You just never know what might happen when you broach the topic of jobs for acupuncturists. I started out with a serious blog post, and thanks to Meaghan of Edgewater Acupuncture, next thing I knew I was running a toaster contest over the Internet. Then Keith Zabik of Tucson Community Acupuncture and Jessica Feltz of The Turning Point decided to play, which led to an unfortunate episode involving the aforementioned toaster (yeah — just one), some glitter, a few rainbow stickers, vomiting unicorns, and a power saw.
But that was just the beginning.
Nora Madden of Detroit Community Acupuncture had the revelation that the toaster should go ON TOUR — perhaps, she suggested, to various bastions of the acu-establishment. Alexa Hulsey of East Nashville Community Acupuncture countered that it “should have its picture taken with all of the punks who have gotten jobs in community acupuncture clinics across the country”. I decided that they were BOTH right.
It’s not like I needed another project, but this one’s irresistible. In part because, as they say, it’s better to laugh than to cry. Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s revisit the situation that has made our Toaster Tour possible!(And necessary.)
According to the NCCAOM Job Task Analysis, 91% of acupuncturists are self-employed. Only 9% have jobs.
60% of acupuncturists work less than 30 hours a week, though a majority of those would prefer to work full time.
Of that 60%, ALMOST HALF earn less than $20K annually — and that’s gross, not net — from their AOM activities.
At my alma mater, the average student debt for an acupuncture graduate is almost $90,000. THE AVERAGE. Many people are graduating with debt loads of over $150K.
With that much student debt, it’s often impossible to borrow more money to finance your own business; banks simply won’t loan to you, not in this economy. And yet 91% of acupuncturists are destined to be self-employed. This situation is insane and certain conclusions are simply unavoidable. However, we’ve said all that before, so I’d like to move on and focus on the issue of jobs. In honor of Independence Day for us American acupunks, let’s talk about creating jobs, which this country desperately needs us to do. Jobs in general, and jobs for acupuncturists in particular.
And by jobs I mean REAL jobs. Real, relevant and replicable. Let’s revisit the criteria for those, also. Real means creating a position for an employee, not an independent contractor; a position that is protected by worker’s comp and unemployment insurance, a position that yields a regular paycheck, a position that doesn’t result in the “employee” paying self-employment taxes of 30%. Relevant means creating a position for an acupuncturist to practice acupuncture with actual patients, not creating a position for an acupuncturist to do something else, such as teach in an acupuncture school. Relevant positions cannot be funded by acupuncture school tuition, for reasons that I hope I do not have to explain. Replicable positions are just that — they are not unique, they do not depend on extraordinary charisma or entrepreneurial savvy, they are a function of a funding stream for acupuncture that inevitably grows jobs for acupuncturists. As the funding stream expands — as it should, because acupuncture works — more jobs for acupuncturists come into being. Real, relevant and replicable jobs bolster the economy as a whole, and they are also the best possible thing that could happen to the acupuncture profession in particular.
But who is going to create such jobs? And who is going to take responsibility for the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad economic situation in which the acupuncture profession finds itself?
Unless I’m gravely mistaken, comrades, I think we are. Nobody else even seems willing to talk about it. (More on that later.) So let’s gird our loans and take pictures of toasters.
The Toaster Tour has two parts. The first takes off from Alexa’s suggestion. If you have created a real, relevant and replicable job for an acupuncturist, we want you to take a picture of that acupuncturist with our special toaster.
If it’s a living wage job, even better, and please note that. Owners of clinics, you can include yourself in the picture, if your job is also real, relevant, and replicable; meaning, if you were hit by a meteor tomorrow, would your job still be there and could someone who wasn’t hit by a meteor hire someone else to fill it?
We’ll start. WCA has created 5 real, relevant, replicable, living wage jobs for acupuncturists at our first clinic in Cully. Skip and I included ourselves because we could be replaced (we even have job descriptions to prove it!)
We have created 2 more real, relevant, replicable, living wage jobs for acupuncturists at our second clinic in Hillsdale. The Hillsdale acupunks were so excited about The Toaster Tour that a basic documentary-style picture wasn’t enough for them. They had to have costumes and a photo shoot. Even the toaster had to have a costume, courtesy of Joseph’s crochet art:
Having steady work is so relaxing! (Note: we only took pictures of our full-time acupunks, in part because they are easier to round up and photograph, since they are at work 5 days a week. We also employ 3 other acupunks part-time, 2 of them for 8 hours a week and 1 for 4.)
And hey, if you want to add a special detail of your own to the toaster when it comes to you, please do. By the time it reaches its final destination in Tucson with Keith, it will be a veritable objet d’art! The toaster is next headed to Nashville in my suitcase for our workshop in 2 weeks, and probably from there to New England in Andy’s suitcase or Cris’, bound for Manchester Acupuncture Studio or Providence Community Acupuncture and more employed acupunks.
The second part of the Toaster Tour involves, yes, a second toaster, which Joseph designed, and which will eventually end up with Jessica at The Turning Point. I think of it as “The Toaster of Truth”. Here’s one side view (meaning, turn it sideways to fully appreciate — sorry I can’t seem to rotate pcitures):
And the other:
And the view from the top:
This toaster will follow Nora’s inspiration towards prominent people in the acupuncture profession. I’d also like to include some other bloggers and various acu-friends of CAN, just to gather as much information as possible. We will invite them to answer the following questions, and we’ll post their answers on this blog:
1) Looking at the recent NCCAOM Job Task Analysis, why do you think there are so few jobs for acupuncturists? What do you think that says about the acupuncture profession?
2)What jobs for acupuncturists do you know of that fit the criteria of The Toaster Tour (real, relevant, and replicable)? Please list them, including the nature of the funding stream that supports them if you know it. We will try to independently verify them, of course.
3)Who do you think is the largest employer of acupuncturists in the U.S.?
4) In your opinion, what groundwork needs to be done in order for more acupuncturists to have real jobs? Who is responsible for doing that groundwork?
5) The availability of jobs for acupuncturists is a pressing concern because students are now graduating with so much Title IV debt that it is impossible for many of them to start a business, which means more and more graduates are never able to practice acupuncture at all. What do you think is the solution to this problem? And who is responsible for addressing it?
Respondents to our questions may, if they would like, have their picture taken with the Toaster of Truth. If they fail to respond to the questions, a picture of the Toaster of Truth will be taken outside of their respective institutions and their lack of response will be noted on this blog. (Comrades, this is going to involve some local legwork in various states, so if you are willing to help, please contact me at info at workingclassacupuncture dot org or post a comment on this thread in the CAN forums.)
Obviously, this is a big project and could result in a lot of posts. But I think it will be worth the time and trouble. You know that saying, qi follows yi, or energy follows attention; the more attention that we put on jobs for acupuncturists, eventually, let’s hope, the more of them they’ll be. Happy Independence Day!