Want a Long Term Acupuncture Career? POCA Can Help!

    This August will mark 7 years since I graduated from acupuncture school. I haven’t really kept in touch with any of my classmates except for the few who practice community acupuncture and those whose lives I occasionally find out about via Facebook. I recently witnessed a few former classmates of mine discussing their thoughts of giving up on acupuncture as a career because they aren’t earning enough money practicing. I have no idea how their practices are structured but I know that they aren’t practicing community acupuncture. One remarked that she would like to do anything that makes a lot of money so that she can do what she loves (acupuncture) on the side. Another who is still practicing compassionately stated that she knows it’s difficult, and wouldn’t it be a good idea to try to get together and support one another since our school doesn’t provide that kind of support. I know others who gave up even sooner, and still more who never even began practicing after finishing acupuncture school.
    I had never actually witnessed a classmate of mine discussing a career change due to lack of income practicing acupuncture, although it is something I have heard many punks say who switched to community acupuncture after giving private treatments for some time after struggling to make ends meet. Not earning enough money practicing acupuncture is one of those things nobody really wants to talk about publicly.
    Ironically, just before the day I learned about those classmates I was thinking about how grateful I am that here I am, almost 7 years post-graduation, still punking away. I was thinking, wow, I am now 2 years past that statistical threshold that so many of us hear about: that large group (sorry, but I don’t know the exact stats) of acupuncturists who never make it practicing past 5 years after graduating. At this point in my career and life I am content. I make enough money from my work, I absolutely love treating patients in a group setting at a quick pace, I don’t always love the headaches and pressures of being a business owner and manager but there are certain thrills and it’s a labor of love. I’m satisfied, and I’m not thinking about quitting.
    So far my entire career has been exclusively as a punk – a community acupuncturist – first as a punk employee for about a year, and then as a punk and clinic owner for over 6 years. I think there are a few reasons why it has been working out for me. It wasn’t that I just had ambition and worked hard (which I did), but also, I was lucky to find CAN just about 6 months before I graduated from acupuncture school (CAN, the Community Acupuncture Network, was the organization preceding POCA – very similar, with lots of collaboration and support among punks, but with a different organizational structure – not a coop). With all of the support I received from the CAN website and CAN colleagues, I had all of the information I needed to open a CA clinic, treat people in recliners, hire my first employees and much more. All I had to do was read through the forums and ask questions when I didn’t find the information I was looking for. And now, POCA offers even more resources than CAN did, and people in POCA truly want to help new punks and new clinics succeed.
    When I was new to CAN there was no such thing as the Welcome Wagon or Clinic Success Circle – there weren’t formal mentors who you could ask for help; but we did the best we could helping each other when we were all trying to figure it out for ourselves. That was great, but now there are experienced punk clinic owners and employees who can help out newer punks, and they do this out of their own desire to volunteer and give back.
    Just a few days ago I taught a POCA continuing education class at my clinic to some local punks. After the class a new POCA member, who just graduated from acupuncture school this past April, told me that when she joined POCA, someone called her up and offered to be her mentor, and she wanted to know if that was for real, and if it is, that she can hardly believe it and can’t believe how great that is. I told her that yes, it is for real, just do your homework on POCA because they won’t teach you everything from the ground up, but they will help you out if you are serious about wanting to be a punk and need support. This type of opportunity doesn’t seem to exist anywhere else in the acupuncture world (at least, not that I know of).
    I have met so many amazing people at POCA and CAN events and when I am finding myself challenged by something in my own clinic I know I can post a question in the POCA forums, run my thoughts by some colleagues (friends, really) who I can count on for their shared ideas and experiences, know that I’m not alone and that whatever decision I make it is likely to be sound. I’m so grateful for the support I have received from POCA. Also, I truly enjoy giving back when I can, supporting like-minded punks. I think more people graduating from acupuncture school would make acupuncture work for them as a career for the long run with the resources and collaboration they find in POCA than they would by going it alone.
Author: POCAGuestBlog

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  1. Getting a job, any job, to make enough to practice acupuncture – on the side. Wow. Seriously, thanks to POCA and CAN and so many dreamy folks that give us all such a great chance to thrive. Great thoughts, Justine:)

  2. Cheers to your 7 years, Justine!

    The idea of keeping a stable, multi-punk CA clinic (or two) going without the benefit of the terrific examples and down-to-earth support of my POCA friends and colleagues is unthinkable.

    Why go it alone?

  3. I agree that without POCA, which my dear friend Roppie introduced me to, I would never start up my own CA Clinic – just too scary. I will be forever grateful for POCA, the forums, wiki, and the wonderful folks I’ve met at POCAfest! And my thanks to Cris & Andy for teaching my first CA101, where I re-met my classmate Shannon. We took what we learned at that class, the POCAverse, and did it! Our clinic will be 1 year old next week!

  4. Congrats on 7 years. I started my 11th year this year and for the first few years of that in private practice I worked other jobs to make ends meet. It was what I had to do. My first child was born six weeks before graduation! But I always knew that no matter what I would be a full time acupuncturist and never gave up. Now I have worked at ENCA in Nashville for 2 almost 3 years and love community acupuncture and am thankful to be doing what I love for great people. So to anyone thinking of giving up. Don’t. Persevere. Its worth it.