Regional/Neighborhood differences

One of the questions I’ve had ever since this movement got going has been how clinics will look in various parts of the country/world, with all the variation in the people that might come to a CA. Working Class Acupuncture is wildly successful. It is located in a tight knit, working class neighborhood in progressive, environmentally minded Portland, OR with a mild climate (compared to Minnesota).

I got some feedback about my clinic recently from a native Minnesotan who travels a lot for her job.   She notices the regional differences in people, especially communication styles.  “I become more aware of the differences when I come home from a trip.”

My clinic has a large waiting room that is the common area for several businesses, a room with 4 overstuffed recliners, a room with 3 La Fuma chairs, an office I share with a healing touch/massage practitioner and her room with a massage table.  We are on the third floor of an upscale office building next door to the county government center in a suburb of Minneapolis that has manufacturing, service, professional and retail workers and commuters.  Nearly everyone is busy, plugged in and stressed out.  There is a 21-space parking lot, street parking and a free ramp ½ block away. Most of my clients drive and are middle class.  Three-fourths are working and the rest retired, laid off, or on disability.  The bus is a long block away.

She told me she thought my clinic was just right for the people of this area – predominantly conservative and many times of Scandinavian descent.   Garrison Keilor of A Prairie Home Companion on NPR pokes good-natured fun at the laconic, practical, stoic people of his hometown – Anoka, MN where my clinic is located.

She thinks the invisible receptionist is “empowering.”  “You have to take responsibility for making and keeping your appointments.”  When I mentioned that WCA thought the people doing reception helped in the healing by listening to clients unload some stress when they came into the clinic, she said, “Well, maybe. But a lot of times I think everyone is just busy and might not want to talk to the receptionist beyond small pleasantries.” Minnesotans don’t talk much about their feelings, especially in a waiting room.

I mentioned the idea of clinic with a large room with groups of chair and she said she thought the smaller rooms were “just right” for the reserved Minnesotans.  “A large room with lots of chairs might not be comfortable.” My set up “provides privacy and isn’t overwhelming.”  I have often wondered if my chairs are too close together.  She doesn’t think so.

When I asked her about taking credit/debit cards, she said that would waste my time in processing them.  She mentioned that I am able to keep prices lower in not having to pay the 3-4% processing fee.  I rarely have requests for them.  She likes the envelope system especially as it avoids all the awkwardness of the $ part for both of us.

She didn’t like the notion of online scheduling.  She’s aware that people will forget to do it so I would have to go out and remind them about it like one clinic has had to do.  I have heard from other clinics that their clients like it a lot, but it does seem to require a receptionist once the clinic gets busy.  One clinic told me it’s best to make appointments after the visit before leaving or clients forget to make return appointments.

She isn’t worried about confidentiality with the schedule book or the conversation in the room.  I notice, too, that people get over worrying about these things right away.

She has observed that the system works really well.  Some may come early, some late.  No one waits much and they can all see that I’m busy if they are waiting.  They are all careful to say that I should take the one who has waited the longest, even if they find out that person came very early and expected to wait.  I tell them all I take them in the order in which they were scheduled. They all smile and look less anxious knowing the rules.

I recently added a bulletin board for posting testimonials, trades, barters and 2nd hand shops.  I also have a food shelf donation box.  She liked these additions.  We talked about all the layoffs, business closings and the effect it is having on everyone.

She did mention my lack of Saturday hours.  Her brother works 10-12 hr days and could only come on Saturday.  I explained that the building is locked on weekends and that once a week isn’t really a good acupuncture plan, especially initially.

I haven’t had feedback in this detail before but after the second try at moving to a larger space failed, I did hear a lot of relief from some clients.  They were used to this place and system.  It worked for them.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Business is good, even in this economy.  We talked about word of mouth and her opinion that I might need to add another practitioner soon.

It brings home the message that CA clinics are going to be different from one another in many details.  Lisa once told me to listen to my clients. They will show/tell me what they like.

Author: annmongeau

I've been a member of CAN since the beginning.  It just makes sense to me to offer acupuncture at affordable prices.  Then, because it's so much fun to do community acupuncture and it's so useful to people, I got active in spreading the word. 

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  1. adaptation

    Your experience seems to confirm that clients will adapt to the “regional differences” in the CA model. That sort of begs the question as to what exactly are the essential ingredients in this model (in order to be successful)?

    Affordability, transparency of fees, giving appropriate advice regarding frequent treatments, and of course, giving good treatments…

     Anyone else care to debate this?

    All true religions seek to gain access to that level of consciousness which is not ego-bound.</