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Tips for Students or Newly Licensed Acupuncturists: The Top Three Things of What To Do and What Not To Do

By Natha Surinsuk, L.Ac.

As date of the California Acupuncture Licensing Exam on February 23rd quickly came and went, there will be a group of new colleagues joining us in California. Similarly, acupuncture school graduates are putting their knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine to the test in their respective states throughout the country. However, the days seem to tick by slowly between the moment you walk out of the examination room and the moment your results come in the mail. I have been there. I remember well. The long awaited envelope that contained my fate could not arrive soon enough. Instead of anxiously awaiting your test results this year, I present you with the gift of distraction by introducing some suggestions that will fill your time of dormant metamorphosis from graduate student to trained and licensed professional. Some tips may even apply to already licensed practitioners who have been working under someone else or in a group setting and looking to venture out on their own.

Three Things To Do:

 1. DO work for an acupuncturist whom you want to model yourself or your practice after and see how they do business. This should be done as soon as possible after your commitment to study the medicine. You will learn a lot about what to do and what not to do in a real-world situation. It will also help you acquire the skills that you will need to run your own practice because you are essentially "practicing" running someone else´s office.

 2. DO all the necessary paperwork for your practice before you start: obtain Tax ID and Fictitious Business Name (contingent upon the type of business you would like to have, i.e. sole proprietor, corporation, etc.), create clinic forms, website, brochure, etc. that you don´t need your license for. You may even begin inquiring about job opportunities at this time. Once you have your license and you´re considering billing insurance, obtain a National Provider Identification (NPI) number and look into the enrollment process with the companies of your interest. These steps will save you a lot of time at the beginning and allow you to hit the ground running.

 3. DO get everything in writing. Most of us will work as independent contractors, so read all contracts and leases carefully before you sign. And if someone promised you something in the interview, make sure you get it in writing because they may change their tune once you actually start working for them. They can´t do that if you have it in writing. Cover all your bases because you can never be too trusting in business.

Three Things Not To Do:

 1. DON´T compromise your values, integrity, and worth. Know what you stand for and how much money you want to make and keep those boundaries firm. If you work with other people, they may have different business ethics and conducts from you. That´s fine because there is always room for compromise. However, when they begin to encroach on yours, it´s a good time to walk away. You cannot build a successful practice if you feel uncomfortable and confined.

 2. DON´T limit yourself. If you´re not sure of what you want your specialty to be, do it all. If you don´t know who to ask for help, ask everyone you think will be helpful. If you have several jobs offers, but not sure who to go with, take them all if scheduling permits. Most likely, it will be a part-time position so you can take on more than one.

 3. DON´T forget to practice what you preach. Get acupuncture, take herbs, exercise, meditate, get plenty of sleep, and do everything that you tell your patients to do. They are smart and can spot a phony. You must take good care of yourself and embody the practices of good health that you say you represent. This is the only way to create longevity for yourself and your practice.

As with anything else, these are not guaranteed tips for success. They are just some things that I have learned that have helped me. If you are unsure of where to start, this is a good a place to start as any. I wish you much luck and success on your journey.