Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Profession?!?


An awful lot of conversations about acupuncture in the US, no matter where they start, end up eliciting some version of this plea. Whether it's educational standards, dry needling by physical therapists, community acupuncture, or any heated debate about anything, the discussion isn't complete until somebody says it. I've been thinking I should get a cowbell so I can ring it for my own entertainment whenever this happens. But since I don't have a cowbell right now, instead, I'm going to say OK, you win, I'll think about the profession.

Will Morris and Acupuncture Today want to help me out. "Professions define themselves in part by excluding others." As far as I can tell, that's the whole point of this article; to justify all our recent spasms of turf warfare. "Licensing is created in order to demarcate those who are prepared to provide service and prevent those who are not prepared from participating in the social and economic gains thereof."

But what if, as all recent workforce data for acupuncture indicates, that there are virtually no social or economic gains associated with an acupuncture license? What if hardly anyone who is “prepared” to provide service is actually making a living by doing so? What if ALL our profession does effectively is to exclude others?

Granted, I'm a little touchy on this subject, because for the past ten years acupuncturists have been scolding me for – not necessarily in alphabetical order – demeaning/degrading/debasing/ denigrating/devaluing the profession. Which means, apparently, using the hell out of my license in my own neighborhood, and encouraging other acupuncturists to do the same. I guess I'm naive; I've been under the impression that the purpose of a profession is to provide a service to society and a livelihood to its members.

The acupuncture profession looks to me like a barbed wire fence surrounding a vacant lot. All our energy goes into patrolling the perimeter, because you know we gotta DEMARCATE. We've made sure you can't get through the gate without paying a toll that will take decades of your life to repay. But once you get inside, there's not a lot to do except congratulate yourself on how well demarcated you are – too well demarcated to do any actual work.

It's remarkable how well-structured the process of educating and credentialing acupuncturists is, compared to the total and absolute lack of structure around employing acupuncturists. Doesn't that seem odd to you? As John Weeks pointed out recently in another excellent article, we have “just enough credibility to get into debt but not enough to get out of it”. Acupuncturists typically blame our lack of credibility on the rest of the world – on all of the people who aren't as impressed with our barbed-wire fence as we are. But we are the ones who built the fence, and who then didn't build anything inside it. So I don't get how it's anyone else's fault.

Won't somebody please think of the profession is generally intended as a rallying cry, a call for all of us to – well, it's often not clear what we're supposed to do. Sometimes it's clear what we're not supposed to do: talk about the troubling cost-benefit ratio of our educations, write lewd haiku about our credentialing agencies, feel passionate about treating poor people. Sometimes what comes after won't somebody please think of the profession is a lament about how apathetic and unmotivated acupuncturists are.

OK, as I promised, I've been thinking, and I have to tell you, the problem is a barbed wire fences around a vacant lot is just not that inspiring. Yeah, the barbed wire is elaborate and there's a lot of it, but it's basically hard to get people genuinely excited about exclusion. Most people are better and saner than that; if you want to inspire them to action, you need to offer something constructive and practical. Also, you shouldn't really be surprised that most acupuncturists are wandering around their vacant lot in a daze – or just trying to quietly slip out. It's a shock to have spent so much time listening to lofty rhetoric about the profession only to discover that, for all intents and purposes in the real world, all you've ended up with is an expensive hobby.

We're not going to have a thriving profession until we take our attention away from excluding people and put our attention on treating people. We're not going to have credibility until we have jobs. We're not going to have jobs until we figure out how to make ourselves useful. And don't tell me it's not that simple unless you happen to employ more acupuncturists – for the purpose of actually doing acupuncture – than I do. If you employ more than 10 L.Acs, you can lecture me about the complexities of job creation. Otherwise, please take my word for it. Job creation is not rocket science. It involves simple yet demanding tasks like identifying how people want to use acupuncture in the real world (as opposed to our dreams) and then translating their desires into a funding base.

Granted, it's easier to build a barbed-wire fence than it is, say, to tend a garden; it's easier to keep people out than it is to keep them busy. Turf warfare is a lazy substitute for the hard, real work of building a profession that has a meaningful role in society. Yeah, I'd like to ring a cowbell for every won't somebody please think of the profession that I hear, because it's so predictable and so pointless, but I'd also like to say, why don't you do something real? It's not a coincidence that my business employs 10 L.Acs and that I think turf warfare is stupid. There's a causative relationship there. Job creation isn't complicated but it does require focus and a lot of energy. We don't have such an abundance of resources that we can both keep people out and keep people busy.

Community acupuncture is growing fast, to the consternation of those who think we're bad for the profession. You want to know why? We've got something other than barbed wire fences to inspire and motivate us. While the acupuncturists who support turf warfare are grumbling about dry needling, we who don't support it have rolled up our sleeves and are trying to construct some economic infrastructure for ourselves. We're building something, and it's amazing how energizing that is.

Until you can get acupuncturists collectively focused on some creative, practical, constructive action, you can't in good conscience ask them to think about the profession. It's just a rhetorical question. Because right now, there's just not that much to think about.

This story was posted on February 12 2012 by Lisafer.

Comments

  • February 13 2012 at 9:51 AM
    TCCA writes:

    I say it’s the economy stupid! Let the consumers decide. A wise patient of mine who lived very well from managing property in NYC yet was an accomplished fine art painter once taught me this “Frank, the answer is in the cash box.” Provide a service the public wants and let them decide.

      2 likes
  • February 13 2012 at 11:59 PM
    Lisafer writes:

    Quote of the day from Wally Doggett:

    “Instead of fighting for a piece of the pie (a mindset that fundamentally is one of scarcity) or place at the table within disfunctional and broken systems, community acupuncture clinics are choosing to step outside those systems altogether, and to do something completely different - to create entirely new systems that better serve us as acupuncturists, and most importantly better serve our patients. What we are doing is so outside those systems that it really does render standard notions of turf warfare kind of obsolete.

    We’re just gonna build our own table and bake our own pie, thank you very much. “

    http://acupunctureworldheadquarters.blogspot.com/2012/02/fwd-wont-somebody-please-think-of.html

      5 likes
    • tatyana
    • obnicole
    • Nora
    • emily
  • February 16 2012 at 10:43 AM
    Roppy writes:

    This story about military medics practicing acupuncture was on NPR this morning.  http://www.npr.org/2012/02/16/146944270/military-pokes-holes-in-acupuncture-skeptics-theory

    A comrade in the Southwest mentioned that he treated a new patient whose first experience with acupuncture was on a base in Afghanistan.  That peaked my interest.  who was giving acupuncture on military bases in combat zones?  Well, it’s not us.  Logically, the military wants the best possible candidates to be deployed to offer acupuncture to the enlisted.  And best possible candidates does not mean a licensed punk whose taken some overpriced CEU’s and maybe gone to China a few times. Military medics get some short course in acupuncture, like a physical therapists or doctors, and they are overseas promoting acupuncture more than our credentialing agencies have done to promote acupuncture here in the US.

    The Military newspaper, The Stars and Stripes, have written a good amount of how enlisted soldiers are benefiting from getting acupuncture:

    http://www.stripes.com/military-turns-to-acupuncture-as-alternative-to-prescription-painkillers-1.116167
    and
    http://www.stripes.com/blogs/stripes-central/stripes-central-1.8040/can-acupuncture-help-treat-gulf-war-syndrome-1.141446

    I met an Iraq veteran on Sunday at a newcomers breakfast at the Unitarian Church.  He was all ears when he heard me say acupuncture.  He has combat injuries and PTSD.  He said that ear acupuncture helped him tremendously.  Within a few minutes he had his iphone out looking up our website.

    The state of the profession could not be further from the minds of the medics who are in dangerous places providing treatments to people who are under paid and under appreciated for the kind of work that I, as a civilian, could not even begin to comprehend.  We can get all bent out of shape that the medics didn’t train for as long as we did and they have not grasped the complexity of our TCM theory based on a long tradition of philosophy.  Or we can be happy that more people are getting acupuncture. 

    Because when more people get acupuncture, then more people will get acupuncture.

     

      7 likes
  • February 22 2012 at 1:11 AM
    Shauna writes:

    I think of the ‘profession’ all the time. About 40 years now in the U.S. and seems to be in the midst of a midlife crisis. Can’t wait for it to get over itself. But I’m not holding my breath. I’ll just stay here with POCA and keep treating patients, and patients, and more patients in this wonderful community that just keeps growing!

      1 likes

Add your 2 cents!

You must be logged in to comment on the blog.


Who Likes This:

  • melissa
  • mollyfread
  • tatyana
  • Nora
  • deb
  • alexa
  • mitylene
  • bru
  • sizzlek
  • Skip
  • Roppy
  • emily
  • DeanaC
  • River Jordan
  • urbanapuncture
-- placeholder --

Who's been POCAing lately.

  • joanneo commented on the blog post 'Cohort 3 Graduation Speech by Jess Long' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, July 08, 2019
  • Bob W commented on the blog post 'Cohort 3 Graduation Speech by Jess Long' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, July 02, 2019
  • melissa commented on the blog post 'Cohort 3 Graduation Speech by Jess Long' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, July 01, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, June 26, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 25, 2019
  • melissalac commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 25, 2019
  • zedmunds commented on the blog post 'Keynote POCA Fest Milwaukee May 2019 -- ALL EARS!!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 20, 2019
  • engerin commented on the blog post 'Student Circle at POCA Tech -- Guest Post by Shelby and Sonya' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 20, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, June 17, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'The Vows of Hua Tuo and Sun Si Miao..Actually Carried Out' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 14, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 13, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 13, 2019
  • Presence_CA commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, June 10, 2019
  • Presence_CA commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, June 10, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 07, 2019
  • teatree commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 07, 2019
  • teatree commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, June 07, 2019
  • janisx commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 06, 2019
  • janisx commented on the blog post 'Acupuncturists As Endangered Species: Extinction Post #1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 06, 2019
  • swiggs commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, June 06, 2019
  • Arene commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 04, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 04, 2019
  • Paxcow commented on the blog post 'A Successful May Membership Drive!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, June 04, 2019
  • Cynthia Marie commented on the blog post 'Why more punks in more places…' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 29, 2019
  • swiggs commented on the blog post 'Why more punks in more places…' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, May 24, 2019
  • Bob W commented on the blog post 'Why more punks in more places…' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 22, 2019
  • mcandela55 commented on the blog post 'Keynote POCA Fest Milwaukee May 2019 -- ALL EARS!!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 22, 2019
  • Laura commented on the blog post 'I Am Closing My Clinic -- Guest Post by Michelle Rivers' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, May 21, 2019
  • Laura commented on the blog post 'Keynote POCA Fest Milwaukee May 2019 -- ALL EARS!!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, May 20, 2019
  • Paxcow commented on the blog post 'Keynote POCA Fest Milwaukee May 2019 -- ALL EARS!!!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, May 20, 2019
  • crismonteiro commented on the blog post 'The Vows of Hua Tuo and Sun Si Miao..Actually Carried Out' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, May 13, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'The Vows of Hua Tuo and Sun Si Miao..Actually Carried Out' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, May 08, 2019
  • Paxcow commented on the blog post 'The Vows of Hua Tuo and Sun Si Miao..Actually Carried Out' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, May 06, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'Toward a Culture of Safety: Part 4, AERD as Relationship Management' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, April 29, 2019
  • ellengrover commented on the blog post 'Toward a Culture of Safety: Part 4, AERD as Relationship Management' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Saturday, April 27, 2019
  • ewolfk commented on the blog post 'Toward a Culture of Safety, Part 1' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Friday, April 12, 2019
  • Paxcow commented on the blog post 'All Ears!' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, March 28, 2019
  • OpenSourceEverything commented on the blog post 'New POCA Tech FAQs' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, March 13, 2019
  • urbanapuncture commented on the blog post 'Fatphobia Part 3: Some Thoughts about Diet Culture and Talking to Patients' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, March 13, 2019
  • Roppy commented on the blog post 'The Acupuncture Profession has 99 problems, but NADA ain’t one of them.' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, March 12, 2019
  • OpenSourceEverything commented on the blog post 'Open Sourcing Modern Acupuncture, Part Two: Trouble' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, March 11, 2019
  • OpenSourceEverything commented on the blog post 'Hierarchy of Needs: Too Sexy for This Work?' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, March 11, 2019
  • urbanapuncture commented on the blog post 'Hierarchy of Needs: Poor People's Priorities' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, February 20, 2019
  • Lisafer commented on the blog post 'Stone Soup and Social Containers' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, February 13, 2019
  • Nityamo commented on the blog post 'POCA Clinic Member Changes' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, February 13, 2019
  • weedyknees commented on the blog post 'Stone Soup and Social Containers' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, February 13, 2019
  • urbanapuncture commented on the blog post 'Stone Soup and Social Containers' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Wednesday, February 06, 2019
  • swiggs commented on the blog post 'Hierarchy of Needs: Too Sexy for This Work?' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Tuesday, February 05, 2019
  • urbanapuncture commented on the blog post 'Hierarchy of Needs: Too Sexy for This Work?' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Monday, February 04, 2019
  • monkeyacupunk commented on the blog post 'Hierarchy of Needs: Too Sexy for This Work?' in the blog 'Prick Prod and Provoke Blog' - Thursday, January 31, 2019