Third Night – Lowering Standards!?

In recent conversations with colleagues I’ve heard a few exclaim “we won’t agree to lower our standards!” and “we aren’t going to go backwards on our education!”

I haven’t heard anyone suggesting that we lower our standards or go backwards, so I was baffled.

Only momentarily, though, because then I remembered -The Acupuncture Revisions Proposal from the POCA Tech BOD to “revise acupuncture education and testing standards so as to benefit current and future (1) acupuncture students, (2) acupuncture schools, (3) acupuncturists, and (4) the general public.”

They make clear that their proposed standards are based around students meeting all of the competencies required for ACAOM accreditation and preparing graduates to be safe and effective practitioners. (The proposal is concise, well-written, and worth reading. Please do.)

Unfortunately, “high standards” in this profession has come to mean number of hours spent in school. So any change in the number of hours is interpreted as a lowering of standards.

I understand how it happened. When we’ve fought for acceptance, we’ve stressed our hours of training to establish our worth. When clients mention that they got acupuncture from their Chiropractor, we talk about how much time we spent in acupuncture school compared to the D.C.’s short courses. Hours of education has been a battle cry in the dry needling fight. (Which has been mostly unpersuasive since the PT’s 1) deal in competencies, and 2) we use different rules when we count our hours and we count theirs.)

Actually, a standard is “a conspicuous object (such as a banner) formerly carried at the top of a pole and used to mark a rallying point especially in battle.” (Merriam-Webster).

So, hours has become our standard. But it’s such a meaningless standard. I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s been to three-day CEU classes that have been a complete waste of time while a one-hour class contains a transformative nugget. I’ve spoken to people who have taught at some acupuncture schools and the picture they paint is not of hour after hour of quality programming.

We’ve got a workforce that needs to grow. And levels of educational debt that are an impediment to professional success. Affording graduate school and repaying loans isn’t going to get easier.

Read the Acupuncture Revisions Proposal with an open mind.

Our banner should be more meaningful than a number.




Copyright —

© 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.

9 thoughts on “Third Night – Lowering Standards!?

  1. (I wrote this on The Acupuncture Observer FB page, but I like it enough to cross-post it here. Moderator’s perogative 😉 It was in response to a comment about how someone benefited from learning NCCAOM required material despite not learning it in school and that perhaps more hours and more knowledge was a good thing.)

    It’s true, I use my NCCAOM required knowledge a lot. Then again, I know people who studied TCM in school, and now treat using Tan and Tung, which they didn’t learn in school and isn’t tested by NCCAOM. Maybe I’d help people more if I spent the time I spent on TCM learning that? Especially since I don’t use herbs? In a world where we had plenty of practitioners and school was free and we received a stipend to support ourselves while we were studying, and we didn’t use the time and cost of our education as justification for charging more for treatment than many can afford, I could get on board with more hours and more material. Though, again, a lot of hours only means a lot of hours, it doesn’t guarantee learning more. Given the current circumstances, we have allowed the “closer to perfect” become the enemy of “existing as a viable profession/providing care to those who need it/maintaining our “cost effective” promise.

  2. About hours of training: significant to this issue is the fact that some acupuncture schools do not require a bachelors degree for admission, and there have been schools that do not require an associate degree – only the equivalent college hours of an associates. (I’m pretty sure this is still true although I have not taken the time to look up every school’s admission policies).
    In determining how much education it takes to obtain a masters degree, it makes sense to take undergrad education into account. A normal course of study to achieve Masters level is 5-6 years: 4 years (bachelors) plus 1-2 years (masters).
    For an acupuncture masters it could be 5-6 years: 2 years (associates or equivalent) plus 3-4 years (masters).

    Requiring college level bioscience classes as a prequisite for acupuncture school could be added to the list of suggestions for reducing hours.

    • Once upon a time we had college level bioscience prereqs. I believe they were later incorporated into programs — once loans were available it made economic sense for the schools to incorporate them into their programs…. When it comes to the names of programs, we’re all in a fantasy land. Now people can be Doctors without getting a Masters first. And we’ve got two different types of Doctors – with different educations behind those titles and even people in some of the programs don’t understand which “type” of Doctor they are studying to be.

  3. I didn’t see any mention of herbal medicine in this proposal. Where does a student learn herbal medicine under this curriculum?

    • The same place students of current acupuncture-only programs learn herbal medicine — in a herbal program. And for those who don’t wish to use herbs in practice, they don’t need to learn herbal medicine.

  4. I’m paraphrasing a quote from the Ken Burns series on the Viet Nam war….”If you can’t count whats important, you make what you can count important…..”

    I agree with you 100%. Our value is not based on how many hours we paid for education. We do not have the workforce to serve the needs of the public.We certainly don’t have the workforce or the apparent desire to work with the neediest citizens. We are missing opportunities every day to show our public how we can help with the most pressing medical needs of our day.

    • That quote is perfect! It’s so true — it’s difficult to come up with measurable assessments of someone’s ability to be a good practitioner. And I recognize the difficulty the schools would face if they declined to move someone through a program because they lacked rapport, or got pulse readings that didn’t line up with what others got. In the days of apprenticeship with a Master, I suppose that sort of thing happened all the time. So, we had to come up with something we could point to — hours are easy to measure and easy to compare and so, we became all about the hours.

      I know that in several states there’s been a move to increase hours even more. I heard that some people in California would like to get all states to adopt the CA requirements — which, deja vu, that already happened. At least once in the past, California increased required hours of training, and ACAOM and the schools jumped on board, and then most of the states fell into line because they depend on ACAOM…. So, if they are ready to do it all again…. well, it will never be enough!

  5. HEAR HEAR, Elaine. I am constantly amazed at the “padding” of the curriculum at the school we attended 30 years ago. While this is not to say that the newer curricula isn’t interesting, it is not central to the “safe and effective” standard. Safe and effective practice can be managed with about a year’s worth (or so) of diligent full-time study (after all, the founders of our school managed to do it in a few months). The rest is practice, practice, practice, along with honing your skills with study and nuanced learning for the next 50 years. At our alma mater, we have taken what could have been a simple MAc degree, and made it into, essentially, a doctoral program (in length and complexity) without the degree. THEN, once the doctoral degree became available, we squeezed really hard to pad further, and the costs rose substantially more. I, for one, would like to take Prince Wen Wei’s cook’s knife to the curriculum and do what years of growth (in personnel and curricula) have added to the costs and time of the program. Thanks for being the visual spotlight and the voice of our conscience on these issues.

    • I love the reminder of that story! Very fitting. And I especially appreciate hearing from people who have experience with the programs. It should be noted that POCA Tech has been teaching and successfully preparing students for the exams under the current standards. They know what they need to do to create good practitioners, and what they need to do to fill the hourly requirements, and they aren’t the same things! I knew their experience was not unique.

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