As a seventh trimester student at the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, I’ve experienced internships at NYCC’s Seneca Falls Health Center, Campus Health Center, and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Canandaigua. I have treated diverse patient complaints—from low back pain to hot flashes to chronic migraines. I’m pleased to say that I’ve witnessed a patient in pain leave the clinic pain-free. I ask myself—why doesn’t everyone get Acupuncture?
Medical practitioners and patients are unsure where Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) practitioners fit into the healthcare community. The truth is AOM professionals should be utilized as an integral part of a team of healthcare professionals with a common goal in mind – to make the patient better.
So what’s the hold up? Why are AOM practitioners on the periphery? And what can we do about it?
- Patients and medical practitioners don’t know that acupuncture is a preventative medicine. The idea of “constitution”—an individual body’s proclivity to act in a certain way—still doesn’t quite fit into the biomedical community. Yes, it’s true, everyone’s body, although a similar frame, works differently. Therefore, all healthy individuals should visit the AOM clinic for maintenance treatments—especially around season change to prevent colds and flu.
- AOM services are often the last resort—the place many patients turn after all else fails. This is unfortunate because most conditions are more effectively treated in their beginning stages. For example, I was blessed to visit China and work at the Zhejiang University Hospital in Hangzhou. Patients there utilized AOM services even if they had only the slightest notion of sickness. Further, they recognized when their condition was changing and sought treatment immediately—even if the first sign was fatigue.
- Spread the word! Many medical practitioners don’t know exactly what we do! Oriental Medicine includes more than just acupuncture! There are five branches of Oriental Medicine: Acupuncture, moxibustion, dietary therapy, herbal medicine, and bodywork.
- Know when to refer. Just as a primary care physician knows when to refer to an orthopedic surgeon, AOM practitioners should know when to refer to other healthcare professionals and vice versa. Help educate practitioners so they know when AOM is appropriate. After all, isn’t a less invasive option best?
- Researchers study acupuncture in the way they study pharmaceuticals—looking for an “active ingredient.” Honestly, there are many active ingredients because the therapeutic nature of AOM services is more than just the administration of needles. Some researchers conclude that the evidence supporting acupuncture is slim. Funny thing is, many pharmaceuticals have an “unknown” affect yet they are still prescribed without a second thought.
The integration of AOM services into mainstream healthcare requires a shift in thinking and acceptance that biomedicine and AOM were founded on different theoretical understandings. This doesn’t make one paradigm better than the other—they both are valuable and should complement one another. The bottom line: work together, educate, and help the patient be their best.
If you are wondering why it’s been three months since my last blog post, let me begin by saying that with each passing trimester, time is slipping away from me. I cannot believe seventh trimester has begun and I am in my final year of Acupuncture School. It’s been a whirlwind. I do intend to wrap up the China Chronicles, but first, here’s a little insight into my current world.
- Bobble-head: My schedule is jam-packed. Between work, classes, clinic hours, homework, studying, and starting to think about boards, I feel like my head is spinning. With my head on a swivel, I resemble a bobble-head doll (Insert: “difficult tasks are worth completing” quote here)
- The year of fun: My best friend and I are committed to making our last year together chock full of fun! We plan to go apple picking, wine touring, and laugh until our faces hurt. This year will definitely be one to remember.
- Chop-Chop: Every few years, I let my hair grow long and then chop it all off. Originally I had planned on waiting until graduation, but instead, I said goodbye to 14 inches of hair this weekend. It was a cleansing experience, as if I had shed some skin like a snake, or peeled layers off an onion.
- Pumpkin everything: IT’S FALLLLLLLL! – my favorite season and I am a freak about pumpkin everything. October is my favorite month of the year. Not only do I get to celebrate another birthday, but also I get to enjoy the beautiful foliage.
- Future Practice: Resume, career development, small business, mission, vision, and personal statements – YIKES! (Maybe if I say the words in a list it may start sinking in) I’m overwhelmed! How can I possibly string a couple of words together to live my life and conduct my practice by?
- Business woman – What?: I am a clinician. I can just feel it in my bones. I enjoy administering Chinese Medicine. However, I am by no means a businessperson and I don’t know the first thing about running a business. All of a sudden I’m on a roller coaster going 100mph headed towards real life and running my own business and hoping for a smooth ride.
- Meeting with a Plattsburgh Acupuncturist: Over break, I was fortunate to meet with an acupuncturist in Plattsburgh, N.Y. She was fantastic and told me some extremely positive aspects about the outlook for acupuncture in my hometown. Although not what I had planned, it is looking quite desirable now. Oh so many big life decisions coming my way!
- Outcome Assessments (OA’s) Round 2: As promised, OA’s have returned. This cumulative test examines all of what we have learned so far. Modeled after the NCCAOM boards, they consist of groups of one hundred multiple-choice questions for each of three subjects – acupuncture, theory, and biomedicine. Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine students must also take an Herbal OA, which is offered on a different day (THANK GOD!). This weekend, I have 3 out of 4 tests. Thinking back to how anxious I felt about taking these tests last year, it’s interesting to note that my attitude has completely changed. I don’t feel as stressed this time because I have been doing diligence over the past two years and feel like there isn’t much I could do to “cram” for these tests. I’ve been studying for them for my whole school career.
I have undergone so much personal growth in two years, but I think this coming year will be the biggest transition for me – from student to acupuncturist. I couldn’t be more excited!
Stay tuned – More China Chronicles coming soon!!