Acupuncture statistics are not easy to come by. But there is one that we cannot seem to get rid of. Insights-For-Acupuncturists was inspired by what I have termed, "The Statistic".
At some point during your acupuncture schooling you will hear it. It might be tossed casually in with a collection of other acupuncture statistics, but it will cause the wheels of your mind to come to a screeching halt.
It’s like a phantom. No one knows where it came from, who wrote it, or when it was written. Yet it is quoted in many articles and repeated by numerous teachers, and then buried in the subconscious of every student.
Because one thing is clear. We all shudder when we hear it. And we all deny we will be included in it.
Simply stated, "The Statistic" claims that, “5 years after graduating, 50% of graduates are NOT in an active acupuncture practice”.
If this is really true, and I'm not sure it is, there are only three possible conclusions I can draw:
1. HALF of acupuncturists never go into practice.
Perhaps new acupuncture school graduates do not know how to get started. Or they need time to recover from the intense years of training and never regain their motivation? Maybe they have family obligations or health issues? Or maybe they are having trouble with licensing, certification, or other legal aspects of opening their practice?
2. HALF go into practice and within 5 years quit.
Maybe acupuncturists decide that practicing acupuncture is not fulfilling after all and change professions? Or maybe they choose to start a family and take time off from their practice? Other possibilities include continuing their acupuncture education by studying for a year in China? Or getting their doctorate (OCOM has a great Acupuncture Doctorate Program!)?
3. HALF the acupuncture practices fail.
This means acupuncturists open their practice with every intention of doing what they love, but cannot manage the financial and business aspects of their practice, and end up being forced to close.
It troubles me deeply to think you can be an amazing acupuncturist, but be unable to offer your services because you cannot manage the business aspects of your practice.
As a profession, we need more acupuncture statistics to determine what the specific problems are so we can address them. Personally, I think "The Statistic" is an inaccurate myth that should either be backed up with an actual reference, or dismissed from our collective consciousness.
Regardless of whether or not this particular acupuncture statistic is true, the fact remains that many of us do go on to have successful careers as acupuncturists.
It is everything you dreamed it could be. But it is a marathon, not a sprint. Your success depends on many things and one of them is pacing yourself. More than anything I want you to enjoy a successful career as an acupuncturist.
Plus, I want to change that damn statistic!
I really believe, the world needs more acupuncturists. The more of us there are the more we can educate people about the benefits, advantages, uses, and beauty of acupuncture.
Acupuncturists are an all-too rare and necessary part of healing. Conventional medicine is important but it is broken and patients are falling through the cracks, desperate for help and hope. People are seeking holistic forms of medicine in record numbers and they want and need qualified practitioners who can help them heal from the inside out.
There are people waiting for you to open your doors and to keep them open for years and years and YEARS to come.
Your years of acupuncture training are all about building internal strength, knowledge, sensitivity, and skill. In other words, cultivating and nourishing your yin.
Once you graduate, you are required to present yourself to the external world by actively marketing your skills, attracting patients to your clinic, and selling your herbs. In other words, firing up your yang!
The reality is, school is draining of both yin & yang, so it is unrealistic to think that (without any preparation and thoughtful planning) you are going to simply graduate and hit the ground running.
When I graduated from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in the summer of 2000, I was foolish enough to think that my Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine was the equivalent of a Masters in Business Administration. Guess what? It's not!
I attempted to "follow the steps" of all the other acupuncturists out there and proceeded to open my acupuncture clinic.
Looking back, all I can say is, What was I thinking? and Thank goodness I did not think too much.
My ultimate success was due to a lot of hard work, blind enthusiasm, ignorance, more good decisions than bad ones, and plenty of luck.
The reality was that I did not have a single shred of business trainingother than the standard Practice Management classes that OCOM offered.
But let's face it, first of all, Practice Management was offered towards the end of my final year. I was studying for my NCCAOM Exam, writing my Master's thesis, finishing my clinical internship, memorizing herbal formulas, and trying to pass western pathology. In a nutshell, I was brain dead.
And second of all, Practice Management centered on case management (boring), legal issues (more boring), and suggestions for marketing and "practice building" (all theory & no play).
I'm not saying these weren't helpful classes. They were! The professors, like ALL teachers at OCOM, were exceptional and they provided me with tons of useful information, most of which I eventually put to use.
But what I needed was someone to warn me that I would need some time to recuperate. I needed permission to transition into the yang state of mind that is absolutely required in order to "be in business".
There's good news! Not only am I here to tell you that you WILL need some time to recuperate from your intense years of training, I'm here to inform you that you will get that time whether you like it or not.
So you might as well learn to like it!
Before you can open your acupuncture clinic doors you must apply for licensing (acupuncture and business), register and form your business, set up a physical space, purchase new equipment, line-up vendors for herbs and other products, print your acupuncture business cards and patient paperwork, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
All of this takes time.
Some things like licensing applications take time that is out of your control. You simply have to wait for all your ducks to line up in a row. This is precious time that can be used to your advantage if you can accept it. This doesn't mean do nothing.
It means you have choices.
While you are still in acupuncture school you can plan your acupuncture practice blueprint and start taking steps to ensure that you are practicing acupuncture as soon after graduation as possible.
Even if you did everything humanly possible to open your practice the day you receive your acupuncture college diploma, it is highly unlikely that you would be able to do so. The reason is beyond your control.
The Health Department of each state, which is the agency that will issue your license to practice acupuncture, requires documentation from your school showing you have met all course requirements, and from the NCCAOM (except California) showing you have successfully passed the certification exam.
Once you submit the request in writing for your school and the NCCAOM to release these materials to the appropriate state health department (and pay all associated fees), you must wait for everything to arrive, the paperwork to get processed, your application to be approved, and your license to be issued.
Sounds easy enough. But we are dealing with paperwork, institutions, and government agencies.
It all adds up to TIME.
Just like the patient who is a "no-show" or the last minute cancellation, you must learn to deal with having time on your hands. The time between graduation and getting your practice operational is not any different.
So use this time to your advantage. Take time to celebrate your achievement, plan a well-deserved vacation, spend time with your family, do what you can each day to get your acupuncture practice going, and listen to your body's & mind's needs for restoration.
And here's a novel idea: Get some acupuncture treatments!
I remember after I graduated I read all the Harry Potter books. They were a welcomed relief from the intense pace and study.
While you are regaining your strength, use the various sections in this website to help guide you through the integration of your Healer-Mind and Business-Mind.