When I took over the acupuncture business and practice management courses at NUNM, it was two seminars situated near the end of the 4-5 year curriculum. The timing makes some sense, right? Students are primed to begin thinking about their careers, and have more information about the profession, so they can take better advantage of that teaching and experience in the courses.
When I was given an opportunity to completely reconfigure that whole part of the acupuncture curriculum, I jumped at the chance.
I decided to turn two courses into four, and made them into a weekly class format instead of seminar style, with the first course starting in the Fall of the first year. As this curriculum became the norm, I’d often be one of the first teachers that students were exposed to at the school (for better and for worse, no doubt)!
I made these changes for several reasons.
- It’s a lot to learn in just two short terms, and I feared people weren’t really absorbing much. Students’ heads are swimming with information, and many of them are a bit (!) burned out.
- Breaking up the material a bit more allowed me to focus on particular aspects of running an acupuncture practice during each term. This made for more focused teaching and learning in a program that’s already filled with so much diversity and task switching.
- Most importantly, perhaps, I believe that students should start contemplating their position in the profession, the career they are entering and what they’d like to do upon graduation as soon as possible.
In fact, I’d love if people were able to take the first course in the series BEFORE they begin contemplating acupuncture as a profession.
The first course available to the public now, so if you’re in this boat or are in the first couple of years of your acupuncture education – go read the details and jump on board if it suits your fancy.
Every year, at the beginning of the business course, students complain that they feel they’re not ready for this, that they have NO IDEA WHAT THEY WANT TO DO WHEN THEY GROW UP, and that they feel the time could be better spent on theory or some other aspect of their education. By the end of the course, few are trying to make the same claims.
What can you learn about acupuncture business so early in your education, or even before you start school?
Lots. You can get to know the profession systematically, for one. How can you even start to think about your career, and determine whether it’s for you, without having an idea of what it’s all about, and what your options are? The vast majority of my students come to acupuncture education with almost NO knowledge of the profession.
When I taught the students only at the end of their education, you might be surprised (and saddened) at how many suddenly realized that the profession wasn’t for them, even if they loved the theories and idea of the medicine. Wouldn’t it have been better for them to know before they spent all that money and time? Maybe not for the schools, yeah, but for those students?
Definitely better to know early on.
Beyond orientation in the realities of acupuncture business and practice, there’s a lot more to teach to brand new students!
In the first course, we dig into the meaning of what it is to be an acupuncture professional. Is there a uniform? What do you “have to believe?” How does licensure work, anyway? Are there unique ethics for Chinese medicine practitioners? How can you be yourself and still be a respectful member of such an old and venerated tradition?
These things are important, and getting young acupuncture professionals to consider them makes for a better integration into the profession.
We also get into productivity and organization.
I think that one of the most important lessons we, as a profession, have to learn is how important it is to stay organized and to use our time wisely. Talking about work-life balance has NO meaning if you’re hopelessly disorganized and don’t show up for your appointments on time.
So many students arrive in medical school with high school or college organizational skills, and those tend to shatter into a million pieces in a rigorous program. Further, school skills are helpful in the real world, but you need to be prepared for the type and volume of information that can come at you during a busy clinical practice.
I like to teach task and project management using the Getting Things Done philosophy, but also try to make room for all kinds of productivity methodology. I also find it increasingly important to define what productivity is, and the limitations on a hyper-focus on perfection in this realm. It’s a big topic, and we barely touch on it, but most find it to be valuable.
Finally, I actually get them to start visioning their future acupuncture practice.
I even ask them (horror of horrors) to start considering what patient populations they might like to serve. It’s fascinating to see how much these ideas evolve over the four+ years of schooling, and the students get ample opportunity to revise their concepts year after year. This is another benefit of a multi-course approach, over a long period of time. They grow, they learn, and they apply that to the frameworks they built in the first year. It’s one of my favorite parts of teaching these courses.
Again, students can have a lot of resistance to defining who they want to treat when they don’t even know what treatment means. I feel for them, but again, find that encountering and frequently reviewing ideas about professional future serve as a powerful antidote to the pressure and anxiety that can build as graduation looms closer.
As I transition to more online, world-wide teaching of acupuncturists, I want to replicate the best of this approach
With the first three of the four courses already ready for registration, I’m now turning towards figuring out who these courses will resonate with most. It’s true that most people searching for acupuncture business training are practitioners in their first few years of practice, or folks who have run up against the limitations of their own knowledge as they grow their clinics. Anyone who fits those descriptions could definitely benefit from these teachings, and I’m looking forward to refining these courses to suit people a little farther along the path.
But, in the end, my primary passion will always be teaching acupuncture students. I am particularly seeking those who go to acupuncture schools that don’t have much in the way of practical business training. It confuses me how little attention most schools pay to this important part of the curriculum, but at least now there’s a readily available choice.
When did you start studying acupuncture business?
I’m interested to hear others’ experiences of learning this part of acupuncture professional life. Did you get training every step of the way, or only near the end? Do you feel you were adequately prepared for what it takes to be successful as an acupuncturist? Add your comments below!