In my teaching and coaching work, one of the steps used in working on a business vision is to “know the profession.” This encouragement should sound familiar to anyone who has been reading my work for any period of time. I believe that learning from our peers, mentors, and history as an acupuncture profession is an unqualified good. When you ground yourself in the reality of the Profession of which you are a part – all manner of positive benefits will come your way.
Learning the ecosystemic structure, function
I often talk about the ecosystem or landscape of the Profession of Chinese medicine. By this, I simply mean the various structures, functions, interactions and paths of development that exist in the profession. While many practitioners stumble their way into understanding the full breadth and depth of the acupuncture profession, I think there’s a lot of benefit in being more overt and systematic in coming to understand the landscape.
In this article, I want to focus mostly on how knowing your profession well will help the health of your practice, particularly in the early stages. Though, as an aside, I very well could focus on how it will help your own personal development, your patients, and the profession itself.
Learning the culture of your local acupuncture profession
Every Profession has a culture. This culture involves all of the non-regulatory and, in this case, non-medical aspects of the Profession.
Obviously, everywhere the medicine goes it will be different – since Professional cultures go beyond the technical information used to carry out the profession’s activities. So, the culture of the medicine involves both features that come from China (or Japan, Korea, etc) and features in the country of practice. These combine to create a unique cultural picture. Knowing this picture is important so that you can participate more fully in the social aspects of the profession, important for a number of reasons.
Some of the more important things to learn in this area include:
- How Chinese medicine practitioners view legal and ethical matters relevant to the profession
- The general mode of discourse, discussion and disagreement within the profession
- The relationship of most professionals to the regulatory agencies that dictate our practice
- The way that the teacher-student relationship functions
- The view of Chinese medicine practitioners on important issues of the day, even political ones seemingly unrelated to medicine
- What is considered important with regards to personal appearance, demeanor & language in the professional context.
Even for those of you who naturally buck social convention, knowing the general culture of your profession can at least let you know what rules you’re breaking. 🙂
Learning the hard edges around the acupuncture profession
One of the biggest surprises that has arisen in my research is how little people know about the regulatory environment we find ourselves in as acupuncturists. New graduates rarely fully understand who the various acronymned agencies are and how they actually impact what we can and cannot do as Chinese medicine practitioners. What, really, can get you sued? How can you lose your license? What’s the deal with dual relationships (treating friends and family)? What is really necessary with regards to insurance billing and HIPAA? What is competency? What is required with regards to malpractice insurance?
In several of my courses, we do spend some time with this material – just laying things out in the standard context of the acupuncture profession in the United States of America. Even for those of you who don’t practice here, it can be helpful to see how other countries have set up their practice so you can know what questions to ask and information to look out for. When we keep ourselves fully aware of the reality of the regulatory situation, we can make better decisions about how to set up and run our acupuncture practices.
Learning about Chinese medicine business
One of the most important reasons to interact with and learn more about the acupuncture profession is the profound business benefits you will receive. In doing this research, you’ll get ideas and information from people with more and different experience than you. You won’t have to reinvent the wheel, because you’ll have a grounding in what has worked and failed for others in similar situations. I frequently see practitioners floundering to implement some business system or marketing scheme, and if they had just asked me or another acupuncturist, they might have known how to do it better.
Here are some questions and areas of research you might want to consider as you proceed:
- Business models : What kind of practice types are out there, and how do they work for people? What are the pros and cons of having a group practice? Of having a group acupuncture day? Of aligning yourself with a Chiropractor? Of having a mobile clinic? By investigating this material, you can not only vet ideas you’ve had, but also get a range of ideas you never would have thought of on your own.
- Marketing techniques : How have other people found success in marketing their practices? How does Groupon work? Do people really get patients from giving talks? Has anybody ever tried acupuncture clinic t-shirts? Who is taking advantage of the latest and greatest technologies for marketing, and who has had a better time just sticking with face-to-face marketing in their communities? Getting people in the door through publicizing your availability is the lifeblood of a thriving clinic – so the more information you get here, the better!
- Life balance & personal life experience : Of course, learning from experienced acupuncturists about how they manage their busy lives can be valuable. Does everyone but you manage to get an hour of Qigong in every morning? How do people manage having a growing family with managing a busy practice? Is it possible to travel for three months out of the year and yet keep a steady practice when you’re back in town? While everyone’s experience is individual, it can be helpful to learn from others’ struggles and triumphs as you seek to maximize the joy you have in practicing Chinese medicine.
If you take the time to do careful research in these areas about the acupuncture profession, learning all you can, your practice will be on solid footing. You’ll know what IS so that you don’t make silly mistakes that come from lack of grounding in the knowledge of your community.