Training and Growth
Most new community acupunks will require some re-training to adapt to the CA way of doing things. Most acupuncture schools focus on preparing students for the boutique model of acupuncture practice, while neglecting some of the fundamentals necessary for a successful community practice, such as simple, effective distal treatments for common pain conditions. Classism and social justice are almost never discussed in acupuncture school, yet those issues are the major underpinnings of the Community Acupuncture movement. If you are going to work in a CA clinic, be prepared to challenge some of your preconceived notions of how acupuncture works and whom it works for.
“In the early days I would do my best to ask all the TCM ten questions, regardless of what the patient was there for and kind of rush through the intake because I felt the need to cover all of the intake categories from acu school. My obvious lack of efficiency in an intake boiled down to needing to prioritize what my patients were really coming in to address and then focusing on those few issues.
“I tried to treat many issues at once for all of my patients when I first started and was really stressed out from feeling like I couldn’t figure out how to help my people heal many issues all at once. I just had no reference point for what was a realistic treatment goal at the time.
“Another basic issue I came across was a result of asking all ten intake questions for each patient. I would think, think, think, about needle placement and about creating a very effective treatment, which made me really slow in my needling. These overly detailed acu school treatment methods slowed me down so much that I felt rushed in my process with most of my patients in the community clinic.
“After already feeling rushed with patients, I would have multiple patients waiting for too long for treatment. On rare occasions a patient would leave after waiting for treatment for around 20 minutes.
“Over the years, I have had to learn acupuncture treatment methods that are much more efficient and clinically effective than the TCM methods I was taught in school. I also had to figure out communication methods that kept my intakes brief and on topic, discussion of treatment frequency that was clear and brief, and brief explanations of what to expect during a treatment. I also had to decide when to not say anything and simply let my body language and self confidence do the communicating in the treatment room.
“I keep things simpler and more direct than years before, and take less time to produce more effective treatments. The most important ideas I have taken action on and developed as my own experiential wisdom can be summed up as clinical communication skills, both verbal and non verbal.
“One of the main things I am learning these days is to prioritize the main 2-3 issues of any new patient and to work with them from their personal level of readiness to shift their condition mentally and physically. I observe body language, emotional tone of voice, and what subject matter comes up in our brief conversations moment to moment for clues to become aware of ways to respectfully help each new patient feel comfortable and safe in treatment. I do my best to read emotional cues that suggest when a new person is ready to hear a personal treatment plan and when it makes more sense to just set needles and ease their stress or pain as soon as possible.
“Timing when to do what things during a busy CA clinic shift, when patients are entering the treatment room in pairs and expressing very different emotional states, comes with experience. I am still learning plenty in this area.”
-Moses of Working Class Acupuncture
“Before I started I took a bunch of Dr Tan classes. I spent a good two months coming in once a week helping out at front desk and Andy would go over common problems and how he treats them. Having someone to help coach me through was really important. I know there is a specific way he likes his clinic run and by spending that initial time training me hopefully it was an easy transition for both of us.
“I think I have learned so much. It’s crazy how much I’ve learned. All the stuff I get see because we treat so many people. Definitely being there for a few years and seeing so many people gets you more worn in. Seeing all the stuff people have going on, it’s more about them than you.”
-Mary of Manchester Acupuncture Studio
“It gets better. It gets wonderful and amazing. It does not get particularly easy - I’m not sure multitasking in this sort of setting ever should. But you get better at it, like sight reading in music. You don’t know what’s going to happen today before it happens; you haven’t read the score yet. But you can certainly practice all the notes, chords, and combinations and get better at thinking on your feet. I have yet to drown in a shift and drop so many notes I stop playing altogether. Also I will never walk on water or be a musical prodigy. So I just keep swimming and getting better at ‘just keep swimming,’ and so though I miss a beat or two the song is still sung and sometimes it’s beautiful and sometimes it just is.”
-Sarah of Philadelphia Community Acupuncture
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