There’s This Poem by Kay Ryan That I Love, and It’s Perfect—Part 1

For what happened last Friday.

Here's the poem:

span style="text-decoration:underline;">Home to Roost

/pre>
span style="font-size:11px;line-height:18px;font-family:verdana, arial, sans-serif;" class="Apple-style-span">
The chickens
 are circling and
    blotting out the   
     day. The sun is   
     bright, but the   
     chickens are in   
    the way. Yes,
   the sky is dark
     with chickens,   
    dense with them.
     They turn and   
      then they turn   
       again. These   
  are the chickens
you let loose
  one at a time
and small—
     various breeds.
      Now they have   
come home
to roost—all
   the same kind
  at the same speed.
(From The Niagara River by Kay Ryan, published by Grove Press.
Copyright © 2005 by Kay Ryan.)
br />

And here's what happened on Friday: the Department of Education announced new regulations targeting for-profit schools whose graduates can't repay their loans.

And here is Steven Stumpf's excellent commentary on what it means for AOM schools.

Now of course, not all AOM schools are for-profit. Like my alma mater for instance, and more about that in a minute. The word on CAN is that Tai Sophia, one of the oldest and largest non-profit acupuncture schools, announced on Tuesday that their acupuncture program would, in the future, include a "job placement function" for graduates. Maybe somebody at Tai Sophia glimpsed the chickens in the distance?

I have so much to say about all this that one, it's hard to know where to start, and two, it's definitely going to require another post and another Kay Ryan poem, so look for that tomorrow.

Maybe I'll start with my alma mater, OCOM. About a month ago I had an encounter with a fellow OCOM alum and a current OCOM student that literally made me shudder. I met the OCOM alum late one night just as I was about to close up the clinic. She was walking by with her two year old and asked if they could use our bathroom -- I didn't know she was an OCOM alum at the time, she just seemed like a frazzled mom. Sure, I said, I'm just putting away my files, go ahead. So they went to the bathroom and when they came out, her daughter spotted our basket of kid's toys and would not be deterred, and I said don't worry, I'm still filing, and so we had a conversation while her daughter played and I filed. She told me that she had graduated from OCOM a couple of years ago but she hadn't actually got her license yet, because, like a lot of people, she got pregnant right after she finished school. One thing after another happened and she split from her daughter's dad. Now she's trying to complete the paperwork for her license in hopes of finding an acupuncture job eventually, or maybe starting a practice, but in the meantime, completing her paperwork is something she has to do anyway, because it's a condition of being on public assistance.

It takes a minute for that to sink in for me.  Public assistance: she's a single mom on welfare. The authorities, because they don't know any better, assume that getting her acupuncture license will lead to actual work and an actual paycheck.  There are so many things wrong with this picture that for a minute I can't breathe. She's continuing to talk while I try to get myself under control; and she's talking about being a healer. She went to school because she wanted to be a healer, she just wanted to help people, she'd love to work at WCA because it's clear that's what we're all about. I tell her we don't have any positions open. That's OK, maybe she can observe here at some point though? She just moved into the neighborhood. Maybe so, I say, get back in touch when you get settled. She pries her daughter away from the toys, we say goodbye and I put my head in my hands.

I'm not going to hire somebody who never before expressed interest in community acupuncture and who now hasn't actually done any acupuncture for several years. Other potential employers, besides being scarce as hens' teeth, are going to feel the same way. So maybe she could start her own practice? Right. She's on public assistance and she is 100K in debt. Barring a miracle, this woman is never going to work as an acupuncturist. This is what happens to someone who wants to be a healer and who goes to acupuncture school without a personal safety net.

Would it have helped if someone had talked to her a few years earlier, I wondered, and then I got my answer, in the form of a second year OCOM student visiting the clinic. She is enthused about what she sees and starts talking to me about how she likes our setting and our approach much better that what she's learning at school. Somehow we get on to the subject of jobs and futures and I mention that, per the NCCAOM report, there really aren't any jobs for acupuncturists, and as far as we can tell, 50-80% of acupuncturists aren't doing acupuncture five years after graduation. Her eyes get wide. What do they do then? she asks. I don't know, I tell her, but I guess they go back to doing whatever they were doing before -- being nurses or massage therapists or whatever. She shakes her head. She's in her twenties, maybe the same age as I was when I was a second-year OCOM student, not so common then, all too common now. She says, I was a vet tech, making $9 an hour; I can't go back to that with the student loans I'm going to have. I went to acupuncture school because I thought it would be a good job to support me in doing all the other things I want to do -- like maybe opening an animal sanctuary. Non profit work, you know. I know, I say, but it won't -- acupuncture won't support you while you do other things. If you want it to support you, it has to be almost the only thing you do, your absolute highest priority. Usually people find other well-paying jobs to support their acupuncture hobby, it doesn't work in the opposite direction. Oh, she says. There is now no good way to end this conversation and I can't help myself, I start ranting. Did somebody actually tell you that? I demand. Did somebody tell you that acupuncture would be a good way to support yourself while you opened an animal sanctuary? I don't remember, she says sadly. I just got the impression that it was, you know, flexible. Flexible, I snarl. Oh yeah, they always say it's flexible. Plenty of time for yourself, good work-life balance -- nothing is quite so flexible as a job that doesn't actually exist.

The elitism of the acupuncture profession has always been fairly open, unapologetic, and shameless. Want to find patients who can easily afford their care? Just lurk at the edges of the ruling class! Because money is qi is money. We DESERVE the title of doctor, because we practice a complete system of medicine, and anyway, we spend more time in school than anyone else with a measly Master's degree. (Too many links to choose from.) Don't devalue yourself and the medicine. (Too bad I can't link to my hate mail.) During the FPD debate, the head of an acupuncture school told me, without any irony whatsoever, that although he wholeheartedly supported HR 646 and acupuncturists having access to Medicare, it was because of what access to Medicare represented for the profession -- not because acupuncturists should actually take care of patients on Medicare. The success of HR 646 would be a symbol that we as a profession had arrived. He himself would never dream of taking Medicare in his own practice, because the reimbursement would be much too low, and would compromise his standards. It takes a lot to render me speechless, but that did it.

OK, I get it. I may hate it, but I get it. But what I don't get, and apparently the federal government doesn't get either, is how it's OK for this unapologetic elitism to be funded primarily by means of student loans. Student loans that are taken out primarily by non-rich, non-elite people like former vet techs and single moms who end up on welfare. People like me who went to acupuncture school because they honestly just wanted to work, people who are un-elite and un-sophisticated enough to believe that the promise of a career means someday getting a paycheck. People who don't realize that treating their friends and neighbors at prices they can afford will equate to "devaluing the medicine" in the minds of their future colleagues.

So. If anyone is reading this who works in an acupuncture school, who is beginning to think about things like job placement for graduates, and who is eyeing the job listings on CAN, may I suggest that now would not be a good time to try to get friendly with us. Especially me. Because although, on the one hand, I would love to have some help getting the word out to current acupuncture students that there are job openings in CAN clinics, on the other, I'm not exactly excited about working with you. Did you notice that there is a public comment period for the new Department of Education regulations?  I'm already drafting letters in my head. I'm leaving a trail of breadcrumbs right up your sidewalk. I'm going to make sure the chickens know exactly where you live.

This story was posted on July 25 2010 by Lisafer.

Comments

  • July 26 2010 at 11:22 AM
    cariadanam writes:

    Thinking of the particular

    Thinking of the particular head of my old alma matter and how this would effect him.  Poor guy might have to give up his Porche.  Wonder what he is going to think about what it’s like to walk on the path of all his students?  Oh wait he was an acupuncturist before he became a school pimp, never mind he can always fall back on that profession.  Ha!

    ~Julie

    www.AuburnCommunityAcupuncture.com

    right next door to Sacramento

      0 likes
  • July 26 2010 at 1:56 PM
    Spartacus writes:

    appalling

    Ohh Lisa!  I am truly appalled at those AT article/essays you linked to.  I’m ashamed to be amongst others in my newly-chosen profession who have attitudes like that. 

      0 likes
  • July 27 2010 at 7:14 AM
    MMDobson writes:

    I was SOOO amused that when

    I was SOOO amused that when I linked to the “Money is Qi is Money” AT article by Felice Dunas, it was dominated by a huge ad appearing in the middle of the page.  The ad was for a local (to me) technical college specializing in short-duration certificate and degree programs like medical front office assistant and massage therapist.

    The juxtaposition of this ad with the article saying, “My suggestions include that you charge more than anybody you know”, was so much more than ironic.  The message I got was - If you can’t figure out how to make THIS (high dollar) acupuncture model work, go back to work at Burger King.

    Seriously, doesn’t AT vet their ads?

    ...I’m looking for chickens.
    Mary Margaret

      0 likes
  • July 27 2010 at 1:33 PM
    Meaghan writes:

    From one of the linked AT articles

    This comment at the end of one of the AT articles you linked to literally put a bad taste in my mouth: “You may not perceive yourself as the “charity ball socialite” type, but it is true that you will very likely only make as much income as your average patient makes. Think about that, then put on your best smile and clothes, and get out there with the folks who can easily afford to pay what you would like to charge.“Yes, I still find this level of arrogance, elitism and holier-than-thou attitude to be, well, shocking.  Surprising.  Sometimes I am embarrassed to be an acupuncturist.

      0 likes
  • July 27 2010 at 4:32 PM
    Rianoth23 writes:

    The job that doesn’t exist

    ” Nothing is quite so flexible as a job that doesn’t actually exist.”

    Exactly. 

    Thank you for this commentary.

    I will be drafting some letters of my own on this subject. I am able to pay my bills with my on CA clinic but I know too many amazing healers who cannot (and they don’t have a safety net.)This is a very sad time for Acupuncturist and I am glad things are starting to be examined and changed. Hopefully, they will be able to spot the institutions that are the cash cows and put an end to this dishonesty.

     

      0 likes
  • July 27 2010 at 9:30 PM
    david villanueva writes:

    From Lisa’s linked article re new regs:

     “If the rules went into effect now, 55 percent of for-profit schools would be required to disclose unflattering loan data in their promotional materials, making for a strong consumer protection tool, the agency said. To give schools time to improve and to target “the bottom of the barrel,” Duncan said the administration would cap the number of programs it would strip of aid eligibility at 5 percent in fall 2012”

    I’m disappointed there’s a 5% cap on the ineligible programs. Maybe they’ll remove the cap if enough people write to do so.

      0 likes
  • July 27 2010 at 11:02 PM
    Whitsitt writes:

    Oh man I do love me some chickens!

    Maybe this will make acupuncture schools focus on reality for once.  I really wish they would, because we sure could use some more help actually, you know, working.  And it’d be really great if we had more acupunks coming out of school knowing how to do that.

      0 likes
  • July 29 2010 at 12:02 PM
    ReneeK writes:

    Acupuncture Micro Lending Anyone?

    Did anyone read the article in yesterday’s NY Times about micro-lending in the US? I followed links to Kiva and  Opportunity Fund. I’ve been following the micro lending story for some time, and am really happy to see it reach the US.

    Not that this solves the issue of education debt, but it could be a way for the CA community to fund start-up costs. Or what if we help fund one another? if a lot of us give a little to a fund, it will grow. Even if we can only help one person at a time…

    And it will put CA on a much larger map. The CA model is proving that health care and social entrepreneurship do work together in a capitalist culture. It is the best kind of ‘pay it forward’ effect. People help fund projects that will help people pay their bills AND do something they love. In return the people doing what they love inspire the next person, or heal them, or offer a service that is needed. 

    Has anyone here received a loan like this?  

     

      0 likes
  • July 29 2010 at 12:51 PM
    ReneeK writes:

    Community Acupuncture Fund

    To get the ball rolling, I opened a fund:http://www.kiva.org/team/community_acupuncture

     Beyond this I don’t want to take liberties, so I am putting out a Call for Words. The Community Acupuncture page needs a few questions answered on it’s page.

    1. “How would you describe your team” (To someone across the world)? 

    2. “We loan because…”

    3. The site asks for the “lending team website”. This question is to the Board and the community. May I put the CAN website here?

    4. Can I use the CAN logo?

    This is how it works. An individual creates the account. Add money. Join the Community Acupuncture Team. You still donate money as an individual, but when you “check out” (you have lent your money to someone) it asks you what “team” you belong to. This way as a community we can keep track of how much we are giving.

     How does that sound for everyone? I have added $25 to my account. It does not show up on the “CA team” page until I have donated it someone. 

    If this community doesn’t like the idea, or the Board is uncomfortable with using the CAN logo and website, I will make it my own and add a personal link and image. 

     

      0 likes
  • July 29 2010 at 10:19 PM
    david villanueva writes:

    I don’t know all the details about

    the micro-lending system as designed by Yunnus, I believe. But from the current article in Newsweek, or is it Time magazine, about this topic, it seems part of what makes it work is weekly meetings between a group of micro-business owners who have received the loans. They go over how they’ve done the past week and the down-payments on the loan are collected  at that time. If anyone in the  group cannot make their down-payment for the week, the rest of the group chips in to make it for them.

      0 likes
  • August 1 2010 at 2:44 AM
    Guest writes:

    Ewwwww…

    Money is qi is money article reminds me of the opening line to Hole’s “Asking For It:” “every time that I sell myself to you/I feel a little bit cheaper than I need to.” Well actually, Courtney made it all sound far too pleasant.  Let’s just say that article is the equivalent to a $0.50 whore.  Talk about “cheapening the medicine!!!”  methinks it’s time to schedule a chem-dip.  How’s that for therapy?

      0 likes
  • August 1 2010 at 6:56 PM
    Guest writes:

    Not sur why…

    ...I’m having all of these Coutney Love references, but this article (and that quote in particular) reminds me of a line in “doll parts:”. “I fake it so real I am beyond fake.”

    it also reminds me of what the instructor of our practice management class at MCOM said: “Fake it till ya make it.”.

    What, did Honora just come from a David Singer Enterprises practice management seminar and write that drivel????

      0 likes
  • August 11 2010 at 10:33 PM
    acupunkgirl writes:

    kiva!

    Renee, I hope someone answers your questions because this looks like a great idea on the surface… are there concerns from other folks reading this?  

      0 likes

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