North Americans Seek Trained Acupuncturists to Pinpoint Pain

When a career gets more popular, things can change. Regulations become tighter. Requirements get stricter.

As more students across North America become interested in learning acupuncture, experts in the field are predicting changes in the way people enter this career.

Acupuncture is a promising career in many ways. Not only is demand likely to rise, but the personal rewards of helping to heal people are very satisfying.

"I think it's a great profession," says Kathleen Albertson. She is an acupuncturist. "If anything, our practice has maintained itself, and hopefully will expand. I think it's fantastic.

"You have your own business and you work one-on-one," Albertson explains. "You spend time with people. You not only diagnose, but you treat. So it's a relationship where you are part of their healing. It's very rewarding and it can help a lot of people."

"There's a strong and growing demand for acupuncture because society is demanding better health care," says acupuncturist Romy Simone. "The five minutes of time they generally receive from their doctor isn't enough.

"Patients want to be listened to, to feel cared for. They want to be able to ask questions about their health to better understand what they can do for themselves to be healthier."

"I think there is a growing enthusiasm about acupuncture," says acupuncturist Joseph Adams. "There's a lot of optimism, and there's more acceptance than there ever has been. There are a lot of opportunities for acupuncturists."

If interest in acupuncture continues to rise, the downfall is that regulations will get tighter. Some acupuncturists don't like that too much. Others feel it will help to keep quality levels high.

"The regulations will keep getting stricter because this medicine is becoming so popular [for students] to want to learn," explains Simone.

"The number of students is tripling and growing even faster as we speak. There must then be a way, like stricter regulations, to make sure that not just anyone can just practice."

It's also important to have a college with a keen eye for devious would-be acupuncturists, according to acupuncturist Camellia Pratt.

"We've had fraudulent claims presented to attain the Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine title," she says. "Due to the diligence of our college, these people were weeded out."

"I think it will probably become more regulated as we get more successful," says Albertson. "Just like the chiropractors. They had their heyday and now they're more suppressed by insurance and that kind of thing. We'll probably go through the same thing.

"Right now, more and more insurances are accepting us because of consumer demand," Albertson says. "So we're getting more support from the insurance companies, but they have a tendency to cap off your prices."

Regulations will change as acupuncture becomes more popular. And so will the requirements to become an acupuncturist, according to Adams.

"It used to be there were no prerequisites that were mandated," he says. "A lot of schools required that you had a bachelors or at least an [associate's degree]. But it wasn't something that was mandated.

"Now in most schools, they're requiring that you have at least a BA. And I think in short order that's going to be something that's mandated at state level as well.

"In terms of the programs in general, we didn't have a doctorate program for 15 years. And it's only in the last two years they've reinstated a Doctor of Oriental Medicine," Adams continues.

"It may be that it's going to be an entry-level doctoral program. In California, there's 3,300 hours that are in the curriculum, and I think they're going to bump it up to 4,000 hours and make it a doctoral program."

No matter how the acupuncture industry changes over the next few years, it's important to go into it with a good business sense as well as those steady healing hands.

"You need to market," advises Albertson. "I'm in several business clubs. I did a lot of free speaking. And you have to deliver -- undersell and over deliver. But I think it's a very lucrative career if you're good with details. You have to be good administratively as well as technically.

"And it takes a lot of ongoing study," she adds. "Once you're done with school, you're not done. You want to do the best you can."

One obstacle that continues to be a problem to acupuncturists is the competitive nature of the health industry.

"The pharmaceutical companies have a lot of power and don't want to see this medicine become successful," explains Pratt.

"Unfortunately, in my view, pharmaceutical companies have the monopoly," agrees Simone. "They have all the money. So all the commercials one sees is about a drug they can take to rid their symptoms or control their disease. Not enough Easterners can get themselves out there to inform society.

"But regardless," Simone continues, "the demand in my field of acupuncture is growing rapidly. Word of mouth spreads quickly when a person starts feeling so much better with their sleep, stress levels and energy."

So despite the changing regulations and requirements and some ongoing obstacles, this can be a career with a good future. However, it's also a career that a person should get into only if they have a strong interest in acupuncture.

"I would say in order to be successful, it should be something you're very passionate about," suggests Adams. "I'd say they should [either] spend some time with a master practitioner, or get a series of acupuncture treatments from a couple of different acupuncturists to see if it resonates with them.

"There are certainly other things, more mundane things like perhaps having had some business classes. And advertising, going to chamber of commerce meetings, networking, giving talks, things like that. And having patients who really benefit from you and spread the gospel, so to speak.

"A lot of people who do have the passion for [acupuncture] are completely ill-equipped to start or run a business," concludes Adams. "So I would say having a passion for it and then having the real kind of business capacities...would be two key ingredients to being successful."


Acupuncture Today
Excellent companion site to the established magazine

National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
The NCCAOM promotes safety in acupuncture, and provides news and listings

Acupuncture Links
Find acupuncturists and acupuncture programs near you

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