Wishing and hoping

First off, I want to apologize for not keeping up with my blogging obligations in the last few months. I have been a bit pre-occupied since we opened our clinic, Sarana Community Acupuncture in March of this year. I will attempt to be more consistent.

Skip’s “Chickens Coming Home to Roost” https://www.communityacupuncturenetwork.org/blog/chickens-coming-home-roost post got me thinking about the whole acupuncture school issue. I wonder how the market correction he is referring to will change the acu schools. I wonder if many of them will just close doors or get creative and re-invent themselves. I hope it is the latter and I have some ideas about what a great acupuncture school could be that I
will share in this posting.

My guess is that some of the schools will close and some new ones will emerge in their place. My vision is that these new schools will better reflect what acu-students really need and want to learn in order to be successful practitioners in today’s market.

I still have vivid memories (6 years after being done with
school!) of talking to my fellow acu students about the crappy quality of our education. We had lots of dissatisfaction with our educational experience, and
this was way before we knew about the Community Acupuncture practice model and had experienced the generous and practical offerings of WCA’s teachers and
CAN’s supportive and provocative forums. I think even then we were aware on some level that this education we were getting was not really preparing us for practicing acupuncture out there in the real world.

I have recently been teaching and doing clinical supervision
at a couple of acu-schools in the San Francisco Bay Area. I will tell you first hand that there is a real hunger among the students for pragmatic information, as well as lots of impractical illusions about what they will be able to earn when they get out of school. There are some students who are seemingly happy with what they are learning and there are of course good teachers. But I also hear complaints about teachers who simply sit there and read from a book or student clinics that allow students to only treat 1 patient every 1.5 hours while students pay hundreds of dollars to be in that class or the clinic shift.

So here are some of my ideas and visions of what new and
improved acupuncture schools of the (not so distant) future could be like:

They would be non-profit organizations with a clear mission to help acupuncture become widely used, affordable and accessible by training students to provide community-focused services and create sustainable businesses.

They would emphasize community acupuncture model
at least as much or more than the “private room” style of practice – students would get a clear understanding of their choices of practice models and some clinical training and experience in several styles of practice.

Schools would be in cooperative relationships with various service agencies (rehab centers, mental health / social service agencies, prisons / juvies, community medical clinics) that work with underserved populations, and the acu school clinics would get funding for providing LOTS of acupuncture to the various clients of these agencies.

The schools would also partner with local employers who would fund community acupuncture programs for their employees – these could be government offices or
private companies where lots of folks work who would not normally get acupuncture (such as city government office, local fire department, local factory, etc). It could be a program for stress or pain relief, to help employees to quit smoking, etc. These programs would undoubtedly increase
productivity, reduce sick leaves and foster better relationships among

The above programs would allow for more cash flow
to the acu-school, so they can provide decent wages for their faculty and staff and perhaps scholarships for students who are financially challenged (which would increase class and ethnic diversity of our profession).

They could also offer tuition-free (or even paid) clinical training to the students. When I was a student we always said that instead of paying for our clinic intern hours, we should get paid for our work in the school clinic. If the student interns got paid by the patient, they would be motivated to treat more people and get more practice and improve their acupuncture skills. As a clinical supervisor, I can’t tell you how many times I have encountered students sitting around in student clinic doing nothing – because they have paid for that time and they just don’t feel like treating anyone, or because the scheduled patient did not
show up and the clinic only books them every 1.5 hours. What a waste.

I think there are ways to make this happen, if the schools are non-profit and if they consciously train the students to work with increased patient volume. More patients, means more revenue for the school clinic coming from the community, so that the students would maybe not have to pay for their clinic hours and even make a little money. Then they get out of school with less debt and can be making a living faster, perhaps making a choice to have affordable fees as a way to express their gratitude to the community that helped them learn their profession. And if their fees are affordable they maybe able to keep some of the patients they treated in their school clinic and to provide continuity of care to these patients, while the patients would provide a nice “ starter” patient / referral base to their new

Can you see how this would grow our profession and increase the overall value of acupuncture in the community? Pretty cool.

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to
handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” -John Steinbeck

Author: tatyana

<p> I grew up in the Soviet Union and immigrated to the United States as a teen, living in New York and Chicago before moving to the Bay Area in 1998. I began as a Yoga instructor and as a practitioner of Ohashiatsu bodywork and have been practicing Acupuncture/Chinese Medicine since 2003. Before switching to community acupuncture practice model I had a sporadic and struggling private practice, worked as an herbal pharmacist, as an instructor and clinical supervisor at an acupuncture school, plus did a two-year stint doing acupuncture at a public health clinic, working with mostly HIV/HCV+ populations in San Francisco. </p> <p> My discovery of Community Acupuncture practice model (via Lisa Rohleder's Acupuncture Today columns) profoundly transformed my life -- not just my work life but many other aspects of it. I gained a vocation, a community of friends and the most stable and rewarding job I have ever had. I see community acupuncture practice model as the most sustainable and most fitting to my values. It makes sense to me from the point of view of healthcare access, social justice, spirituality, and as an antidote to isolation. In 2008, together with another stellar acupunk Pam Chang I...

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  1. Cool ideas Tatyana. And I

    Cool ideas Tatyana. And I hope someone has the courage and initiative to try implementing these types of creative solutions to the problems facing both schools and new graduates (and old graduates for that matter).

     I tried partnering with local companies in the area to see if they might be interested in exploring low cost health care for their employees. I didn’t get very far. and I’m not sure why. 

    I started by doing a little online research, trying to find out which companies had a good reputation for taking care of their employees. Then I wrote letters, made  phone calls. I invited HR policy managers for free treatments. Maybe not the most sophisticated marketing effort, but I tried. The immediate result was a deafening silence.

     I suspect that just as Big Oil will fight tooth and nail through their lobbyists to avoid any meaningful change towards a sustainable energy future, so will Big Pharma, Hospitals, and the AMA fight to protect their large portion of the pie…even as the flies are gathering around the decomposing apples in between the crust.

    As an aside comment on the desparation evident in our profession, a student observer in our clinic shared that in a Practice Management class, a rep from the AAC gave the following piece of advice (not a direct quote…just the gist of what I remember)…

     ‘Go hang out in the Pharmacy section of the supermarket and hand out business cards.’ She said this made her feel very uncomfortable and seemed only one step removed from ambulance chasing.


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

  2. getting the foot in the door

    yes, i think it is difficult for an individual acupuncturist to convince a bigger business to sign up for acupuncture for employees “programs”. sounds like you did a really good job trying, by the way.

    but i have seen non-profit clinics like quan yin in san francisco form these types of alliances with various agencies and many acu schools already have off-site sudent intern clincs that they run as part of community outreach. it would just needs to be prioritized and they would need to have people on board who are professionally trained and experienced in makeing these connections happen. and if our professional organizations truly wanted to support the growth of our medicine they would perhaps work out a way to assist acu-schools in making this happen by providing a structured approach and support in the form of professional consulting / contract negotiating services. (where do all those dues people pay go anyway?)


  3. I think these are great ideas, and there is nothing wrong

    with them except the timing.  The timing, of course, in Other People’s minds.  They’ re not ready for Us, and We are so ready for these great ideas outlined above.

    (Those folks who never responded to Jordan’s overtures probably have the same disease: no matter how sensible and practical the proposal, if they have no prior knowledge of such things, they’re not interested.)

    It seems that you always need to know Somebody before you can get your foot in the door.  The name Non-Profit itself is a door-opener.  Am I naive or is that about simple trust?  Anyway, I think those are solid ideas for our future schools, and could very likely come into being, just from one school like this opening up and paving the way. (Look at WCA!)  If you could get a non-profit school to get accredited (hmmm, another hurdle?), what’s to stop this?  Good first blueprint,  Let’s open up a Future School thread under state of the profession and have everyone throw their ideas into the box.  Who knows?  We may need these ideas 5 years from now.  Or maybe 3.