Toaster Tour Interview #2: Matt Bauer, L.Ac.

strong>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?

span style=”font-size:small;”>First, I want to thank CAN for engaging people in the AOM profession in this line of questioning.  If you aren’t careful, people will start to see you as “leaders” in the AOM field. 

span style=”font-size:small;”>Why are there so few jobs? Two primary reasons; First, those who have worked on establishing acupuncturists as a profession in the U.S. have never concerned themselves with what happens to them as far as making a living goes. All the focus was and pretty much still is on education standards, legislation, promoting research, and things like parity in insurance coverage. Lisa Rohleder and the people involved in organizing Community Acupuncture have been the first group in the AOM profession to seriously raise the issue of what happens to acupuncturists once they graduate from AOM schools. Posing these Toaster Tour questions is the latest example of this.

span>Second, there has been no organized push for promoting the idea of hiring acupuncturists within the established medical institutions. Anyone who understands the potential of acupuncture knows that every physical therapy facility, for example, should have at least one well trained acupuncturist on staff. If we as a profession did nothing more than zero-in on successfully making that case, this could lead to thousands of solid-paying jobs. I have recently been helping to promote the documentary “9000 Needles” the true story of a young American man who suffers a serious stroke and ends-up traveling to China for post-stroke therapy. If we could only show how much acupuncture can help stroke recovery – just that one condition – that itself could lead to hundreds if not thousands of jobs for acupuncturists.

What does this say about the acupuncture profession? It says that the sentiment I used to hear so much in years past – that all we had to do as a profession and as individual practitioners was to “learn our art well” – was naïve and has been failing us. Learning the art well is just a beginning step. In real life you had better also develop and work a smart plan regarding how to have the chance to ply your art while also earning you a living. Our profession never got around to this second concern.

span style=”font-family:’Times New Roman’;”>2) What jobs for acupuncturists do you know of that fit the criteria of The Toaster Tour — real, relevant, and replicable? (See this blog post for an explanation of the criteria: span style=”font-family:’Times New Roman’;color:#0000ff;”>> ) Please list the jobs, including the nature of the funding stream that supports them if you know it. We will try to independently verify them, of course; any contact information you have is greatly appreciated.

I am unaware of any for real jobs that meet your criteria. I suspect there are a few out there but they would be very few in number.

strong>3) Who do you think is the largest employer of L.Acs in the U.S.? How many jobs does the largest employer provide?

span style=”font-family:’Times New Roman’;”>Harvey Kaltsas had an article in May 20011 edition of Acupuncture Today about the Cancer Treatment Centers of America that employs eight acupuncturists at five centers. I know there are other hospitals employing a few here and there but most all of these are in single digits. I think collectively CA clinics employ more than any other type of facility and CAN deserves a lot of credit for this.

strong>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?

span style=”font-size:small;”>See below.

strong>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 their own businesses, 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? 

I will take questions 4 and 5 together as they essentially ask the same thing: What can be done to improve the job situation for acupuncturists and who is responsible to make the needed changes?

While I am very much supportive of steps to develop jobs and will expand on my opinion expressed in question One on how we can make this happen, I also want to stress that we should simultaneously work on teaching graduates how to open their own practices.

span style=”font-size:small;”>Not everyone graduating our AOM schools has high student loan debt and I don’t believe that high debt levels means graduates cannot open their own practices if they plan for that from the beginning. I am trying to do everything I can to educate AOM students that having a plan for opening their own private practice right after graduation is their most viable option to earn a living. Taking steps to provide jobs for new graduates may take years at best. Teaching students how to prepare themselves for successful private practice right out of school can be done now.That is what I am dedicating the next stage of my career to and why I wrote “Making Acupuncture Pay”.I am trying to get students and schools to support steps to give students this knowledge as early as possible in their education.I warned in my book that even if these jobs we are considering here were to start to materialize, the AOM schools would likely crank-up their recruiting efforts creating that many more practitioners vying for the same jobs. No matter how you slice it, teaching AOM graduates the knowledge they need to open and successfully manage their own practices will serve them best and should be just as high a priority as creating jobs.

Now, as far as creating jobs goes, as I mentioned in my answer to question One, there are so many areas we could work on to educate the public and medical establishment about the potential for acupuncture. The fact that acupuncture has potential in so many different areas has actually seemed to overwhelm our overworked and underfunded leadership. Where do you start? Do you just talk about how it can help pain or even just one condition like low back pain? This seems limiting as acupuncture can be used for so much more and anyone who suggests zeroing-in on a narrow focus will be criticized by those who don’t support limiting acupuncture’s potential. I have seen the inability to choose between so many possibilities stop efforts at educating the public or the medical establishment time and again within the AOM leadership. I have suggested there is a way around this that can turn this problem into a solution: Stress that acupuncture works by stimulating the body’s own resources and that is why it has applications in so many different areas of medicine.

Ask yourself this? If the average person were to be told that they could increase their body’s own natural resources—boost the way the body uses its resources to heal itself—don’t you think most people would be open to that? This is exactly what acupuncture does. It squeezes more efficiency out of the body’s resources. That is why is has applications in so many different areas of medicine. This is such a powerful service to offer. WHO WOULDN’T WANT TO GET MORE OUT OF WHAT NATURE GAVE US?What acupuncturists should be doing both individually in their practices and as a profession, is to work at establishing ourselves as the experts at squeezing more out of what nature gave us. This is the prefect compliment to modern medicine whose strength is intervening with man-made resources.I am convinced that if acupuncturists were to rally around this goal—establishing ourselves as the experts at getting more out of the body’s own resources—we would see more progress for our profession than we have seen since the first efforts to make acupuncturists legal in the U.S.I have tried to propose this idea to AOM leaders without success now I am trying to propose this to ran and file acupuncturists in the hopes they will want to make it happen. People interested in working on this can contact me though my website at www.MakingAcupuncturePay

Jessica Feltz
Author: Jessica Feltz

<p> I learned about Community Acupuncture while studying at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine (MCOM) in the Spring of 2006 when Lisa Rohleder's first article about her clinic appeared in Acupuncture Today. Coming from a middle-class background myself, I was the only student in my acupuncture class to have not experienced the healing benefits of this medicine prior to beginning studies at MCOM. I couldn't afford it. And my family couldn't understand what I was doing by investing in an education that they didn't perceive to be financially sustainable. </p> <p> The Community Acupuncture model is a perfect fit for me, balancing social justice and taoist simplicity with the patient's innate ability to heal him/herself (with a few gentle nudges from strategically placed needles). I am grateful every day to have found CAN and the love it brings into my life. I want to share that joy by spreading the message about how we can create a new health care experience in our communities through each of our very small efforts...and how those very small efforts can in turn change the world. </p> I enjoy my two sons, my 4 cats, and big stacks of books.  I own and operate...

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  1. thanks, Matt!

    including for pointing out the AT article about CTCA. That’s really great, because we couldn’t figure out how many of the ND/L.Acs were doing acupuncture and how many had naturopath jobs. So 8 it is. I read the article, and it looks like they are counting both part time and full time acupunks for that headcount of 8.  Note: WCA has 7 full time punks and 3 part time punks at this moment, and we’re expecting to add more. If it turns out that WCA is the largest employer of acupunks in the US, I am never, ever, EVER going to let anybody forget it.