What do you do for a living?
I’m an Acupuncturist and Chinese Herbalist, treating both people and their pets.
How would you describe what you do?
Using acupuncture and personalized Chinese herbal formulas, I help people’s (and pets’!) bodies remember how to function healthfully.
What does your work entail?
As a tiny operation, I do it all! I’m receptionist, acupuncturist, herbalist, insurance billing specialist, janitor, office manager.
In regards to doing treatments, I sit down with each patient and ask detailed questions about their health in order to see the way their individual body works, and then from that get a Chinese medical diagnosis. Once I have my Chinese medical diagnosis, I pick the acupuncture points and Chinese herbs that are appropriate for their health complaint.
What’s a typical work week like?
I work very part time because I have small children. I work Monday through Friday 4-7pm. I’m able to treat up to 5 patients every day (because I have appointment slots every 30 minutes).
How did you get started?
I got started in Chinese medicine because I had experienced severe eye allergies that Biomedicine had been unable to help. I tried acupuncture as a last resort, after years of ineffectual biomedical treatments, and was completely rid of my allergies within a month (4 treatments). I knew then that Chinese medicine was what I wanted to do.
What do you like about what you do?
I LOVE helping people TRULY feel better. My patients are often able to get off of their biomedications, or at least take lower doses. I want people to feel good so that they don’t need to come see me anymore. Of course, I miss my patients, but it’s SO rewarding to be able to help them feel GREAT.
What do you dislike?
I dislike public speaking. Many acupuncturists find that public speaking events are the most effective ways for them to get new patients in through the door. I hate doing them, so I’ve found that for ME, setting up a close-knit referral network has been my best bet.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
I am paid in cash by some patients, and by insurance companies for others.
How much money do acupuncturists make?
This varies VERY widely. I’ve seen acupuncturists have to keep second and third jobs in addition to their practices, and others make over $150k a year from their practice. Acupuncturists in my area make about $60 per treatment on average.
How much money do/did you make starting out as an acupuncturist?
Because I work so part time, I’m not a good representation of the field in general. However, I made $16k my first year gross. I wasn’t able to pay myself other than to cover my student loans. Some of my classmates had pretty full schedules (working full time) their first and second years after graduation, though!
What education, schooling, or skills are needed to become an acupuncturist?
Acupuncture requires a Master’s degree. It’s a 4-year program. Then you have to take the National Board Exams and become licensed in your state.
What is most challenging about what you do?
This doesn’t happen very often, thank goodness, but treating a patient that just doesn’t seem to improve. No matter what you try, their condition doesn’t budge. It’s very frustrating, because MOST patients experience some change in their condition within 3 treatments.
What is most rewarding?
Telling that patient that since they’re doing so well that they don’t need to come back unless they need me for something else! It’s always bittersweet because we, as acupuncturists, get to know our patients so well (that’s what happens when you ask about bodily functions every week!)!
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Make sure you have good personal boundaries. Patients will try to push you in SO many ways. Be able to tell people ‘no.’
How much time off do you get/take?
The beauty of this line of work is that I can take time when I need it. I tend to take two weeks in the summer and two weeks around the winter holidays. I also take random days off as needed for the family. After being in practice a while, you start to notice the times of year when patients tend to wane, so you take your vacation at that time.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That we believe that Chinese medicine is the end-all-be-all of medical treatments. That we’re unsafe because we won’t refer a patient out to appropriate biomedical care. This is SO incorrect. Approximately half of my training was in biomedicine. We were trained to be able to recognize medical conditions so that our patients could be properly referred when necessary. Because of this training, I have sent 3 people to their doctors for cardiac problems. They were each told that I likely saved them from massive heart attacks. Because of my Chinese medical training, I’ve told 6 women that they’ve been pregnant before a pregnancy test would come back as positive. Chinese medical practitioners of today are well versed in both Chinese and bio-medicine.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
Once my children are in school full-time, I look forward to expanding to a full time practice. I love my work and look forward to helping even more people feel their healthiest!
I’m in the process of writing a textbook on locating acupuncture points on pets as a companion to a seminar on teaching other acupuncturists how to treat them.
What else would you like people to know about your job/career?
I think it’s all been covered above!