Everything You Need to Know: How to Become an Acupuncturist and/or Oriental Medical Doctor (OMD)
What has brought you to the field of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (OM)? Was it an experience you had? Or, maybe you are researching new alternative medicine. Whatever the answer may be, it is noticeable that the public is becoming more aware of the effectiveness of Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine and other holistic alternative medical practices. The limitations of Western Medicine has led to the awareness of alternative medicine such as OM and Acupuncture. Over 2,500 years old (much older than Western Medicine), Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese or Oriental Medicine (TCM or OCM) continues to gain public acceptance in the United States making it a fast growing professional field.
The journal, “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine,” reported that more people are trying acupuncture treatment. The National Health Review Survey along with the U.S. Census Bureau reported that there was an increase from 8 million Americans using acupuncture in 2002 to 14 million acupuncture patients in 2007. This is a staggering increase since only two decades ago very few (less than 1%) reported using acupuncture. This is great news for medical practitioners-to-be who are looking to expand their knowledge and the field of medical science. It is also great news for those who Western medicine were unable to treat.
ARE YOU RIGHT FOR THE JOB?
To get a slightly better understanding of how good Acupuncturist or Oriental Medicine Doctor (OMD) are like, let’s take a look at some personal traits that all effective Medical Practitioners have (or have acquired.)
1) Strong Interpersonal skills
2) Genuine interest in bettering humanity
3) Sensitivity to those who are ill
4) Ability to adhere to a medical code of ethics
5) Ability to respect cultural sensitivity
6) Ability to act with professionalism
7) Ability to respect patient confidentiality
8) Ability to counsel, be uplifting, motivating and genuinely caring
9) Honesty in regards to patient health care and health issues
Remember, it’s not about the traits you possess naturally that fully determine who you want to be in the future, but your willingness to acquire those which are necessary to do the job.
1. FIRST-HAND EXPERIENCE
If you want to study to become an Acupuncturist or an OMD, but you haven’t experienced Oriental Medical Treatment or Acupuncture, why not try it out! There’s nothing more inspirational (or eye-opening) than first-hand experience. And, you don’t need to be ill to receive acupuncture treatment. Acupuncture can be used to help bring into balance the body’s natural energy flow. After acupuncture treatments, you’ll more likely know if Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is right for you.
2. ONE ON ONE TIME
Take time to sit down and talk with an Acupuncturist or Oriental Medical professional. He/She will more than likely be happy to assist you and answer any questions you may have regarding the field. Here are a few ideas for the types of questions you may want to ask:
1) What is the Philosophy and Conceptual Theory behind the practice?
2) How can an Acupuncturist or Oriental Medical Practitioner help to integrate Eastern Medicine with Western Medicine.
3) Are Oriental Medical Practitioners taken seriously in the United States?
4) How do you find clients and what are some of your marketing strategies?
5) What do you see in regards to the future of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine?
6) Which types of people are most interested in Oriental Medical Treatment?
If you want to be an acupuncturist, you may want to know as much information as possible about the profession. So, don’t be afraid to ask! It is more than likely that an Acupuncturist and/or OMD will be delighted to take the time to speak with you and answer all of your questions.
Also, try speaking with graduates or people attending an Acupuncture school or Oriental Medical Institution. Learn more about the types of things you will be learning and find tips on how to better prepare yourself for the school curriculum.
3. EARN YOUR B.A. DEGREE
Not all, but many Acupuncture and Oriental Medical Colleges require students to first earn a B.A. degree in a field of study. Although, a degree in Biology, Anatomy Physiology, Chemistry or almost any science may be very helpful for the future study of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture, there are many Acupuncturists and Oriental Medical Physicians with undergraduate degrees in Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy and other non-science related degrees. You just want to make sure that your GPA is well over the 2.5 GPA mark. That way, you will be a likely candidate for admittance in almost any Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine School, College or University.
4. PICK A LOCATION
Even with the countless articles written on it’s effectiveness (such as the use of Acupuncture by the United States military), some states still do not acknowledge Acupuncture as a legal form of medical treatment. There are no laws governing acupuncturists in Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Alabama. Delaware and Kentucky are the most recent states to finally legalize acupuncture as a profession. To find out if your state recognizes Acupuncture, check out Acufinder.com. Acufinder.com will provide you with information on which states recognize Acupuncture as a legal medical practice. Moreover, it is a good idea to research the Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture market in an area by speaking to Acupuncturists in that area.
5. PICK A SCHOOL
Before picking an Acupuncture/Oriental Medicine school, check to see if it is accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (or ACAOM). ACAOM is a private agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education which accredits professional masters degree and professional masters level certificates and diplomas in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. If you go to ACAOM.com website, you can find a list of over 50 accredited Acupuncture Schools and Colleges.
Schools of Oriental Medicine focus not only on Acupuncture but also Chinese Herbal Medicines and Asian Bodywork. The curriculum and amount of hours dedicated to each particular subject will depend on the college’s curriculum. Normally, earning a Masters degree in MSOM in Acupuncture and/or Oriental Medicine will normally take 3 to 4 years. If you want to go for your Doctorates, add approximately 2 more years of schooling. Time well spent if you love helping others.
6. BOARD CERTIFICATION
Once you have completed your schooling, the next step is to pass the National Certification Commision for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (or NCCAOM) exam. to become state certified. The NCCAOM is recognized by a majority of states in the U.S. (except California). In order to become state certified in the state of California, you must pass their own Board Certification exam and requirements.
7. BECOMING AN ACUPUNCTURIST OR ORIENTAL MEDICAL DOCTOR
After you have completed your schooling, obviously, the next step is to begin work. Most new Acupuncturists begin by working with an established practice. This way, you can build a client base and observe how a practice operates before developing your own practice. If you live in a larger metropolitan town, it is typically easier to find a job as an Acupuncturist.
8. CONTINUING EDUCATION
Like many occupations in the field of medicine, Acupuncture and Oriental Medical treatments are constantly evolving and thus, you will need to continue your education even after you have established your practice. Focus on learning new strategies, improving your techniques, getting to know and staying in touch seasoned veterans of the field, teachers as well as those in the forefront of medical science research.
Western Medicine, especially when it comes to treatments regarding general wellness and healthcare, is limited in it’s ability to provide effective treatment. According to the documentary, ESCAPE FIRE. at least 30% of medical treatment is ineffective. Because of this, alternative medicine such as Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine will have a greater influence in the future of medicine.
So, to become a professional in an alternative form of medicine like Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine will not only benefit the communities of the future, but as a healer, practitioner or medical professional you will be part of the medical community blazing a new trail for modern medicine – treating the once untreatable and curing the once uncurable. Good luck to you in your journey towards becoming an Acupuncturist and/or Oriental Medical Doctor.
By Les Brooklyn
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