Know Your Acupuncture Practice Style

Most acupuncturists are led to believe that an acupuncture practice style is mostly about choosing between specific Oriental medicine approaches, such as: Traditional Chinese Medicine, Five-Element Acupuncture, Japanese Style Acupuncture, Korean Hand Acupuncture, just to name a few.

The truth is, the most important part of any acupuncture practice style is how YOU implement whatever type of acupuncture that you choose to practice. This requires not only knowing yourself, but knowing:

  1. How (logistically and physically) you most effectively deliver your chosen type of acupuncture to your patients.

  2. How successful your acupuncture practice style is from your patient's perspective.

  3. How successful your acupuncture practice is according to your business' "bottom line".

Why Knowing Yourself is So Important

When I set up my acupuncture clinic I could have saved myself a lot of time, money, and frustration if I understood my strengths and weaknesses.

Imagine this scenario: I signed a 5-year lease where I effectively had 3-treatment rooms to myself. I decided to start with 2 rooms (seeing 2 patients an hour) and gradually move to 3 patients per hour. I did the math and figured that this set-up would provide plenty of income to pay my lease and other expenses.

I thought I was being smart. But my goals and good intentions did not match my personality. Read on.

Seeing two patients per hour gave me time to do a quick follow-up intake, examine pulses and tongue, get the acupuncture needles placed, write and fill (weigh out granules) an herbal prescription if needed, then start all over with my next patient while the first one rested for half an hour. Then before filling the herbal prescription for the second patient, I could pull needles out of the first patient and get him/her checked out and rescheduled before going to get started on patient number three.

Sounds simple enough.

Here's the problem: My personality.

Well, my personality isn't the problem (I'm actually quite fun). The real problem is my personality does not match an acupuncture practice style where I move quickly in and out of treatment rooms.

I know people who are GREAT at working with many patients at one time and who can multi-task efficiently and effectively. Guess what? I am not one of them!

This is not good or bad, it is just the way I "work". What is important is knowing how I work best and then matching myself to that set-up (hopefully before signing a lease!)

Here's the deal: I am a great listener, I'm detail-oriented, and I'm good at providing a safe space for people to talk about difficult issues.

If I have to divide my attention between two or three patients, I feel scattered. There is nothing wrong with being unable to practice seeing 2 or more patients per hour.

The truth is, my ability to focus one-on-one is part of my value as a practitioner, particularly for those many patients who need to be heard. I cannot tell you how many times patients have said to me (some through tears), "you are the first person to really listen to my story."

Being heard is part of healing, especially for those who have been subject to the often impersonal nature of the western medical maze, and I am glad I can provide it.

So, once I realized my "weakness" (i.e. my inability to have multiple patients at once), I had a few choices:

  • Learn effective methods to retrain myself to overcome this weakness so that I could see multiple patients per hour. Or

  • Modify the way I practice to match my strengths. In other words, eliminate the extra treatment rooms and see one patient per hour.

Fortunately, I was able resolve this before it became an unmanageable issue. I rented out my extra treatment rooms to other practitioners and focussed on my strength, that is my abilities to help people feel heard.

If your strengths do not match your acupuncture practice structure, it is so much more difficult to succeed.

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