Last week’s post generated lots of feedback – in the comments and elsewhere. Several people reached out to me with stories about how their professional success was negatively impacted by NCCAOM policies or procedures.
An individual trained to be an acupuncturist wrote:
I graduated from an acupuncture school outside the country in November 2017. The NCCAOM requires that those trained outside the US must have their documents evaluated by a third party in order to apply and sit for the NCCAOM exams. As of November 2017 the NCCAOM only accepts documents evaluated by the International Consultants of Delaware (ICD).
In December 2017 I began my long ordeal with this organization. After 8 months of emails and phone calls going unanswered or minimally responded to with a form letter, I contacted NCCAOM to inform them that the company they were requiring me and others to use had appalling business practices that were preventing me from taking the NCCAOM exams, applying for a state license and starting a job that was being held for me.
Happily, I did get immediate help from the contact at NCCAOM. They intervened on my behalf and took my educational documents for their own review. However, I was then notified that I still needed ICD evaluation as the NCCAOM could not approve a “non-traditional” transcript. They also said they were not familiar with the school.
The school I attended has been graduating American students for over 15 years, and many have returned, successfully sat for the NCCAOM exams, and obtained licensure in the US. However, now it seems that the format of the provided transcripts are unacceptable; nothing has changed from the school’s perspective. The only suggestions offered by the NCCAOM are not feasible, such as giving them the names and other personal information of past American students in order to compare what would be identical transcripts, my completing a 2 year apprenticeship (not acceptable for licensure in my state), or the school rewriting their program.
It has now been 18 months since I started this process and am no closer to being allowed to even apply for the NCCAOM exams. It seems incredible to me, and many others, that the format of transcripts, paperwork really, is all that is keeping me from fulfilling my dream. The NCCAOM has nothing to lose by allowing me to take the exams only the gain of my $1500. If I fail, then that is on me.
The LAc who wants to hire P.K. wrote:
As a licensed acupuncturist in practice since 1995, I have been saddened to watch the new generation of acupuncturists struggle with ballooning student loan debt and escalating practice requirements. The combination is eating away at our numbers. This acutely affects the public, our clinics, and those of us hoping to retire some day and pass our clinics on.
As an employer, I am immensely frustrated, because your practices are blocking me from hiring.
P. K. has been my clinic’s office manager, front desk staffer and clinical assistant for more than 3 1/2 years. She is bright, committed, compassionate and skilled. She excelled in her three years as a student at a well regarded European acupuncture school. She comes highly recommended by the school’s president. She has been a delight and a pleasure to work with, continually exceeding my expectations, and our patients are very fond of her.
Meanwhile, I am busy, frequently over booked, and have been looking to add to my clinical staff, with no luck, for quite some time. There is a shortage of licensed acupuncturists in my area interested in a high volume, low fee, community style of practice. I offered P. a position as a community acupuncturist in early 2018, contingent on her obtaining a Massachusetts acupuncture license, and she accepted. Since then, I have been waiting, watching as she does what she can to obtain licensure, while the NCCAOM has been a roadblock in that process.
P. has spelled out in her own narrative the details of her efforts to get approved to take your exam. When I reached out to you on this matter, we were asked to provide information on previous grads of her school who have sat for the NCCAOM exam — information that neither of us has any access to, but which no doubt, resides in your own files.
Consequently, P. has been left in limbo, with no path forward to practice in the US. My clinic remains understaffed, and I have no ability to hire the person I’ve chosen, who is best prepared to succeed in this position. Our state is unable to add a skilled acupuncturist to our numbers. It is all very frustrating, and sad.
A final thought — the whole idea of a licensing exam is to evaluate whether or not a graduate is prepared to enter the field. If you trust your exam’s ability to function as it was designed, blocking graduates from taking the exam makes no sense.
D. D., Lic Acupuncturist
I (The Acupuncture Observer) do believe that requiring a combination of education and examination is the best way to increase the odds that a licensee will be a safe and effective practitioner. Folks with good study skills and an ability to memorize can pass exams without being able to apply what they know in practice. The NCCAOM exams can’t test whether a candidate can identify the signs used in diagnosis, for example. And, the schools have an incentive to say all of their students know enough to be practitioners.
I acknowledge that, for better or worse, the NCCAOM currently requires graduation from an ACAOM-accredited school, or an overseas equivalent. And that means they have to have some method of determining equivalence.
And, yet, is there no solution here? Is it really better for the public, or the profession, that a business and a community goes without the help it needs, while a well-educated and well-trained individual who wants to fill that need is sidelined, with an expensive education wasted?
I think the NCCAOM can and should do better. If they can’t, we need to allow another path to licensure.