thinking about a conversation we had here a couple of years ago. A POCA comrade who now runs a very successful clinic said on the forums that the most essential thing the CA movement gave him was permission: permission to do acupuncture the way he always wanted to do it anyway — simply, inexpensively, unpretentiously, efficiently. And a bunch of other folks chimed in and said, yes, that's true for me too, this is exactly what I wanted, but my acupuncture school and/or other acupuncturists had convinced me that I couldn't/shouldn't/better not, because BAD THINGS WOULD HAPPEN IF I DID.
This didn't just happen individually, it happened collectively. Before POCA, CAN would regularly get scolded for our recklessness. I thought it might be instructive to make a list of all the bad things that didn't happen that we were warned about, things that we might have reasonably expect to have happened, now that 750,000+ treatments per year are going on, and you know, the odds increase. I'll just speak from WCA's 11+ years of experience, and our 200,000+ plus treatments.
1) We were told that we couldn't just treat back pain if people said they had back pain, because despite back pain being one of the most common complaints around, it MIGHT actually be bone cancer. And if it WAS bone cancer ,and we failed to detect it by requesting all their past X-rays and medical records, they would sue us. We've now treated tens of thousands of people for back pain, and nobody has sued us.
2) We were told that if we didn't spend an hour talking to every patient, asking them the 10 questions and giving them a TCM differential diagnosis, we would regularly miss terrible underlying illnesses and/or “drive their energetic imbalances deeper” and, you guessed it, the patients would all sue us. See above: nobody has sued us. Also, nobody seems to have suffered from a missing differential diagnosis.
3) We were told that if we didn't wear white coats and hang our diplomas on the walls and speak only in medical terminology, no Western medical professionals would ever respect us or give us referrals. We wear t-shirts to work, our diplomas are nowhere to be seen, we talk like normal human beings and yet we are up to our ears in referrals from MDs and NPs and PAs we have never even met. Some of those Western medical professionals refer a LOT of their patients to us, so they must think we're OK.
4) We were told that people would be appalled and disgusted by our shabby recliners and our militant logo and nobody would want to get acupuncture from us. We're pretty consistently providing between 850 — 900 treatments per week, so apparently not everybody's disgusted.
5) We were told that the long arm of the law would get us, and we'd be paying thousands of dollars in HIPAA violations. We haven't had a single complaint, but more importantly, unless HIPAA changes their definition of what a “covered transaction” is, we're not even covered entities under the law. Upon closer inspection, that particular arm isn't nearly as long as they claimed it was.
Those are all things that didn't happen. What did happen was that a lot of people of ordinary incomes got acupuncture. Most of them felt better; most of them were very grateful, appreciative, and enthusiastic; also, a bunch of punks were able to make a living doing acupuncture.
This makes me wonder about will happen as we continue to deprogram ourselves and, inevitably, large swaths of the public. It's hard to escape the conclusion that the people who tried to scare us away from doing community acupuncture really had no idea at all about how acupuncture works — never mind that they were acupuncturists. What happens when it becomes clear to a lot of people that the most valuable effects of acupuncture are general, rather than specific, and so do not require time-consuming diagnostic methods, either Western or Asian? What happens when it becomes clear that simple meridian therapies and point protocols are perfectly adequate for what ails hundreds of thousands of people?
We were told that the keys to success are reverent study of the masters (pick your master; the list keeps changing, I can't keep up) and/or careful cultivation of our professional image, the more MD-like the better. One thing that happened was that we found out that a lot of us who don't do those things are much busier and more successful than a lot of acupuncturists who do. Another thing that happened was that we learned that the real keys to success are prosaic virtues and practices like hard work, good systems and good communication. (Shameless plug for this month's POCA Tv programming! If you watch this first video in the series on situational punking, you'll see what I mean by good systems and good communication. Now why didn't we learn these things in school?) Maybe one of the best things that happened was that we learned that when you make acupuncture affordable to as many people as possible, you attract delightful, devoted, generous, savvy and talented patients; a kind of success that nobody ever told us we could have. Probably because they didn't know that kind of success existed. But now we know. We know a lot of things that we can't un-know. What's going to happen when lots of other people know them too?