POCA’s Formula is People Helping People

  • Remember the first day of kindergarten? I do. I was excited and terrified. Who should I sit next to? Would the teacher be nice? Will I make friends? Why does the paste smell funny?
  • Well, opening a new community acupuncture clinic is a lot like your first day of school. Forget about, “Will my patients like me?” The questions that floated through my head were mainly, “Will there be any patients? Will they benefit from my treatments? Will I pay rent?” in that order.
  • It's my third week in the clinic and although it's just me running the show, I'm surrounded by support from my POCA peeps. Lots of acupuncturists talk about what a lonely career acupuncture can be. Sure you see patients but for one on one clinics, you don't often have a community of other acupuncturists that walk with you through the journey of developing your practice. That's where POCA has helped me most. Actually, that's not true.
  • The first place POCA touched was my heart. When Tatyana, an acupunk at Sarana Community Acupuncture gave a lecture about community acupuncture at my school, she talked about a grassroots movement that helps make treatments accessible to people who can’t afford $80 visits once a week.
  • I couldn't wait to buy the book, “Acupuncture Is Like Noodles” by Lisa Rohleder. And as I read about a simple, sustainable business model that could offer affordable holistic healthcare, I was excited to graduate and get started. And that's how my trip down the rabbit hole began.
  • I volunteered for a short time at Ninah's clinic, Community Acupuncuture Works of San Francisco. She showed me through ropes. I witnessed people quietly entering her peaceful clinic, grabbing a blanket or two and finding a treatment chair. Ninah would gently listen to her patients as they whispered their issues to her and then she’d start poking. Thanks to her sliding scale, her patients could come in frequently enough for acupuncture to help their bodies heal.
  • The POCA forums, blog posts and POCA TV helped educate me about all the little things and big things that my graduate school didn’t teach. I learned about how to make a business plan, find a clinic space, negotiate a lease, develop a marketing plan, introduce patients to community acupuncture, organize a treatment plan, explain treatment plans, manage my patient load, chart, obtain online scheduling, furnish my clinic inexpensively, deal with the ups and downs of owning a business and most importantly, ask for help.
  • It was through POCA that I developed lasting relationships with other acupunks. My clinic mentor, Jennifer of Concord Community Acupuncture, speaks with me regularly to help with my marketing plan and the hiccups of starting a clinic. You have no idea how touching it is to receive a text from someone who is thinking of you on opening day. And she does that for free! Clinic success mentorship is a free service run by POCA volunteers.
  • Actually, most of what happens through POCA happens because volunteers suit up and show up for the greater good. That’s why we need more members. Becoming a part of the POCA cooperative will make more POCA TV available, more outreach available and more mirco-loans for new clinics happen.
  • And it’s not just my mentor that’s been such an incredible support to me; I frequently leave beginner questions on Nicole of Beach Community Acupuncture’s voicemail. I received a treatment in her clinic just a few months before I opened and loved her space so much, I attempted to use the same paint color for my waiting room. Um, that didn’t work out as planned (a whole other post can be written about the pitfalls of color selection) but I do handle patient intakes using her quick tips. Why reinvent the wheel?
  • The people I mention here are just a small slice of the folks that have stepped up to help little ole me and my dinky new business. I could continue on for pages and pages detailing the website help I’ve received (thanks, Dom), the free treatments I’ve experienced in clinics (thanks, Michael, Tatyana, Pam, Nicole, Ninah), the kind emails (thanks, Cris, Kim, MaryMargaret, Melissa), the long calls with questions (thanks, Michelle H.), the requests for business cards (thanks, Skip), the likes on my clinic’s facebook page, the temporary job of answering phones for Pinwheel Community Acupuncture (thanks, Michelle R.), the many helpful boosts I’m forgetting to mention and the countless answers to my forum questions.
  • I’ve still have a long road to hoe. My opening has been soft and I’m learning to be patient, have faith and take the next right action. In time, I hope to follow in the footsteps of the big clinics that help so many. For now, I will merely lean into the heroes of community acupuncture and learn from them daily.
  • Join POCA and help people get better with affordable, accessible acupuncture. It’s quite simple really. POCA’s formula is people helping people.

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  1. It’s beautiful, Elizabeth! You’ve captured the essence of how we all felt when we opened our own clinics!