by Chris Rogers of Wasatch Community Acupuncture
I know it’s been said before many, many times in the POCAverse and on the forums, but it’s worth pointing out again: not every acupuncturist can be a good punk, no matter how good their intentions are. Many acupuncturists are “sympathetic” to what we do and will express how much they would like to provide affordable treatments to “those in need,” but this, however, doesn’t mean they want to be down-in-the-trenches punks, or that they are able to even if they want to.
Many of you know how difficult it is to keep a clinic fully staffed and it can be entirely frustrating when the need for treatment is so high. Many of you also know the feeling of being overbooked, understaffed, and full of heartache because you know that you’re not able to keep up with the demand. The heart-blood that goes into running a thriving community acupuncture (CA) clinic is a very real thing and it can be exhausting, especially if you’re doing most of it alone. It’s also beyond exasperating to offer a service that is simple, accessible (or should be), in great demand, and highly effective at alleviating suffering in a field full of licensed professionals, some of whom would, rather than work in a CA clinic, prefer to complain about not being busy enough to make a living–all while you are doing your damndest just to keep your head above water with your overbooked and understaffed clinic.
Unfortunately, many POCA clinics have hired experienced acupuncturists to work for them only to find that their experience doesn’t transfer very well or that a POCA clinic ecosystem doesn’t jive well with their sense of entitlement. Imagine, for a moment, the following scenario that has played out countless times in many CA clinics around the country: Small clinic hits a growth spurt and now the single punk/owner needs help. Want ads, newsletters, word-of-mouth calls for help ensue. Enter interested candidate (usually a traditionally trained acupuncturist). The interview seems to go well, everyone seems to be on the same page, and the clinic owner feels relieved to have finally found someone that really “gets” CA. Fast forward a few weeks or months and the realization that things aren’t working begins to sink in or, worse, the proverbial shit has hit the fan and it’s far more terrible than anyone could have imagined. Now, the person who was going to be the clinic’s key to future growth has to be fired or, more hopefully, both parties realize that it isn’t a good fit and a mutual departure solves the problem. This unfortunate story has repeated itself too often in too many CA clinics throughout the country. Sometimes a conventional acupuncturist can step up and learn the necessary skills to be a punk–but usually only after one or more years of experience at a CA clinic and lots of extra time and work on everyone’s part.
That brings me to the reason why I am writing this, which is to tell everyone how the creation of POCA Tech is changing things for community clinics in a very real and significant way. We here at Wasatch Community Acupuncture have been fortunate beneficiaries of what POCA and POCA Tech are doing. Like many POCA clinics, we’ve had experiences with both worlds, punk and not-so-punk. We’ve had traditionally trained acupuncturists come and go who were obviously not punks, and we’ve also had some who became real punks. Now, fortunately, Wasatch has had the honor and privilege to have someone from our clinic’s own community come full circle: going from patient, to front-desk employee, to POCA Tech punkling, and finally to full-fledged (and kick-ass) punk. Her first shift was this week, which was entirely full, and I nearly cried tears of joy at the occasion, not to mention the fact that I’ve not spent even one minute trying to deprogram this acupuncturist by teaching her the essential skills of punking (thank you POCA Tech!). In fact, I’ve already learned some pretty great things from her, which isn’t surprising since she has been learning from some of the greatest minds and hearts in American acupuncture for the past three years.
Punking requires a very particular skill set, a special mindset, and a good deal of open heart-space, and POCA Tech is creating punks who are ready to hit the ground running. Eventually, we won’t need to continue spending countless hours encouraging acupuncturists to learn a new and difficult skill set, or even more difficult, a change of heart so that they can become great punks. We are now able to hire acupuncturists who are trained to be punks–even better, those who actually set out to be punks. This means we get to keep more of our limited energy and resources focused on sustaining and growing our clinics and our profession so that they reflect the values that are important to the communities we serve. And I say, hell yeah, that feels really good.
POCA Tech is just the beginning point for this sea change and it needs our continued support. If you can give time or money to support POCA Tech please do it–it will be greatly appreciated and will ripple outward to our communities in unforseen and positive ways.
Thank you POCA, and with deep gratitude, thank you POCA Tech.