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The (My) Reality of a Post-Grad Acupuncture Medical Student


Super delay on posting, but …. I’m done with school! I graduated!

Alas, I’m still a student. After four years of graduate school for acupuncture (which makes a total of NINE years of “higher education” for me, which I can’t seem to stress enough these days) I’m free!! Wee! Just kidding… I’m not free, technically.



Before I get into my story I want to make this clear: I’m not complaining, complaining is not a good look, for anyone. (* an asterisk will be placed around anything that may appear to be a complaint, just to relay how hyper-vigilant I am about my own self-awareness as it relates to me definitely NOT complaining.) My life is a series of choices and my choices led me to this point. The point of being here in Connecticut, in my parents studio-esq basement, where I’m living in the house I grew up in. Residing with me here is my loyal companion of a boyfriend – who is out making some money by raking leafs in neighborhood yards on this breezy fall Sunday afternoon. As for myself, I’m 29 years old, happy, and taking a break from studying for my board exams to write this.

What are the board exams? I’ll ask myself that and then answer it in detail for this entry – because nobody else seems too interested. Sometimes I’ll mention it to an acquaintance if it comes up, “I’m studying for my board exams.” They’ll say – “Oh, for what?” I’ll say, “Acupuncture… I just finished acupuncture school.” Beeerrp. End of conversation? Seriously? Ok, that’s cool. Yeah. *Please excuse me as my head bubbles up with a sudden realization that I deserve recognition for the path I’ve taken, the time I’ve dedicated to this path, the sacrifices I’ve made, the skills and abilities which I harbor, the profound knowledge that I’ve absorbed and the healing I’ve seen and experienced.*

NCCAOM = National Certification Commission for Acupuncture – Board Exams:
Board Exam Registration Fee = $475
Biomedicine Board exam = $300 each time. AKA if you get under 70% correct, pay again & retake.
Foundations of Oriental Medicine = $300 each time.
Acupuncture with Point Location = $300 each time.
Total Cost, If Passing = $1,375




State Registration Fees, vary but usually around $150/year.

*My total $ of debt for grad school OVER $100,000.000*
and yes I am worth the investment in which I invested in myself.

If you’ve read any of my blog before this and/or you know me- my ride through the last 5 years has consisted of state hopping from Washington to Colorado – to make sure I got an education which would qualify me toward becoming a “licensed acupuncturist”, moving over 6 times (I lost count), working part-time consistently (except for the last year of school when my clinic requirements where too demanding), navigating life and relationships in my 20’s, And of course- an array of productive challenges which come with the territory of this field of education/work.

Let’s just say- I wasn’t saving ANY money during this time period. It wasn’t possible for me. So here I am now, writing this. *My boyfriend just called saying he got a full-time job offer doing something he’s totally over-qualified for- but hey!* We need money so we can, like, be adults? Currently I have a 3/day week job at a small health food store, which is practically mindless work for me.

I’m looking forward to passing my board exams, having some money saved up, moving out of this house (and this state), starting up my career! But whoa. *Whoa America*. Where are the acupuncturist jobs?? Why are there so many fees, requirements, qualifications, quality standards, etc etc. the other for something that is HARDLY recognized by the medical field. Do you know how little the medical field- in general – knows about acupuncture in America? A lot of them scoff at it! A lot of them don’t, I must add. Excuse us for not having done as many scientific studies on this timeless eastern medicine as you want to prove acupunctures “effectiveness”. *We are too busy crawling out of the hole we are put in, as a profession*. It’s not like I went through all of this work/time/money to land in a cushy job. The reward for me was this, but I did it anyway, because I believe in what I’m doing! Thousands of people, acupuncturists like me, have done the same…lets do a study on that, shall we? And like, really? The fact that there are no jobs offered by hospitals, etc in general, for acupuncturists contradict the steep laws/medical requirements put around us to practice? If it was hooky-folky-hippy-dippie-whatever stuff then just why is everything so very strict? Why must I know SO much about biomedicine if I’m not even going into a real medical field? Seriously, people need to be checked. The point is. There are no “jobs” for acupuncturists. There is hardly any recognition or respect from the powers that be. SO, we have to CREATE them!


And I’m not censoring myself too much here. Its been suggested to me that acupuncturists should take on more of a “medical”-like roll. So like, should I continue to wear my white-coat that I did during my internship (which i may wear, actually, for wardrobe-ease sake) and make sure I’m practicing out of a boring sterile looking building, with paintings of gazebos on the wall? Should I make it really feel like the patient is in their comfortable un-comfort zone of being in a doctors waiting room… with a sad looking fish in a tank, magazines full of who knows what kind of germs. Should I whiten my teeth? Do everything in the pre-designed way so that I can attract the average person and not scare them away? Then when I seem them I’ll type on my computer as they’re explaining their symptoms. I’ll leave the room and go see another patient while my previous one is lying in the room with needles in them. Cuz lord knows I’m not going to make enough money unless I’m making my rounds and circulating through people. NO! That is NOT how I will ever operate. I do not aspire to be a doctor, a nurse, a pharmacist (but I’ve taken enough western medical classes and study of biomedicine to cut me close to qualification- knowledge wise.)

images-6Thankfully, I’ve always been drawn to entrepreneuriship – and that’s what my undergraduate major was in. This is something I knew before going into acupuncture school too. But still – WHAT THE? I learned at a young age that when I felt I didn’t fit into a group, and if it gave me weird feelings to try to fit then I was better off and much more happy on my own.

I aspire to be the best version of what I am- an excellent acupuncturist, who HELPS people heal, helps people feel better as fast as possible. And I’m not interested in working with people who I have to convince of anything. I’m interested in working with AWESOME (but may not know it) people who sincerely want help. Because I sure as sun can help them to feel better, relieve pain, and to experience life in a healthy, wholesome and more satisfying way.


This is the year of the Wood Yang Horse, according to Chinese astrology- so this frustration is extra warranted and appropriate right now, is what I tell myself.

When I wrote that I am taking a break from studying from my board exams to write this, that wasn’t true. It’s more like I take breaks from life to study for my board exams. The reality is that it needs to be the other way around- really intense studying. *It’s hard for me to focus after 9 years of college and now feeling like I just fell down a time warp and landed back to being 24 years old, broke and trying to calculate the next move.* But that’s not how it is. And thankfully, when I am licensed and done with the board exams, I’ll have a few nice paper certificates (Master of Acupuncture, Licensed Acupuncturist and NCCAOM Board Certified Acupuncturist) and those will be my personal and public pieces of “proof”….those and this blog…. for having spent much of my twenties “learning, experiencing, and becoming a Classic Five-Element Acupuncturist”. I guess I can wait a little longer on the whole recognition thing… 😉

I’m not the kind of person that says stuff like “every challenge is an opportunity”. If anyone ever says that to you or posts it on Facebook or something – they’re lying because it makes no sense. Challenges, problems, realities, whatever you want to call them. They are what they are. We have to just go through them. And so I am writing this once and for all, but not to dwell. I wonder if something can change with acupuncture as a profession but right now all I’m really concerned about is myself in this field. And I’m happy to have acupuncturist friends and see growing communities of acupuncture networking and marketing groups on the internet and in certain states.

And if anyone every complains to me about the charge of acupuncture treatment? I’m going to make them read this! Acupuncture is a unique and transformational medical service at best. And I truly am confident and excited about my future in this field and profession. Call it whatever you want. It doesn’t matter to me anymore, its too much of a struggle to focus on what’s holding me back, in general.

This may be the last entry in this blog, which is 5 years and 2 months old as of today. It has served as an outlet for my journey before through and after going to school for acupuncture. My next blog will be my professional website along with a personal and educational blog. See ya there! images-1