I have been practicing acupuncture and herbal medicine for over ten years, I recently moved to Seattle from Chicago, Illinois. I received my Washington state acupuncture license this past June.*
I interviewed for two jobs:
One, a private practice in a beautiful medical building in downtown Seattle with four lovely private rooms, a small herbal pharmacy, an office manager and three other acupuncturists. I would be credentialed to accept insurance and and would be paid hourly based on commission seeing two patients per hour, plus commission for any herbal products I sold. A way of practicing, sans insurance, which I was already very comfortable and familiar with as a practitioner.
The other was a franchise which provided acupuncture only treatments. Ten automatic, reclining "lazy boy" like chairs with heat and massage in a large, open space, making it possible to give multiple people treatments at the same time, membership and package options making it possible for people to afford multiple treatments per week, a chance to be trained using Distal Needling Acupuncture (DNA) and an opportunity to work in various locations in the Seattle area.
Admittedly, both jobs sounded exciting and I discussed the pros and cons at length with family and local colleagues.
In the end, I chose the franchise. I chose it because it was a preferred way for me to practice, spending shorter amounts of time doing intake and medical history with patients, inserting needles and moving on to the next patient, it was a salaried position instead of commission, the job provided me with paid time off including vacation and sick days, it paid for my malpractice insurance, and would reimburse me for continuing education classes. I thought to myself, "this company has the potential to bring acupuncture to the masses" and I was very excited about the prospect.
About one month into my employment the company introduced a new marketing campaign which they planned to roll out initially in New York and Los Angeles. Personally, I was weary of the campaign and had some concerns. On the flip side, I was also excited because knowing nothing about large scale marketing and knowing this was one of the first commercial campaigns promoting acupuncture, I really wanted to see what the results were.
The campaign rolled out on October 1st. Last week I had a colleague come into work very upset about comments being made in a private acupuncture Facebook group about the company we worked for. I started to read those comments and these are the ones which stood out the most for me. Please note, I am paraphrasing not providing exact quotes:
This type of employer will only attract technicians.
Treating the medicine like a spa service devalues the medicine.
I showed these ads to a patient who said that he would expect a "happy ending" after his acupuncture treatment.
There were many more comments, in fact, the post has thus far generated a total of 106 comments. Not all were negative and some were intelligent and thought-provoking.
We have all been exposed to social media enough to know that it is very easy to make disparaging comments when they are made about people we don't really know.
I wanted to take the time to tell you about my experience thus far as an actual employee, not someone who is just commenting on Facebook about something that I have absolutely no experience with at all.
I enjoy my job including the people I work with. My fellow acupuncturists are, like myself, very well trained individuals who graduated from schools like PCOM, Five Branches and Bastyr, to name a few. Experience ranges from recent grads to practitioners with 6 to over 10 years of experience. I have observed my colleagues treating patients, I have received excellent treatments from my colleagues and I am able to see SOAP notes on every single patient treated in the two clinics I have worked at in the Seattle area. I am impressed with the treatments being provided and am learning from each and everyone of my colleagues. I can assure you, none of my colleagues are mere technicians.
We treat a variety of patients both male and female, from eight-seven years old to as young as five years old. We treat a variety of conditions. Pain is big one, but we also treat patients with nervous system disorders, respiratory disorders, digestive disorders, mood disorders, gynecological disorders, etc. We treat pregnant women, we treat college students, we treat retired folks, we treat young professionals, we treat construction workers and some of the checkers from Fred Meyer across the way.
I have found that even though I spend a shorter time doing intake and talking with my patients, the results I have seen using DNA have been amazing. I love the idea of using fewer needles and getting better results.
We provide effective, safely administered, acupuncture treatments to all of our patients who just happen to be reclining in comfortable chairs in a room with soft lighting, new age music and monitors with nature scenes on a rolling loop. It's not a spa, it's an acupuncture clinic.
Some patients want to hear about the biomedical explanation about what happens when an acupuncture needle is inserted and how DNA works specifically, some just want to focus on breathing in and out as needles are inserted, some want to get self-care recommendations, nutritional information and some just want to make small talk. So far though, no one has asked me for a "happy ending."
I have not been sexually harassed, demeaned or disrespected in any way and it is not something I, my colleagues or my employers would allow.
I love this medicine and I acknowledge that there are many effective styles of acupuncture and there are many different, yet effective ways to deliver acupuncture.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post.
* I have left out a lot of personal details purposefully because I was trying to keep this post as short as I could.