It’s a common refrain about reaching consensus in the acupuncture profession. But why try to herd cats? I learned a long time ago that opening a can of tuna would bring kitty running.
If there were an attainable action that would:
- Increase patient access to Licensed Acupuncturists,
- Assist in national marketing for the profession,
- Decrease educational costs and student debt,
- Decrease licensing expenses,
- Increase political power,
- Expand professional opportunities, flexibility, and mobility, and,
- Increase the value of your practice,
Would that be like tuna to a kitty?
(Whirrr of can opener)
Tuna for me = Identifying the least restrictive licensure requirements necessary to protect the public and create successful practitioners and working to establish that as a standard in all states.
Before panic ensues, consider some of the situations I’ve heard about in the past few years:
- Highly experienced and qualified LAcs unable to obtain licensure, even in states where there are so few LAcs that the public has little choice but to get their acupuncture treatment from Chiropractors.
- Practitioners who want to sell their practices but have a limited pool of buyers because of the unique licensure requirements in their state.
- Practitioners travelling many, many hours in order to practice, or leaving the profession, because life has taken them to a state in which they can’t obtain a license.
- Practitioners and students who have no interest in using herbs being required to spend tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours learning herbal medicine in order to obtain an acupuncture license.
- Acupuncturists supporting discriminatory laws or regulations such that the only group of people in a state who can not practice herbal medicine are other Acupuncturists.
- Practitioners having to maintain licenses in multiple states because changing regulations mean that if they give up a license they will be unable to obtain it in that state again.
- Acupuncturists being unable to advance reasonable state or national legislation because restrictive practices keep practitioner numbers so low that political support is unavailable.
- The profession being unable to effectively educate the public about their excellent education and credentials because those credentials vary so much from state to state.
- Acupuncturists struggling to build a practice in overserved areas, but unable to obtain licensure in nearby underserved areas.
- Acupuncture organizations fighting for inclusion in managed care and federal health programs, even though many states have too few LAcs to serve the population. (Demographic data can be found at these links: Acupuncture Today LAc Map, US Population, Physicians per State.)
The current system in which some states require graduation from particular schools, others have their own exams, and others have their own educational requirements does not serve us as a profession. The situation is getting worse, not better, as states like Florida increase their requirements. Yes, states have differing scopes. (Those who advocate for scope changes should be required to consider and advertise the impact the changes will have on licensure requirements.) Yes, it is in the interest of the public and the profession to insist that practitioners limit their practice to the tools and skills in which they have been trained. Additional, optional, training can always be required for those who wish to practice more advanced techniques or modalities. The least restrictive licensure requirements have shown themselves to be sufficient for safe practice.
Limited, standardized, licensure requirements would lower practitioner expenses, promote mobility, ease national marketing, and help the profession grow. It sounds great — as good as tuna smells to a cat. Does it make you make you want to come running? Many changes in licensure requirements could be made at the regulatory level and are within our reach. It does not depend on establishing reciprocity. One problem — the LAcs within a state have the power to make or block change, and, especially in restrictive states, the small group that set up the rules is often in power. Another problem — many LAcs don’t care about this until they are directly impacted.
This is a place where national coordination is needed. I hope the CSA sees that this is a place where they could make a positive difference. Let your state association know if you support a more standardized and simpler licensure environment. It should not require any herding.