When a trusted business or organization screws up, it’s good to give them the benefit of the doubt. We all make mistakes.
I have trusted the NCCAOM. They were important to our acceptance as a legitimate profession. In 2014 I encouraged people to support a transition to their exams in California, hopeful that one national standard of entry would further the growth of the profession.
But I’ve noticed a pattern – the NCCAOM makes a big announcement and seems unprepared for the response. They scramble to address the upset, explaining why we don’t understand their good intentions or their difficult position.
I used to think it was a bug. They just weren’t as competent as I’d thought. And Acupuncturists mostly don’t understand their role and are quick to react.
But now I think it’s a feature.
We don’t understand their role because they talk out of both sides of their mouth – they say or do contradictory things depending on their immediate desire.
“There are some policies where we may ask our stakeholders’ opinions and use that to determine policy. There are many other policies where this is not appropriate because of the requirements of our accrediting body, fiduciary responsibilities (the fiscal health of NCCAOM), or impacts to public safety need to drive our policy decisions. NCCAOM is not a membership organization, it is a credentialing organization. Examples of this include: the elimination of the apprenticeship-only route, elimination of the pre-graduation route, and the revisions to the NCCAOM® Code of Ethics and the Grounds for Professional Discipline. These are examples that our policies are driven by our NCCA accreditation standards.”
But the NCCAOM did ask for input on the Code of Ethics and Professional Discipline, and their revised code reflected that input.
And the NCCAOM did step back from some of their announced changes in response to concerns from stakeholders. Clearly they had some flexibility, and could have done this prior to their announcement.
And in 2016 the NCCAOM shared – “Breaking News! New Membership Organization Announcement!” describing their “Academy of Diplomates.” The Academy Board is a subset of the NCCAOM Board, your NCCAOM recertification fees support this organization, and links on the Academy website take you back to the NCCAOM. No wonder we’re confused.
In “Questions and Clarifications” we read – “It is no secret that the number of students taking the exams, annually, has dropped dramatically over the past decade.” Their upbeat NCCAOM Spring 2018 newsletter doesn’t mention it, nor has it been a topic in their frequent Acupuncture Today articles. Study their annual reports and you can uncover the truth, but that isn’t the news they’ve been sharing.
Fewer people taking the tests means fewer new practitioners. Shouldn’t the profession give scrupulous consideration to any policy or regulatory changes that make it harder to enter the field?
The NCCAOM’s current honesty regarding their financial concerns is appreciated. It also demands that we reconsider their previous denials that money drives their policy positions. Their support of efforts to require the herb exam of all practitioners (UtahNCCAOMletter), and their complicated PDA system, make sense from a financial perspective, not from a safety one.
The NCCAOM denies that their exams shape our education. They say schools should not teach to the test. They also advertise, “It is recommended that ACAOM Approved Schools Faculty members sign up for [the NCCAOM] practice tests to familiarize themselves with the process.”
They dismiss concerns that a new voluntary certificate program could become mandatory. They simultaneously support efforts to make the voluntary herb testing mandatory.
Underneath it all is the refrain, the “NCCAOM’s number one priority and mission is to protect the public.” This is as it should be. But one insurer recently reported receiving 1-3 reports of harm per week, including reports of pneumothorax, burns, and infections. In a profession of, at best, 30,000 practitioners, shared between multiple insurers, that’s alarming. Is there evidence that patients in Maryland or West Virginia, where there is no NCCAOM testing requirement, are more likely to suffer harm?
With great power comes great responsibility. The NCCAOM denies their power and their responsibility, but they are the gatekeeper to the profession. They have us by the short hairs. Their denials aren’t believable.
I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt for years. I’ve explained away their errors as bugs and defended their good intentions. It’s painful to acknowledge that I no longer trust the NCCAOM.
They need to get a lot more honest and a lot more competent quickly, or we need to get serious about finding an alternative.