NCCAOM Code of Ethics & Grounds for Professional Discipline

The NCCAOM is preparing to update the Code of Ethics and Grounds for Professional Discipline and is asking for input. Informed comment requires not only a review of the documents, but also an understanding of the role of the organization.

The path to become an MD in the US is straightforward. Go to college and medical school, sit the licensing exams, complete a residency, apply to a state regulatory board, and, if desired, obtain a board certification in a specialty.  (It is not necessary to be board certified to become a licensed medical doctor, and it is not possible to become an m.d. without successful completion of the licensing exams.)

When the NCCAOM (then the NCCA) was established in 1982 few states had formal licensure. Rigorous credentialing was thought necessary to gain acceptance by the medical establishment. Having a group supported by the profession to ease the regulatory burden on states regarding this new profession was also helpful. Some states weren’t (and still aren’t) at all interested in licensing acupuncturists. In those states, a formal credential to attest to an ongoing fitness to practice was appealing.

But conflict in the early days of the profession, both within the community and from the outside led to disparate paths to practice. There was disagreement about how to test and evaluate the huge knowledge base and varied traditions of the medicine, and how much power to give to any one group. Additionally, the political climate in the various jurisdictions differed greatly.

The NCCAOM‘s official role is to validate “entry-level competency in the practice of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine through professional certification.” But, the NCCAOM is really a chimera, a hybrid, due to the factors mentioned above. It has become a quasi-regulatory agency in some states, establishing practice standards and acting as a disciplinary agency. In other ways it is more like a specialty board — attesting to a particularly high level of qualification (but not exactly, since some states require NCCAOM certification for entry level practice). And, the ongoing weakness and dysfunction of the AAAOM (I’m still waiting on membership numbers, but the practitioner search function reveals the weakness) has led the NCCAOM to fill promotional needs and provide professional support, roles typically handled by professional organizations.

So, does the Code of Ethics and Grounds for Professional Discipline support the NCCAOM’s role of validating entry-level competence? Should it fill the role of a regulatory agency with control over whether or not individuals can obtain or maintain their license? Should it uphold a particularly high standard of practice, suitable for a selected subset of practitioners? Should it fulfill a PR need for the profession? These all need to be considered as we get ready to provide feedback to the NCCAOM.

The NCCAOM has requested input by September 12th.  In part II of this post, coming soon, I’ll share more background information and provide my own thoughts about the documents. I look forward to hearing what you think about the documents and encourage all of us to offer input by September 12th.

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in Nevada, What’s the Deal?

A regulatory board working against the best interests of the public and the profession  — it’s tragic, and it happens too often.

It has never been easy to become an acupuncturist in Nevada. Despite having the country’s first licensing law, passed in 1973, there are only about 50 individuals now practicing in Nevada, the 7th largest state.

It’s not only the $1,000.00 application fee, or the $1,000.00 practical exam fee. In the 2001 the press explored how Nevada’s unique rules caused problems for the profession.  The regulations may have changed, but similar issues remain.

Given the excellent safety record of practitioners licensed in states with less stringent educational requirements and via the widely accepted NCCAOM credential, it’s long overdue for the Nevada Board of Oriental Medicine to change their regulations, making it possible for the citizens of Nevada to get access to the safe and effective acupuncture and Oriental Medicine services that are available in so many other states.

The board is moving to update the regulations. To make it harder, not easier, to get a Nevada license. Not in response to harm to the public, not to bring the process in line with other states, but, because “the degree of MSAOM is odd and absurd.” Look for the “Justifications to amend,” on page 18 in this set of Nevada workshopdocs. You’ll shake your head.

The workshop docs show two sets of proposed revisions. The set dated June 16, 2014, was proposed by a previous Board, has made its way through the regulatory process, and could quickly be officially adopted after two more public meetings. However, the newly appointed Board members have decided not to act on those regulations, and have proposed new revisions. The lawyer in the Attorney General’s office isn’t quite sure what will happen now — it seems that “our” Board is unique in introducing a new set of revisions at this point in the process. (See ** below for more info on the Nevada Regulatory Process.)

The Nevada 2014 proposed regulations would have been somewhat problematic. The Nevada 2015 proposed regs would be a disaster. The reasonable aspects of the 2014 proposed regs are discarded and more restrictive provisions are introduced. The “grandfathering” provision, specifically excluding CEU’s from the 3000 hour requirement, takes away the one avenue for licensure available to most experienced practitioners. The insistence on a DOM or DAOM for all graduates after November 2017 is a significant financial burden for practitioners.

The proposed changes would slow access to and increase the expense of acupuncture in Nevada. They won’t help the schools meet those new gainful employment figures. The proposal dismisses the attempt (for better or worse) to defer to ACAOM for school accreditation, instead establishing an expensive and closely held accreditation process. A change which would allow applicants to sit the practical exam (offered only twice yearly) while their training and background is being vetted is discarded. The regs allow for an increase to $1,000.00 to the license renewal fee, rather than $500.00, and deletes a section on professional ethics from the current regulations. It’s hard to imagine that such awful regulations were written by our colleagues, not acupuncture-hating skeptics. Amazingly, the President of the Board certifies that, “having made a concerted effort” to determine the impact of these regulations on small businesses, there is none.  (See the workshop docs.)

My suggestions on what the profession could and should do in response to these regulations will come soon in a separate post. In the meantime, review the documents and consider how the changes would impact the profession Even those of us who don’t know a soul in Nevada and expect that we’d never practice there will see problems. At the moment, the LCB has not put these proposed revisions on the agenda.  Stay tuned.

 

** Nevada regulatory process —  the Legislature meets only every other year, for 120 days. Nevada law establishes a Legislative Commission, made up of 6 legislators from each house, that can approve regulations when the legislature is not in session. See more here, (generalize since this was written for a particular commission). Regulatory changes do not need to be approved by either the governor or the full legislature.

 

FPD/DAOM required, Schools, ANF, Dry Needling — and more Acupuncture News….

New news:

Word is that the Nevada acupuncture board is poised to require an FPD (or is it a DAOM?) for licensure, even though citizens there are already under-served. I’m trying to get more information. Stay tuned for updates. State actions that limit our profession tend to stay under the radar until it is too late.

The acupuncture school landscape is changing. Last week brought news that Bob Duggan and Dianne Connelly will no longer be part of MUIH faculty or staff. For those who have been paying attention as The Traditional Acupuncture Institute morphed into MUIH, it shouldn’t have been a surprise. But it is sad. While TAI had its good and its bad, many who attended did so because of Bob and Dianne’s contributions. The announcement was quickly followed by a letter, in perfect TAI-speak, that, for the sake of the students, we shouldn’t get caught up in stories about this. As in, don’t even ponder what it is we aren’t telling you.

This week also included the news that NESA is merging with MCPHS, and ACTCM is merging with CIIS.  (Thanks, Integrator Blog.) Is the age of the stand-alone acupuncture school coming to an end?

Have you heard of The Acupuncture Now Foundation? They aren’t a membership organization, and they don’t want to get involved in acupuncture-politics. They just want to educate the public about our training, our skills, and the great results from our medicine. Please, support ANF! Marketing the medicine shouldn’t have to be an individual effort.

Older News:

Developments in dry needling, with the hope that we might learn from history:

  • Louisiana joined other states with an AG opinion that dry needling is within scope for PT’s and DC’s. Other AG opinions can be seen here.
  • Tennessee’s Governor signed Legislation formally adding dry needling to scope for PT’s, joining Utah and Arizona which saw similar legislation in 2014.
  • The Maryland Acupuncture Society came out in strength behind HB 979 and SB 0580 that would have set limits for dry needling by PT’s and DC’s. The bills went nowhere, perhaps a blessing in disguise as “success” would have opened a can of worms.  (The bills did not define dry needling, MAS support put the acupuncture community’s stamp of approval on a 200 hour standard for acupuncture training that had been previously unacceptable, and the wording opened the door for PT’s with 200 hours of training to argue that they were now, indeed, doing acupuncture.)

The AAAOM website has been updated with board bios and a revamped committee list, but still no answers for any of my sixteen questions for the AAAOM.

ACAOM responded to the petition in response to their Gainful Employment letter in the ACAOM Fall Newsletter.  The good news — they heard us. The bad news, they continue to believe that significant student debt is helpful for those who want to serve low-income communities.

There you have it, at least some of the news you aren’t seeing in Acupuncture Today.

 

Helping the Helpers in Nepal

Today I bring you a guest post from my esteemed colleague Sharon Crowell, who has previously served in Nepal with AWB.

Sharon writes —

Many of us are wondering how to best use our resources to support the victims and first responders to Nepal’s devastating earthquake.  Here is one easy thing you can do in the next ten minutes that will make a difference without costing you a dime.

The Fairfax County Search and Rescue Team was deployed to Nepal a few days ago.  The team consists  of 57 men and women along with specially trained  search and rescue dogs.  This mission is funded by the government and the people who are going are being paid their salary as fire fighters for the time that they are away.  All meals, equipment, etc. are provided.

What the team DOES need, according to my neighbor who served on the Search and Rescue Team for more than 20 years, is notes of encouragement and support.  When I asked him what we could do support those serving in Nepal, he said a simple note to the Fairfax Fire Chief would be the best thing he could think of.  These notes of thanks and appreciation are copied and sent to all of those on the S&R team.  My neighbor says that we can’t imagine how much it means to return home, exhausted and weary, and be greeted by notes of appreciation from people throughout the community.

So a short note, letting the Fire Chief know how proud you are that Fairfax County is serving Nepal in this way this way, wishing for the safe return home of those on the team, and anything personal you might want to say.

Thank you!  For those reading this who are acupuncturists, we are in the process of figuring out how we might be able to support these folks through a community-type of acupuncture clinic, weekly for 6 weeks, once they return home.  I will be working with the Fire Department on this.  Please let me know if  you have ideas regarding this or want to participate (pending details, I know.)

Richard R. Bowers, Jr.;  Fairfax County Fire and Rescue;   Department 4100;  Chain Bridge Road;  Fairfax, VA 22030;  Snail mail is best (email address is www.fairfaxcounty.gov/fr/ )  (e-mail of the Search and Rescue Team info@vatf1.org )

Sharon can be reached at 703-623-8340

 

Sixteen (or so) Questions for the AAAOM

AAAOM representatives advocate transparency and Board members have offered assistance. I’ve got some questions, and I look forward to getting some answers!

  1. What is the current dues paying individual voting membership of the AAAOM and how many individual members voted in the March 2015 elections?
  2. How many organizational voting members does the AAAOM have, who are they, and how many voted in the March 2015 elections?
  3. Who was on the Election Committee supervising that election?
  4. Why do the new bylaws close Board meetings to members unless invited by the Board?
  5. Why is there such a large range (9-15) allowed in the size of the Board of Directors?
  6. How will the size of each Board be determined?
  7. A 15 person Board requires a vote of 8 for a position to prevail. A 9 person Board only needs a vote of 5.  Isn’t there risk that dissenting members could be driven from (or removed from) a larger Board in order for what would otherwise be losing positions to prevail?
  8. Does the new provision that elections be held only for contested positions open the door for a board to manipulate elections by setting the board size?
  9. What or who determines whether a director’s meeting absence is excused?
  10. What is the hold-up in the whistleblower policy? Why has it been impossible to develop a policy acceptable to the Board over the past two years?
  11. In the past 5 years, how many past employees or board members have been threatened with legal action by the AAAOM after departing their positions?
  12. Who was on the Governance Committee in 2014, and who is currently serving on that committee?
  13. Are substantive changes being made in the draft legislation from the 2013 language? How is the AAAOM planning for a different outcome than in 2013?
  14. Who is on the expert panel reviewing the “unified competency model“?
  15. AAAOM 2013 990 states that annual reports are available to the public via the website.  However, currently access is limited to members. Where can the public access the AAAOM annual reports?
  16.  The AAAOM refers to itself as the “profession’s national flagship organization.”  Is this similar to this Flag Ship Service Organization?     Okay, just kidding on that one.

AAAOM, how about some answers?

 

 

AOM Leaders?

Who decides the future of the profession?

Did you know about the meeting of the Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine “leaders” last weekend?

Who represents working acupuncturists at these meetings?

These meetings started in 2005. You can read about previous meetings herehere, and in CCAOM newsletters. Attendees typically include reps from ACAOM, CCAOM , NCCAOM, SAR, NFCTCMO, CSA, AAAOM, AOBTA, and sometimes COMRE. It’s good (I think) that these groups are communicating. It’s not good that most acupuncturists in the US are several degrees of separation away from representation there.

There’s not yet a publicly available report of the 2015 meeting. I do know —

The AAAOM continues to be invited and to attend, despite being out of compliance with their bylaws for years. The AAAOM website currently has no news of the recent elections, the board information is outdated, and there is still no whistleblower protection policy. Word is that the current board overlaps significantly with the board of the NGAOM. Michael Jabbour continues to fill the board position of Immediate Past President (what happened to the real immediate past President Don Lee?) and was present at the AOM Leaders meeting. Membership numbers of the organization are a mystery and I hear the AAC continues to provide much of their funding.

The others present at these meetings know that the AAAOM is a deeply troubled organization that represents only the smallest handful of practitioners. Why, oh why, does the AAAOM rate a seat at the table?

Representatives of the Council of State Associations are also in attendance at these meetings. I am glad that the CSA exists, working to mitigate the damage done by the lack of a functional national organization. I’m concerned, though, that few practitioners have any direct knowledge of this group and what they have to say at the AOML meetings. If you are involved with a state organization, and if the state organization participates in the CSA and communicates back to the membership, then you’ll find out about the CSA. Otherwise, you’re in the dark.

Why isn’t POCA invited? I don’t suppose they’d enjoy being there, but if the AAAOM with their mystery membership is invited, and the NFTCTCMO is invited, why isn’t POCA?

It’s difficult to find the right tone for this post.  I know the groups representing acupuncturists depend on volunteers who are doing their best. I also know that working practitioners too often find themselves at the mercy of the “good ideas” of credentialing agencies, accreditors, schools, and a few powerful colleagues. To make it worse, most practitioners have been misled about what actions are likely to be effective and create positive change.

When I look at who is invited to the AOM Leaders meetings, and how far most of us are from what happens there, it’s no surprise that so many of the developments within the profession seem to work against the best interests of acupuncturists. It reminds me of Congress, and that’s not a good thing.

 

 

Acupuncture Safety, and, a Matter of Fairness

Protecting the public safety is a good reason for regulation.

People have been injured by PT’s or Chiropractors doing dry needling.  When we see a story about that we share it. So I understand the comments on the previous post.

And, there were two recent threads on Facebook that caught my attention.

An LAc posted a question about whether it was possible to cause an infection by needling CO4. He’d treated a patient who later developed redness at the area. The patient visited an MD and was prescribed an antibiotic. I was surprised at the practitioner’s question, and surprised and mortified at the responses.  Which included: The MD is just trying to cover his ass, they just like to prescribe antibiotics, not if you used sterile needles, not if you used an alcohol swab on the area first, people freak out all the time, etc. A day or two later, the initial questioner reported that the patient was now hospitalized with a staph infection.

Another LAc wrote that a patient reported she’d had a pneumothorax from a treatment and was now asking for financial compensation for a portion of the medical expenses and several weeks of missed work. What should the practitioner do? Of course, getting some documentation makes sense, but the responses also included: if it really happened why doesn’t the patient have a lawyer, if you’d given her a pneumothorax you would have known it immediately, she must have had some sort of underlying medical condition so you aren’t responsible, etc.

Personally, I know some amazing practitioners who have firsthand experience with pneumothorax(i?) on both ends of the needle.

I don’t believe we have sufficient record keeping to know the relative safety records.  Dry Needling does involve a deep and aggressive needle technique and so is more likely to do damage.  That’s true even with an LAc holding the needle.

When a story comes out that involves harm done by an LAc, we make all sorts of excuses and focus on our generally good safety record. When we find out about damage done by a PT or DC, we trumpet the news, and make smug and superior comments.

When it comes to fairness, most of the things I hear LAcs complaining about are either self-inflicted or, sometimes, imagined.  The length of our training — we’ve been behind the increase. The differing insurance reimbursement — is that insurance thing working out for anyone?

This post is mostly blogger’s prerogative to give what is really a comment on the previous thread a higher visibility.  I won’t make a habit of it.  But hwds’ are one of my pet peeves — that’s hypocrites with double standards, and when our response to what happens at the pointy end of the needle seems to vary so much depending on who is at the handle, I think that term applies.

 

 

Court Ruling will Impact Acupuncture Boards

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners violated federal law when it tried to prevent non-dentists from offering teeth whitening services.

What does this have to do with acupuncture?

The ruling has the potential to impact all professional regulatory boards.  I’m travelling and don’t have time or an internet connection sufficient to do a thorough report. I encourage you to click through and read the links below — I think most of you will be able to come up with a few areas where LAcs have been sounding an awful lot like those NC dentists….

No anti-trust immunity for Professional Licensing Boards

Dentists Unfair to Competitors

Dentists can’t decide who whitens your teeth

State Licensing Boards not Protected

Board Prevented from Limiting Competition

As Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, said

“state boards composed mostly of active market participants run the risk of self-dealing.

“This conclusion does not question the good faith of state officers but rather is an assessment of the structural risk of market participants’ confusing their own interests with the state’s policy goals,” he said.

 

Many LAcs insist the only reason they want to stop PT’s and DC’s from doing Dry Needling is concern for the public. Could they be confused?

 

 

It was Twenty Years Ago Today

….. that I was granted my Virginia Acupuncture License (#4). I’d been licensed in Maryland for a few months, but the Virginia License was special. Throughout my years of acupuncture school I’d been involved with the Acupuncture Society of Virginia, working to establish a practice act. We were finally successful in 1994, and my documents were ready and waiting when the regulations were promulgated.

I’m happy I found this wonderful medicine when I did. I feel lucky to be doing this work, and look forward to continuing to practice for decades to come. And yet, these days, I’m mostly sad about the acupuncture profession.

Back in the day, when only MD’s could do acupuncture in Virginia, we argued that the public should have the right and the ability to choose their provider.

We discussed how our medicine could treat the whole person, and that treatments were uniquely tailored to the individual.  We didn’t see patients as a collection of ailments, to be sent from one specialist to the next.

We talked about the good value of our medicine and our belief that it could reduce health care spending.

We got used to the medicine being dismissed by the medical establishment, but held out hope that, some day, they would see the value of what we did.

We knew that this medicine would require lifelong study and learning, but experience told us that about 1500 hours of training was sufficient to produce competent practitioners.

We were happy when we were finally able to receive student loans to attend acupuncture school.

We had concerns about relying on one standardized exam as a precursor to licensure, especially one that was based primarily on one tradition. But we knew that it would relieve some of the burden on the states, and so might help with national acceptance.

It was a time of promise.

Now, my Facebook feed is full of rants — we’ve now decided that, just as the MD’s wanted to protect the public from us, we now must protect the public from the PT’s.

Rather than celebrating the professionals who see the value in this medicine and want to offer it to their clients, we scream that they are stealing our medicine and must be stopped.

We’ve justified our increasing fees (after all, if the MD’s deserve it, we deserve it), and, then chased the insurance dollar so that our patients can afford our services. We’ve adopted the billing games that come along with that, fudging fees, adding services, figuring out what diagnoses to use to get reimbursement, and expressing outrage when we’re called on our behavior. Some of us have gone so far as to attack those who have designed a system to make acupuncture truly affordable to the majority of the population.

We decided that more education would get us more respect, and so increased and increased, and increased again the hours required for entering the profession.  The number and complexity and cost of the exams increased. In a solution to a problem that didn’t exist, practitioners in some states decided an acupuncture education was not enough.  Acupuncturists now must also learn and be tested on herbal medicine, whether they want to use it or not. Various states added additional requirements, so any relocation runs the risk of shutting a practitioner out of the profession. The student loans we celebrated enabled schools to ignore the disconnect between the cost of the education and the likely income of graduates.

I could go on. I won’t.

Shaking my head at the missteps we’ve made, I comfort myself with the confidence that the medicine will survive, even if the profession won’t. Happy Anniversary.

 

 

 

A Little Humor

Here in the DC area a few bulbs are sending leaves up through the cold ground. As their energy rises so does mine. Soon, I’ll share my response to ACAOM’s latest communication and news that yet another jurisdiction seems poised to put licensure off-limits for those without full NCCAOM herb credentials. (DC. Once again, this is happening out of sight of most US practitioners. Shouldn’t we be care more about this than what the PT’s are doing?)

But, for today, I decided to share a humorous bit that I posted to Acupuncturists on Facebook the other day. For those who, understandably, avoid that group, enjoy. For those whole already saw it, apologies.

The Six Stages of Cold Induced Illness in LAcs —

1) Dignity — I’ve been so healthy this year! I do lots of Qi Gong and eat right and get good sleep and take Jade Screen. Don’t worry about me, I’m great.

2) Denial — Hmm, the air in the house must be dry. Or maybe I’m allergic to something. I’m fine.

3) Dosing — Echinacea, Ginger Tea, Chicken Soup/Bone Broth, Jing Fang Bai Du San. More tea. I’ll throw in some Airborne. And some Yin Chiao.

4) Delusion — Really, I’m fine. Let me step out for another box of needles (copious nose blowing and repeated handwashing). Oh, yes, just a little sniffle, it’s nothing.

5) Decompensation — My nose is dripping, can I get the needle in before it’s too late. How many clients do I still have today — can someone please be a no-show. Why is everyone on time? Oh, can I put my head on my desk for a minute. Do I have any Sudafed around here?

6) Despair — This is ridiculous, I surrender. Begin the phone calls to clear the day tomorrow. Of course I’ve had two good weeks in a row for a change — where can I put these folks. :-(

I hope that all of you are well and healthy. Enjoy these last weeks of hibernation.