Professional acupuncturists work alongside Western medical practitioners to deliver supplementary care to a patient. The goal is usually to aid the patient’s recovery, but acupuncture can be used to treat soreness of muscles or the back as well. Practitioners are required to undergo extensive training, with ample opportunity for education outside of the four year university.
An acupuncturist must attend university to qualify for a holistic medicine degree. The degree emphasizes Western medical practices, including how to diagnose a patient based on symptoms identified by Western practitioners. The degree also covers anatomy, looking specifically at pressure points with the greatest chance of alleviating patient discomfort. Students also learn the basics of owning and managing a practice, including how to run the office and in some cases an optional internship program.
Acupuncturists are typically required to complete 200 to 300 hours in acupuncture course study at healthcare administration schools, with a program that meets state and federal standards. Training usually includes limited work with patients, and lots of in-classroom study. Therapists may also do some work outside of the campus in an internship that allows them to learn different aspects of healthcare administration programs.
There are a variety of certifications available, from four year university degrees to simple certifications through independent review. It is recommended that an acupuncturist continue the field of study even after employment, to stay apprised of new techniques and to offer more effective patient care. There is also the American Board of Medical Acupuncture, which offers several certification programs that doctors can add to their existing credentials. Acupuncture is a stand alone discipline, but medical practitioners in other fields may branch into it in the same way an attorney might do mediation.
The practice of acupuncture typically involves more than one session. The patient is brought into a medical office, and seen in an office similar to most hospitals. The doctor begins by sterilizing the patient’s skin with an alcohol swab, then starts the process of inserting the needles. Once the needle is placed inside the patient, the administrator tweaks it to unblock the pathway. The doctor might twist the needle, or tug lightly on it to pull it from the skin. The patient does experience some minor discomfort during this process, but highly educated practitioners may be able to pull off the operation without the patient feeling anything.
ACAOM.edu is a specialized university that offers healthcare administration programs geared toward the practice of acupuncture. Find out more about becoming a certified acupuncturist from ACAOM.