Some Suggestions for Acupuncture School

When our baby, Ella, was born I was still in school and we got a babysitter so that I could complete clinic and have some time to study for boards. I quickly developed a strong friendship with our babysitter and really appreciated getting to know her. Recently she told me that she was interested in going to acupuncture school and wanted to talk to me about it. I was a little shocked by my reaction, but I found myself basically trying to talk her out of it.

Being at the end of my studies and seeing most people walk into the oblivion that is few jobs, lots of student loans, and little support from the schools I felt like I had to caution her very strongly about getting involved in the profession. I felt like I needed to protect her. Maybe it is because I am so burned out and saw so manyinfuriating things in acupuncture school and the structures that created and perpetuate it. Maybe it is because I feel that acupuncture curriculums in the United States are so bizarrely and unnecessarily bloated. We study so much stuff that is completely irrelevant for us today and taught to practice in a way that promotes elitism in healthcare and completely ignores the majority of people in this country.

But then, I really enjoy being an acupuncturist, well I got my license last week, so I guess I am now officially an acupuncturist. I love treating patients and seeing what acupuncture can do, it’s amazing and important. So how can I steer her away? Am I a little scared about paying off my loans, yes, but I am pretty sure that eventually I will do it – I hope.Do I wish that I did not feel this way about the profession I just spent 3.5 years investing myself in? Absolutely.I feel a pit in my stomach thinking about her spending all of that money and good intention to get to an end that can be a whole new challenge. It’s not that I don’t think we need more acupuncturists,in fact, I think we need loads more, I just feel scared to be responsible for someone choosing this path.

What I decided to do is to be completely honest with her and give her The Remedy to read. So far she is still interested in acupuncture school, in particular community acupuncture. I want to be able to recommend a school to her if she really chooses to go through with it.

So this is a plea, to anyone out there that runs or has influence at a school. Create a practical curriculum that focuses on the needs of real contemporary Americans and the future acupuncturists that will treat them. Make your programs shorter and more focused on the practical application of what we learn. I am not the first to say this, but it is vital and cannot be repeated enough times until something happens. I want to see a school whose priorities are the welfare of the community that they are a part of, the students that they educate, and the people who will be helped by their students and alums. While a couple of group clinic shifts and talking about CA in your professional development classes is a step in the right direction, it is inadequate, a band aid on a hemorrhage.

Don’t tell students that global insurance acceptance is around the corner or that some HR whatever bill is the key to a revenue stream. The goal is not to be accepted by western practitioners or to make acupuncture more prestigious.The goal is to help as many people as possible, as quickly as possible, and be able to provide for your family. That should be the core value of each school. We have to deal with reality, what can we actually do right now to lessen the challenges that people experience when seeking and obtaining healthcare? How can we make acupuncturists and this medicine successful? If schools answer these questions honestly, I am certain that they will be teaching community acupuncture.

CA is really the only way for acupuncture to succeed long-term in this country, provide access to the majority of the population, and for all, not just a few, of your students to be successful. I believe this from the bottom of my heart and want to be able to enthusiastically tell people to pursue this profession.Please consider providing a school that has these goals in mind, your school will be successful.

Trust me, I am not the only person who feels this way.

Author: bmiller

It is hard to stay where it started. Perhaps it was deep down in Blythe Miller's roots in the 19th century Russian proletariat. Perhaps it was deep in a Qi Gong fueled meditative state. Hell, maybe it was something her dog told her. At any rate, it became crystal clear to Blythe that regular people have a really hard time getting access to quality healthcare, especially acupuncture. And she has made it a priority to bridge that gap through promoting Community Acupuncture. She is currently slogging her way through the Masters program at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine.

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  1. right on

    My life partner’s 11 year old daughter recently read Acupuncture is Like Noodles. She loved it and understood it perfectly. When she read the section that talks about the kind of acupuncture schools we (the community acupuncturists) would create she said; “If you had a school like that, I would go to it and become an acupuncturist”. So we have a few years until she is ready, but hey, why not?


  2. amen to the choir. when I was at MCOM


    I thought the way it was there was just unique to the place.  Your post above about the daily ‘value reality’ of the school you went to was pretty much identical to what I experienced at MCOM.  At the time, I thought other schools especially those on the coasts were far off paradises of Chinese Medicine that somehow I had not been born cool enough to attend…

  3. yes, have her read noodles

    Yes, we took so many sucky classes (like micorbiology and chemistry).  Your friend is lucky that she has you to introduce her to CAN, noodles, the Remedy.  If more students going into schools have that info, they will question the administrators, the teachers, and if accreditation commitees.

     My school never got accredited. it’s gone now.  I sat through 3 site visits and participated in student discussions with the committies.  Had I known about CAN, I would have been vocal about it.  Some snooty guy from Bastyr kept asking why we didn’t have more Western Medicine in our program.  Talk about ellitist, he fit the bill.


  4. What would the penalty be

    What would the penalty be for practicing acupuncture without a license?  Or at least a license that didn’t come from a state board, that received transcripts from National certifying bodies?

    So if someone did some NADA training, and found people who wanted to get some NADA treatments in a variety of settings, could someone actually stop them, or just tell them that they shouldn’t be doing it?  If the case is the later, then some industrious CA practioners in a variety of settings could start be just teaching some workshops.  I don’t know, I am just typing from the top of my head.


  5. i think this is the key…

    making sure that potential and current students are informed about these issues.

    students are the consumers for the schools, and will make appropiate choices if their needs are not being met. 


  6. In Florida…

    … looks like a fine of $500, according to the statutes.  It is considered a 2nd degree misdemeanor.  I think the license costs more.

  7. new commision, new boards…

    i say this as someone who has written curriculum for various schools.  From my experience, anyway, putting a program together has less to do with what is practical and clinically useful (qualities which are, admittedly, in the eye of the beholder) than with trying to satisfy the demands of the various constituents involved — ACAOM (can’t get to the boards without ’em), NCCAOM (can’t get students licensed without ’em – Cali excepted, of course), any local or regional commisions, the owners and/or board of directors, and the students.

    I could write a long screed on this, but the upshot IMO is that, as was stated earlier, things are unlikely to change. There are many reasons for this, some of them discussed extensively in earlier threads. 

    I’ll stop here as i’ve got to get to work.