An Interview with an Acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner
The Massage and Treatment Clinic
Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioner
See her Day in the Life video HERE!
With a background in natural sciences and IT, you may not have thought Eileen would choose a career like acupuncture. However, during her time working in the IT field, she developed an interest in natural medicine and natural healing.
What really set her down this path was shadowing an acupuncturist in their clinic. By seeing the work and being able to ask questions about this tool, she decided to spread the word about the benefits of acupuncture and TCM. Along the way, she felt her worldview and personal development change for the better.
Now she works in a clinic offering these services to a clientele who often enter as a sceptic and leave feeling so well that they come back for more. In fact, while filming her Day in the Life video, Eileen’s clients repeatedly stopped us to explain how they felt about the treatment, how it has impacted their well-being, and how they did not believe it would have helped as much as it did. Clearly, she does amazing work.
What is your job description?
To provide comprehensive healthcare by treating a wide range of symptoms and conditions with acupuncture and other techniques under the scope of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
What are your main tasks?
Consulting with clients, diagnosing their condition in the TCM framework, performing acupuncture or other forms of treatment on clients.
Acupuncture is a regulated profession in many regions. If it is regulated, then board exams are required and you must pass in order to legally practice in the region.
What is your salary range?
My income has varied from $800 to $2,000 CAD per month in the five months I have had a self-employed practice out of this location. Established therapists can make $40,000 to $70,000 per year.
What education is required for acupuncturists? What education do you have?
A three to four years training program at an accredited acupuncture college is required. I have a four-year diploma of TCM, as well as a graduate degree in Physics which I did prior to my TCM education.
What skills are useful for the job?
Communication skills, Information analysis, Decision making, Networking, Time management, and Self-motivation (especially if you are self-employed).
What tools are used in your work? Acupuncture needles, Equipment for cupping therapy, and Herbal medicines.
What is it like to be an acupuncturist?
What are the work hours like?
I have about 31 hours a week of available clinic time for client appointments including some evenings and weekends.
What is the workload like?
In between appointments, I am always learning and researching specific conditions that my clients present with and think about how to best treat them. Continuing education is important to me. A small percentage of time is also spent on administrative tasks like bookkeeping, ordering supplies, and keeping tabs on the profession.
Describe a typical workday in the life of an acupuncturist.
It flows pretty easily. I treat one client at a time. Since I practice at a multi-disciplinary clinic, I may collaborate with other practitioners (i.e. massage therapists or chiropractors) on treatment plans for mutual clients.
What is the difference?
Acupuncture and TCM employ different techniques and medical frameworks than other healthcare providers like massage therapists, physiotherapists, and chiropractors.
Acupuncturists can also have different styles such as the distal style used by Eileen. Distal acupuncture is where the needles are placed away from the pained area and often on the feet or hands. This method focuses on how the body communicates within itself by using meridian channels and energy flows.
What is your story? How did you get here?
After graduating from university, I worked for several years in the IT field. During that time, I became more and more interested in natural medicine and natural ways of healing in general. I was practising meditation with a group whose facilitator was an Acupuncturist and asked him if I could shadow him in his clinic to see what he does. I asked a lot of questions and when I started to understand a little about acupuncture, I got really excited because I saw what an incredible tool this was; I was convinced that the world needs more acupuncturists! I also saw how studying and practising this ancient art could have a profound impact on my worldview, and on my personal growth and development. Soon after, I quit my IT job and moved across the continent to enrol in an acupuncture program. Several years later, I moved again to provide my services to a relatively under-served part of the country, to help spread the word about the benefits of acupuncture and TCM.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
A teacher, or maybe a writer. I didn’t consider healthcare until much later.
What has been the biggest obstacle in your career?
The large majority of Acupuncturists are self-employed, which means you need to embrace the business side of things, ideally opening your own clinic. I’m not there yet, but I do love being self-employed.
What is your passion?
Raising consciousness and leading a spiritually-oriented life.
What is your favourite type of work?
My favourite type of work is one in which I get to use both my creativity and technical skills.
What would you change about your career?
It would be better for my relationships with family and friends if I were not working evenings and weekends. Once I am established, I will likely change my work hours.
Advice for Future Acupuncturists
What are useful abilities for people considering your career?
They must be a good listener, be able to quickly organize information and make decisions, and be comfortable with uncertainty (financial and otherwise).
Any advice for someone interested in becoming an acupuncturist?
Don’t underestimate the business side of the practice. You will most likely be self-employed in this career and will need at least some basic business skills to make a living.
What are useful traits for people future acupuncturists?
Articulate, Capable, Caring, Compassionate, Conscientious, Decisive, Disciplined, Empathetic, Intuitive, Observant, Perceptive, Personable, Principled, and Respectful.
Top career tip.
When starting out, see if you can find a mentor for the practice, as well as in business. This could be one person (such as an acupuncture clinic owner) or two people (an acupuncturist and an entrepreneur).
Top job hunting tip for healthcare.
When starting out, it’s a good idea to join an established clinic with other seasoned healthcare providers for role models.