The community acupuncture profession is moving clearly in a direction toward simplicity in practice, accessibility to services, and ease of entry into the profession. Our legislative and educational institutions should reflect this reality.
Demographics of practitioners and practice:
As POCA is currently conducting its own in-depth annual survey on this topic (thank you, Shauna!), we find it unnecessary to answer these questions twice.
Titles and degrees:
Many of the survey's questions fail to take into account the significant differences between community acupuncture clinics and other types of AOM practitioners. Community acupuncturists practice acupuncture, for the most part, and very little else, generally speaking. Therefore any questions about various AOM titles are irrelevant to us; we are acupuncturists, or better yet, punks.
Cris Monteiro, POCA Membership Circle operational leader, asks:
“Are these questions gathering information to direct action or gauge perceptions? The perceptions of the profession during my 13 years of practice have lent themselves to hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on chasing windmills of legitimacy and status rather than providing access to care and education so that the medicine can be more widely shared.”
As for degrees: Community acupuncturists want to develop effective, hands-on, practical education we can afford; entry-level programs that can be completed by working people in less than three years, that can be paid for during enrollment because fees are reasonable, and that produce competent and prepared graduates who are eligible for the increasing number of jobs available in community acupuncture clinics. We want to employ graduates who can make rapid and accurate diagnoses in a matter of seconds; treat 6, 8, or 10 people an hour; chart quickly and simply; recognize red flags and referral situations; and be able to effectively communicate with all kinds of people.
With regards to primary care and aligning ourselves with physicians, the nature of our clinical practices is such that we are not able or interested in providing any type of primary care. Interestingly, we frequently receive referrals and communications from medical professionals of all kinds, and most of us include all kinds of medical professionals in our patient bases.
POCA members join our organization for professional development, continuing education, and best practices, but we also join to increase patient access to acupuncture, to lower barriers to our services, and to remove status as a barrier between practitioners and patients. We are repeatedly asked by potential students about the realities of acupuncture education, and we are tireless advocates for transparency in the true cost of education, realistic earnings for acupuncturists, and affordable educational options to ensure access to acupuncture education for more people.
Regarding the FPD draft standards and the AAAOM's response to them:
Cris Monteiro responds:
“I actually have read all of the above documents, but I do not completely understand them. I am not an educator, nor do I have any knowledge, nor expertise in designing curriculum or performance standards for secondary education. Here’s what I can say: The draft standards, first, second, third, etc. for a First-Professional Doctorate are moot. The acupuncture profession is not going to solve its identity crisis, or dismal job and earning prospects by adding another degree. If inclusion in managed care and hospital settings is the golden egg for the profession, it could be accomplished through additional post-graduate education, for those who seek employment in those realms. It has been argued that getting acupuncturists and acupuncture into hospital settings will accomplish a common goal of the acupuncture profession in general and that of POCA: more treatments for people. Indeed this is a common goal, but the FPD is not a shared strategy. POCA and its member clinics have already shown Community Acupuncture settings to be a robust way to provide more treatments to the public at an affordable price, with minimal administrative costs.
“As for the AAAOM’s analysis and recommendations, kudos to them for calling the authors of the FPD standards out on a variety of inconsistencies and encouraging the use of language in the FPD draft standards that better describes the reality of medical practice and the integration of practices like acupuncture into the existing medical paradigm.”
Brent Ottley, Executive Acupuncture Organizations Liaison, responds:
“Among its many strengths, our medicine offers unique and powerful possibilities for serving the basic healthcare needs of middle and low income members of the society, a population segment into which we have only barely penetrated. Ironically, however, the institutions of our profession have proved stubbornly unresponsive, and in many cases, downright inimical to the development of delivery systems that might facilitate this, instead focusing their energy on the achievement of legislative success and status relative to the medical profession. I understand the legitimate need for great attention to this part of things, but the economics and growth of this approach has not succeeded in opening real opportunities for the majority of practitioners. We should be opening the entry level to practitioners who can enter communities and begin providing simple, basic, affordable care as a foundational element to the upward growth of the profession, to doctoral levels and beyond.”
Demetra Markis, POCA Executive Director, responds:
“The key point we've come to is this: community acupuncture has carved out its place in healthcare. It has really almost nothing in common with the kind of practice that would be created by a graduate of a theoretical FPD program. Community acupuncturists want to provide simple and affordable acupuncture treatments to lots of people in accessible group settings. As such, our educational and legislative needs are extremely different from practitioners who wish to exclusively provide private-room acupuncture treatments, research modern applications for ancient herbal formulas, design qi gong programs for cancer patients, or inhabit the more esoteric realms of academia. Any organization who wishes to represent the acupuncture profession as a unified field must take our needs into account when assessing the zeitgeist of the profession. Otherwise, we may be better off recognizing that such disparate needs actually reflect the development of two distinct professions, in which case community acupuncturists are content to let AOM/TCM practitioners develop their own standards if they are willing to stay out of our way as we pursue our goals: affordable entry-level educational degrees; clinical training that prepares graduates for jobs in our clinics; and licensing and educational standards that encourage entry into the community acupuncture profession.”