How to become an acupuncturist
Joan Richards has her own acupuncture practice in Sutton Coldfield. She first became interested in the therapy when she was given acupuncture to relieve the pain of a back injury. It worked so well that she investigated further and decided to make acupuncture her career.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncturists believe that energy flows through the body along lines called meridians. If the energy is disturbed in any way, illness can result. Acupuncturists use needles to tap into points along the meridians, rebalancing the flow of energy.
Who do you help?
Acupuncture can help with all sorts of problems including arthritis, stress, insomnia, skin problems and high blood pressure. It is also useful for pain control.
What happens when a patient comes to see you?
Initially I undertake a detailed consultation, lasting around 45 minutes to an hour. I ask the patient about their current and previous health problems, lifestyle, diet, stress levels and emotional wellbeing. I also take the patient's pulse and look at their tongue – any swellings, coating or colour changes on the tongue can indicate where the flow of energy in the body might be disrupted. I note everything on the patient's record card.
After deciding on the best approach, I explain the treatment to the patient and warn them that it could make them feel drowsy – this is particularly important if they will be driving after the session.
Can you describe the treatment of an acupuncturist?
I ask the patient to remove clothing from the area that I am going to treat. They lie on the couch, and I put needles into points on their body according to the diagnosis I made during the consultation.
The needles are very fine and don't really hurt – the patient may feel a slight tingling sensation. The needles stay in position for about 25 minutes. I usually leave the patient to relax and listen to gentle music. At the end of the session I give the patient advice on changes in diet and lifestyle which could improve their condition.
Is health and safety important?
It's vital. I buy needles in sterile packs. Once I have used them, I dispose of them instantly in a special bin. I must make sure the room, couch and any other equipment I use are scrupulously clean.
What hours do you work?
For two days a week, I work 9am to 5pm. However, as a lot of patients work full time, I stay open late on the other three days, and work on either Saturday or Sunday morning.
How did you train to become an acupuncturist?
I did a three-year part-time course which was very demanding as it involved lots of written work as well as practical clinical experience. I learned anatomy and physiology and various models of Chinese diagnosis.
What qualities make a good acupuncturist?
You have to be confident and focused when inserting the needles. If you are nervous you won't do it properly. You must be able to make patients feel relaxed and comfortable. Good questioning and listening skills are essential to make an accurate diagnosis.
What do you like most about your work?
I love the variety – every day is different. I also enjoy the detective work involved in getting to the bottom of people's problems.
Is there anything you dislike?
The work can be tiring and draining, and I sometimes feel exhausted at the end of a session.
What ambitions do you have?
I'm working towards my degree in acupuncture and hope to complete it in two years' time. I'm also considering taking a counselling course so I can offer more services to patients.
Joan's route to becoming an acupuncturist
- BA in English Literature.
- Combined travel with various shortterm jobs.
- Worked in a bookshop.
- Three-year part-time Diploma in Acupuncture.
Joan's tips on how to become an acupuncturist
- A basic massage course will help you to learn about anatomy and physiology.
Acupuncturist related jobs
- Most are self-employed and acupuncturist salaries can vary. A new entrant would receive about £10,000 a year.
- Experienced acupuncturists can earn a salary up to £18,000 a year.
- Acupuncturists working in large practices can earn up to £30,000 salary a year.
How to become an acupuncturist
- To be eligible for membership of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), you must have at least three years' extensive training (or part-time equivalent) in traditional acupuncture diagnosis and treatment.
- Entry requirements are usually at least five GCSEs/S grades (A-C/1-3) and two or three A levels/four H grades, with science subjects being the most useful. Equivalent qualifications may be accepted.
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