Why Should Students Volunteer at CA clinics?

Presently, I’m one of the volunteers at We the People Community Acu. Clinic here in SF and have been for several months.  I also work evening reception for the school acupuncture clinic where I have been a student for two years now.  I’ve been fortunate to know both models of patient care so intimately.  It’s true that each is an effective model for the delivery of medicine; and while I’m proud that our school provides affordable care to the community of Santa Fe, I think the model that they operate under is misleading to us future practitioners.  In this picture it appears that a multi-room clinic with four practitioners seeing two people every three hours is sustainable or even challenging enough keep us learning and really invested in the that dream of helping as many people as we can.  It’s not true.  For one, the school clinic’s prices are less than half the asking fee for local LAc’s.  Perhaps it isn’t a deliberate fraudulence dictated figuratively by the school’s feng shui but by placing the clinic on the second floor tells me that in order to sustain such a model you need to have an accredited, FA funded school on the first floor for support.  Of course this is an oversimplification, but there is a real concern here.

The need, the efficacy of our medicine is not an issue.  The growing popularity of CA clinics, the long and lengthening list of global outreach projects fronted by passionate LA.c’s, just to name a few,  is evidence of this.  There are some progressive acu. schools that are teaching their students to work within a CA model or at least work effectively with a larger than average number of patients in a group setting but the numbers are very few; CA still challenges the conventional values of our western systems of patient care where quality healthcare is available to those who can afford it and free healthcare is just a nuisance for all involved.  So how does a student learn the CA model outside of the pages of Noodles?  Simple: volunteer at a CA clinic.  Work the front desk, educate patients to the systems of CA, fluff chairs, pull files, sweep floors, help little old ladies put their socks back on, know who the regulars are, become the friendly face at someone’s favorite new third place.  The schools will teach us the details of our medicine, the local CA clinic will show you how to practice our medicine, to engage with our community, helping more people a week than you could have ever imagined (or maybe you did imagine helping 75 to 100 people a week, and CA is how it’s done). 

I’m excited about my future in this medicine and the people I’ve been servicing as an intern with the school and the future thousands I’ll be working with in the years to come.  That’s why I’ve written this ramble.  I also hope to encourage many more students to do the same, to become a member of POCA, obsessively devour the generosity of all these great practitioners writing on the forums and volunteer with them for as long as you can—the earlier in your schooling the better.  Not only will you be helping out our brothers and sisters in the field, helping to ensure that as many as 50 million people a year are getting acupuncture regularly (a real POCA goal), but you’re helping to make acupuncture an everyday in people’s lives.

This story was posted on February 2 2012 by melissa.

Comments

  • February 4 2012 at 5:14 PM
    Shauna writes:

    Great blog post Thomas!

    When I was still in school, I had the opportuntiy to observe with Lisa at WCA as one of my external pre-intership requirements. It was one of my favorites and I wished I could have completed all my requirements in this setting, even if it meant rotating thru all the CAs in Portland. Observing in a CA clinic can be a bit different than the acu school set up and I promised not to get in the way. I was the fly on the wall. I knew my role was to be the observer, not the intruder!

    I knew the pace would be fast and we would have little time to ‘theory chit chat’ while the patients rested because they just kept coming in the door. I carried a tiny notebook in my pocket and jotted down questions, patient symptoms, point combinations, etc so I could reference them later. I limited myself to 1 question per shift if I couldn’t connect the dots on my own. The pros outweighted any cons you can think of.

    I was able to watch Lisa interact with 20-25 patients per shift. Regular, dedicated patients that provided me the opportunity to see their conditions ebb & flow week after week. Sometimes the patients would be hijacked by a cold, extra stressors, little sleep, etc. I got to know the patients too, not by talking with them, but by observing….how they walked, if they smiled more or less, if they stayed longer than ‘their ususal’ time. I was able to see what fast diagnosis and needling looked like in the real world. I was able to come to understand that every single treatment didn’t need to be “acu school test perfect” to be beneficial to the patient (because there’s usually more than one right answer).

    While I also completed two group shifts in the school clinic during my intern year the pace was much slower than a true CA clinic but better than 1 patient every hour and 15 min (ugh!). The group setting allowed me to see patients more than once per week. I’d see them in the private room format (say on a Monday) and then they would come back later in the week so I could see them in the group format (say on a Thursday). This was a great opportunity for me to move their treatments along and save them $$$. It was a win-win for everyone as far as I’m concerned.

    So, like Thomas suggests, don’t wait until you graduate to make connections. Find a CA clinic that needs front desk help or see if you can observe for credit in your curriculum. Be the fly on the wall. Not the intruder. Trust that through some quiet observation, you can really learn a ton of information that will go along way once you are out there, licensed & practicing.

      2 likes
  • February 4 2012 at 5:14 PM
    mollyfread writes:

    Great advice, Thomas! SWAC Albuquerque students, where are ya??

    casita community acupuncture
    albuquerque, nm

      0 likes
  • February 5 2012 at 1:22 PM
    Thomas H. writes:

    Thanks, Shauna, for sharing your CA experience.  I’m with you about us students getting together on this board and supporting each other while we’re in school.  More stories of student experiences with CA, please.  Very inspiring.

      0 likes

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