Professional Harmony, Professional Growth

Acupuncturists know that good health isn’t acquired by attacking invaders. Instead, we advocate living in balance with our environment to develop a strong, self-reliant, vessel. We are healthy when our system excludes threats without our even being aware of them.

As individuals, most of us practice (most of the time) what we preach. We strive for balance.

As a profession, though, we’ve chased the equivalents of miracle cures, mega-antibiotics, and the promises of “experts.” Like our clients who seek well-being that way, we are tired and struggle to maintain our tenuous health.

What if practitioners, schools, organizations, regulators, and credentialing agencies saved the energy and money that went to filing lawsuits against PT’s, (and having to defend ourselves when we are sued in return), establishing new degrees, and changing state regulations to require more training and exams? What if, instead, they identified the minimal standard necessary to practice safely and effectively and committed to work, state by state, to establish that standard as sufficient for licensure? What if we took as a guiding principle and goal that an acupuncture license in one state, and a history of safe practice, should be sufficient for licensure in any state?

Other professions are doing this. PT’s, Nurses, and MD’s are all working to make it easier for practitioners to relocate. Even lawyers can be “waived” into a state based on prior experience. These professionals don’t have to start school wondering whether their degree will be sufficient. A family move doesn’t mean giving up a career.

Acupuncture school is a risky investment, especially when requirements for licensure vary widely and change regularly.

Unlike our other battles, moving toward standardization (of licensure NOT lineage), doesn’t require convincing any judge or insurance company of our position or value. We hold the power to create a system that supports acupuncture professionals and serves the public.

It shouldn’t be difficult. It will be. We are better at vehemently disagreeing and walking away than we are at overcoming differences and finding compromise.

Both herbal credentialing and the FPD degrees were enacted despite concerns we now know were prescient.The ACAOM-sponsored DELPHI process (to establish degree titles), an after-the fact attempt to address some of those concerns, is moving forward, but not without challenges.

We lack an organization for regulators. This increases the tendency for states go their own way, and will make coming together even more difficult. Too often regulators have focused on their personal visions for the profession rather than serving the public. Many of them also sit on the boards of, or work for, acupuncture schools, raising the potential for conflicts of interest.

We could overcome these challenges. We could focus on the benefits and commit to sticking together. We could ensure the public can access Acupuncturists when they want acupuncture. We’ve spent enough on the antibiotics of legal action and the miracle cures of being Doctors and pursuing third-party payment. Now we need to focus on establishing common ground and common requirements, building our strength and our stamina. That would be a huge step toward good health for the profession.




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© Elaine Wolf Komarow and The Acupuncture Observer, 2013-2033. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express written permission from Elaine Wolf Komarow is prohibited. Excerpts and links are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.

11 thoughts on “Professional Harmony, Professional Growth

  1. The solution you are looking for is becoming very clear. The gateway to the AOM profession is an artificially large group of proprietary schools feeding off of poorly regulated student loan monies without responsibility for outcomes. Why don’t all of those practitioners that claim to have some interest in a more dignified profession please support the Department of Education cutting off the 15 AOM for-profits that have failed the gainful employment test?

    Your profession isn’t going to have, nor should it have, any respect until it is free of the for-profit parasites. The proprietary schools have destroyed any chance of academic quality control, introduced unmanageable student debt, all of which requires a cult-like fantasy world to be the norm at acupuncture schools. If you really want to treat this issue correctly: purge the parasites. Or the profession can continue the acupuncture school style magical thinking: pretend things are on the verge of changing drastically and positively in the world of acupuncture.

    • I don’t disagree that many of our schools seem to be more interested in maintaining their own existence than in looking out for the profession. That being said, the point of my post was that we don’t need to wait for the schools to change. Those of us out in the field could change things on our end, and that would force the schools to change or be obsolete. We can’t control gainful employment rules, or the schools, but we can establish requirements that don’t send already indebted practitioners back to the schools every time they want to move to a new state.

      Personally, I wouldn’t make a distinction between the profit and non-profit schools. They all can act in ways that serve their own needs. Also, lots of professions have for-profit educational parasites and still get respect.

      Our mistakes in setting licensure requirements have enabled the problems in the schools to flourish, but your comment here gives them too much power, imo. With common licensure requirements the “market” could have a considerably more powerful influence on the schools.

      All of that being said, I am going to take a minute to call out the Emporer’s School — Hey, Emporer’s School, all of the great things you do for your community are of little comfort to your graduates who don’t make enough to pay off their student loans. Your argument that you should get a pass on the Gainful employment rules because you are a service to your community is obnoxious.

  2. Hi Elaine

    There really can be no doubt that this solution (or something like it) is the only way forward for all of us. These are arguments I, and others, have been making for over two decades; but they have gone unheard. Until we put our collective well-being ahead of our ‘personal’ or ‘corporate’ interests and organize accordingly; I am not yet optimistic about the outcome. An accurate diagnosis is the first step; and I think you have made it. Now doing something is imperative. We must come to an agreement and organize. We must assure that conflicts of interest do not produce adverse outcomes. We must make certain that it is our voice that is heeded and honored by legislators, regulators, state boards, our institutional oligarchs, and practitioners as a whole. Otherwise organizations like ACAOM, the NCCAOM, CCAOM, will continue to ‘play’ us and keep us mired in internecine skirmishes. We have all seen this and, in some cases, this way of operating has brought significant harm to our profession. Will we ever learn? The time to work toward change is now. There is little time left. Personally, I would much sooner pay dues to an organization that is dedicated to making things better for all of us in these ways; than to those that have consistently failed us historically.

    “Raise up the true and place them over the crooked, and the allegiance of the people will be yours; raise up the crooked and place them over the true, and the people will not be yours.” Analects of Confucius 2.19

    • I have reached out to the ASA to share the post and to suggest that this is an area in which their work could be very helpful. We’ll see if they will at least start having this conversation.

      Unfortunately we’ve had a big hole where we’ve been needing a Town Square….

  3. Yes, well-said oh wise & thoughtful AO. Why can’t we simplify this? As a 62 yo practitioner of almost 30 years, & living in MN, I may want to relocate some day, but can I do that & get a license to practice? No, not without tons of ‘new-thought’ credits to my training. What a bummer! I keep up with my CE/PDA with NCCAOM but why keep moving the goalposts?

    • It’s especially surprising because, unlike Western Medical knowledge, not a lot has changed. Many of us are clearly practicing safely and effectively with our “old and limited” knowledge.

      We can’t only because we haven’t made it a goal. And because we’ve let a few handfuls of people who are convinced that increased specialization or increased training or increased titles will get us the “respect we deserve” move ahead with poorly thought through changes that have huge impacts.


  4. So smart! How perfect to apply our own medicine – our experience and our knowledge – to our profession. Thank you for your wise and inspiring words.

    • I find it kind of baffling that it’s been so difficult for this profession to use our wisdom of the laws of nature to help our own profession!

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