AOMA Blog

3 Ways Essential Oils Helped Me Grow My Acupuncture Practice

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Wed, Oct 01, 2014 @ 10:55 AM

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With all the powerful benefits acupuncture and Chinese herbs have to offer my patients, you may be wondering why I chose to add an additional modality to my practice. For years, I was a closet essential oil user. I used them at home in my own personal wellness routine but feared sharing this information with my patients would somehow dilute my focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine. However, once I began to study essential oils through the lens of TCM taking into account the temperature of the oils, their indications, and their affinity toward particular organs and meridians, my confidence level grew and so did my practice. In particular, three keys areas of my practice expanded: patient empowerment, complementary treatment options, and patient education.

Patient Empowerment

On a good day, my patients leave my office (or report back later) feeling relief from whatever brought them to my practice. On a great day, they’ve left not only feeling better but have learned some sort of valuable skill that helps keep them well and enhances their ability to handle future challenges. Along with proper diet, exercise, and acupressure, essential oils are a wonderful way for patients to extend the healing benefits of our time together as well as handle some common health challenges when they arise.

Complementary Treatment Options

I have also found essential oils to be beneficial when my patients are taking a large number of prescription medications and the uncertainty of adding an herbal formula would be too great (either due to possible herb/drug interactions or due to the uncertainty of how well their liver and kidneys are functioning under the additional stress). For them, essential oil inhalation or topical application can provide much needed stress relief, mental clarity, and soothe overworked muscles.

Patient Education

Since essential oils can be used to make natural household cleaners and as part of a healthier skin care routine, the addition of essential oils into my practice has opened up a broader discussion of how to eliminate unnecessary exposure to chemicals and toxins in our environment and replace these products with ones that support and boost our immune system.

Over the years, essential oils have become a fantastic way for me to connect with my patients and teach them additional tools to enhance their health and well-being. I hope you will give it a try! 

diane lowryAOMA alumna, Diane Lowry happily resides in Glen Allen, VA where she is the owner and Licensed Acupuncturist of HealthFocus Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She holds Diplomate status in both Oriental Medicine and Asian Bodywork Therapy from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and is an American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA)-Certified Practitioner. www.HealthFocusAcupuncture.com

Topics: alumni, acupuncture school, practice management, essential oils, aromatherapy

Rewards and Challenges of Starting an Acupuncture Practice

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Sun, Sep 28, 2014 @ 09:31 AM

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When you chose to become a licensed acupuncturist (LAc) you chose a fulfilling, exciting, and sometimes challenging career. To become a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine you must complete a 4-year master’s degree, pass the national certification exams, and apply for state licensure. As many practitioners of Chinese medicine will attest, that is just the beginning of the journey. AOMA alumni share their experiences starting their acupuncture practices.

Jacob GodwinJacob Godwin, Class of 2005

Where do your practice?
Spokane, Washington | godwinacupuncture.com

What type of practice are you in?
Private

What were your biggest challenges in starting practice?
Having to realize where and how acupuncture fits into modern healthcare was a grueling lesson. Most acupuncturists are woefully unprepared to face the harsh realities of practice, and I was no exception. Learning to prioritize my understanding of biomedicine, particularly the biological approach to acupuncture, and to communicate effectively with other doctors has made an enormous difference. Those skills plus time and clinical effectiveness have helped me create a successful practice.

What has been the most rewarding part of starting practice?
Making a living by helping thousands of people simply by following my passion is the best reward for me.

What else would you like to share with prospective and current students?
Acupuncture has the potential to make huge contributions to medicine. The future of acupuncture relies on our participation in science and research. Learn your biomedical science. Indulge in the mystery and the tradition of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, but don't let them prevent you from developing acupuncture into a modern practice based on science. Accept nothing on authority or tradition alone. Press, probe, and investigate every nook and cranny of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine theory.

alison larmee, lacAlison Larmee Born, Class of 2006

Where do your practice?
Wilmington, North Carolina | capefearacupuncture.com

What type of practice are you in?
Private, Community

What were your biggest challenges in starting practice?
Educating the public on the advantages of community acupuncture (though I provide both community and private treatments). Finding the right space (physical building) to accommodate both styles as my practice grows.

What has been the most rewarding part of starting practice?
Being able to help many different walks of life by offering both private and community. Being my own boss, setting my own hours. Making a profit!

What else would you like to share with prospective and current students?
Starting your own practice is very rewarding but also extremely time consuming. There are no days off like when I was an independent contractor for another practice. Now with a 10 month old child some days running the business, attending to patients and my child seems really... well, overwhelming. It's not an undertaking to be taken lightly - it's wonderful in many ways - but oh so hard in others. Just my two cents. Feel free to contact me through my website if you'd like to talk about challenges and rewards.

Alyson BayerAlyson Bayer, Class of 2009

Where do your practice?
Conroe, Texas | clearchoiceacupuncture.com

What type of practice are you in?
Private, Collaborative

What were your biggest challenges in starting practice?
Getting over the fear of starting my own business.      

What has been the most rewarding part of starting practice?
The most rewarding part of having my own practice is the confidence it has given me.  I also enjoy setting my own schedule to give myself plenty of time with my family and to relax and enjoy life.         

What else would you like to share with prospective and current students?
Networking is one of the best ways I have found to grow my business. This field is very much up and coming.  More and more people are seeking alternatives to allopathic, overly busy doctors with little time for them. One thing I do in my practice is to make sure to give every single one of my patients enough of my time to listen to them every time they come into see me.

Cynthia ClarkCynthia Clark, Class of 2011

Where do your practice?
Sarasota, Florida | longevitywellnessclinic.com 

What type of practice are you in?
Private

What were your biggest challenges in starting practice?
Figuring out my identity as a practitioner           

What else would you like to share with prospective and current students?
It's who you are as a person that has the greatest effect on your patients.                          

Acupuncture Career Guide

Gregory CareyGregory Carey, Class of 2011

Where do your practice?
Old Bridge, New Jersey | oldbridgeacupuncture.com

What type of practice are you in?
Private, Collaborative

What were your biggest challenges in starting practice?
Generating Patient Visits  

What has been the most rewarding part of starting practice?
The opportunity to engage in a profession that I deeply care about is the most rewarding aspect of running my own acupuncture clinic.

What else would you like to share with prospective and current students?
Follow your passion and you can create success in what you do.

Josh SaulJoshua Saul, Class of 2012

Where do your practice?
Atlanta, Georgia | SunWellATL.com

What type of practice are you in?
Private, Collaborative

What were your biggest challenges in starting practice?
I think this question should be " What ARE your biggest challenges and starting practice?"   While I am seeing a study number of patients I am still not where I'd like to be. I think some of the biggest challenges to starting a practice is getting a system in place so that each new patient who walks in the door has a consistent, rewarding experience.  

Right now, my biggest challenge is getting all the administrative things done that I should have done in school like building a fully functional website that helps people know I’m out here and able to help.  Other administrative items include getting my LLC setup, setting up my practice management software and electronic health records (using Office Ally) and getting together promotional material like a business name, logo, business cards, informational rack cards, signs and other material.  If I had done this in school, even if I didn’t know what my business name would be, the content would be in place and all name information could be easily changed. 

Part of the system should also educate new patients as to what we do, how it works and why it's valuable to them and their healthcare.   Figuring out how to do this properly has definitely been challenging and is an ongoing work in progress.        

What has been the most rewarding part of starting practice?
The most rewarding part for me has been feeling like I have started to create something out of nothing. While starting a business is extremely difficult  I feel good about saying that I have worked harder at this than anything in my life. School was challenging but starting a business was by far much more difficult.  As I start to see patients and watch them get better there is something humbling, motivating and exciting in the  realization that I am serving my purpose.

What else would you like to share with prospective and current students?
I love what I do and I knew it when I started school.  What I didn't know was how much work was in store for me after school! If you are a current student my advice is to get started now! Whatever it is that you can do to start your business do it now!  Decide in what area you want to specialize, build your website, start figuring out your business model, start saving some cash - the list is long and time in school is not the hard part. If you aren't working on school and getting your business ready a solid 40 or more hours a week you aren't working hard enough.  Start now.  It will be worth it.

Abigail KarpAbigail Karp, Class of 2013

Where do your practice?
Austin, Texas | reproductiveacupuncture.com

What type of practice are you in?
Collaborative

What were your biggest challenges in starting practice?
It's a challenge knowing where to begin when starting your own practice, and I found it to be a blessing to join a practice of experienced acupuncturists.                      

What has been the most rewarding part of starting practice?
The most rewarding party of starting practice has been getting to know a new community of patients and working closely with seasoned acupuncturists in my chosen specialty. It has been amazing having the opportunity to gain new insights from my coworkers. So much learning and growing happens outside of acupuncture school, and I've been loving having the chance to continue to grow!

What else would you like to share with prospective and current students?
Trying to keep an open mind and being flexible has been very helpful for me in finding my way. It's hard to know what sort of practice you will enjoy until you try different options post-graduation.

Careers in Acupuncture: Download free eBook!

Topics: job opportunities, alumni, alumni spotlight, practice management, acupuncture practice

Alumni Advice for Graduating Acupuncture Students

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Mon, Aug 11, 2014 @ 11:11 AM

Overwhelmed trying to figure out how to start an Oriental medicine practice? Here are some tips from AOMA alumni!*

While you are in school:

Prepare early

Take your board exams before you graduate

Get licensed quickly after finishing boards

Develop a business plan during practice management class

Start developing marketing materials

Launch your website before graduation

Plan your career

Investigate different locations for your future practice (states, cities, venues) Consider specializing in something (ex. style of practice, specific patient demographic, type of condition(s), etc.)

Participate in an internship, externship, or apprenticeship (ex. AOMA’s Practice Management Fieldwork Program)

Consider a job on a cruise ship – it’s a great way to gain experience and travel!

Form relationships with your patients in the student clinic to build your future patient base

Find a successful mentor and pick their brain!

Get connected, join a networking group

Build a financial foundation

Set aside money for starting up your practice

Minimize student loan debt and understand the different repayment options

Forecast startup costs for your practice, including funding, insurance, advertising, etc.

Keep your day job as you build your practice to earn extra income

Learn Quickbooks or other basic accounting skills

Research pricing for treatments so you can charge enough for your services

 

After You Graduate:

Hone your business & professional skills

Buy a point of sale system to handle financial transactions

Consider selling supplements and herbs to boost your practice’s income

Consider offering adjunct techniques to patients like medical qigong, bodywork

Outline clear treatment plans so patients know what to expect

Continue to work on your bed-side manners to improve the patient experience Provide patient & community education

Volunteer in your community for extra visibility

Find a market coach if you need extra help with outreach

Practice a lot; start seeing as many patients as possible, as soon as possible

Make time for self-care

Take kidney tonics to keep your energy-level up 

Get acupuncture

Practice mind-body techniques to handle stress

 

General advice:

Start small & grow (be patient it will take time)

Take a vacation/time off after graduation – you might need the break!

Commit to life-long learning and more Oriental medicine techniques – never stop improving

Be passionate about TCM!

 

*Advice compiled from 2013 alumni survey.

Careers in Acupuncture: Download free eBook!

Topics: alumni, student services, practice management

10 Do-it-Yourself Marketing Tips for Acupuncturists

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Tue, Apr 29, 2014 @ 08:29 AM

Despite acupuncture's ancient legacy and modern-day relevance, a vast majority of Americans are still uninformed about what acupuncture is or when and how to seek a trained acupuncture professional.  

Acupuncturists like you must be marketing savvy if you hope to grow your practice and the reach of acupuncture to a wider audience.  

Here are some marketing tips that just might help you grow your brand awareness and win new customers:

1. Open Housesacupuncture open house

Hold regular open houses. Invite the community to learn more about acupuncture and how it has evolved into one of the fastest-growing healthcare practices in America. Keep the group small and intimate to maximize impact.

2. Meetup Group

Try to get speaking engagements in Meetup groups, or even start your own Meetup group to educate people about "alternative" medicine. You'll have to book a steady flow of speakers but it's worth it if it puts you in the center of the healthcare conversation as a respected expert.

3. Target Marketacupuncture target market

Figure out who your best customers are based on frequency of visits and revenue; make a plan to go after them in a more focused way. If you work with lots of senior citizens, then spend more time engaging with retirement centers and other senior resources like AARP. Maybe you can write a regular column for a senior center newsletter!

4. PR

Pitch local news media about acupuncture as it relates to trending topics like helping treat veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine Day, which was on October 24th this year. For hot tips on how to get in the news, consider following my PR over Coffee blog.

5. Emailwoman on computer

Keep your past and current patients up-to-date with regular email campaigns. Consider doing a monthly e-newsletter with lots of interesting facts about acupuncture and alternative medicine so you are constantly "top-of-mind."

6. Social Media Contest

Create a "following" on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets; then run occasional contests where you find a fun and clever way to get your followers to engage with you.

7. Loyal Customers

Offer specials that reward your most loyal customers. It will make them feel valued and probably result in more friendly referrals.

8. Holiday Specials

Offer a package deal that is available as a holiday gift for family and friends.

9. Advertising

Advertising is still a way to be seen in a community. Look for a well-read community news outlet (in Austin, we have Community Impact News) and check out the cost of various advertising options. Some are pretty darn affordable.

10. Blog

Keeping a blog on your website is a great way to share information with customers and prospects even as you improve your website's search engine rakings by embedding keywords relevant to your industry. You can also have guest bloggers share related information about acupuncture. (Secret: it's also a great way to avoid having to write a post every week!)


As you can see, there are many ways you can market yourself to customers and the public at large. The key is to be consistent, not expect stellar results overnight, and be ready to stop what doesn't deliver new customers and strong brand awareness.

Slow and steady wins the race!

About Dave Manzer

Dave Manzer is the owner of a PR firm based in Austin, Texas called Dave Manzer PR & Marketing. He works primarily with small businesses and startups and offers a revolutionary pay-for-performance PR model that allows even the smallest businesses a chance to win game-changing publicity. He also runs PR over Coffee, a do-it-yourself PR resources group that has helped hundreds of small businesses figure out how to leverage PR for their benefit.

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Topics: practice management

5 Practice Management Concepts for Acupuncturists

Posted by Sarah Bentley on Tue, Apr 22, 2014 @ 02:10 PM

Gregory Carey is the president of the AOMA Alumni Association. In the latest alumni newsletter he introduces practice management concepts that he believes to be crucial for a successful practice.

1. Join an insurance network. 

acupuncture insuranceBy contracting with a medical insurance carrier (e.g., United Healthcare, Horizon, Cigna, etc.), you are joining a medical referral network. Each insurance carrier introduces a proprietary fee structure for its participating healthcare providers. Becoming familiar with electronic billing practices is an essential, though not overly difficult, skill for the rendering provider. Developing a business relationship with a third-party insurance clearinghouse such as Office Ally is advisable and will create efficiencies for your practice.

2. Join a healthcare group or existing practice.

Especially for new practitioners who are capital-deficient, this step is attractive. Cultivating relationships with other practitioners in the medical field may create opportunities for business relationships to develop. Some acupuncture students have found employment by leveraging a front-office position into full-time practitioner status after obtaining licensure. 

3. Locate to an underserved population center.

This step can seem a daunting undertaking, though the rewards include reduced competition for patient visits. Furthermore, existing medical providers in the area may be eager to refer to a competent acupuncture provider. Upon making a decision as to your practice location, make every attempt to put in place a long-term operational strategy. The personal and professional relationships that you form over the years will pay dividends – if you are still around to receive them.

community acupuncture clinic4. Create a "disruptive" business model.

To increase your competitive advantage, you may want to consider a Community Acupuncture model. There are a number of AOMA Alumni who have chosen a community-based practice set-up. Fellow Alumni may be helpful in sharing practical know-how regarding community-style operations. Community-style acupuncture is one permutation of the healthcare delivery aspect of this business. It’s up to each of us in the field to understand what our respective healthcare markets are asking for and to deliver that product to our clients.   

5. Develop relationships with vendors.

Many are competing for your business consideration, including clinical, herbal, topical, and supplement suppliers. It is not difficult to find another practitioner promoting an herbal or wellness supplement as part of their business. Indeed, some Alumni have created their own product lines! Be discerning when choosing a vendor for your clinic. Ultimately, your patients will be the judge of the products you serve them. If you choose your vendors and products wisely, you have the potential for passive revenue generation, increased referrals, and patient compliance.

 

The above is not intended to be a comprehensive study of items related to practice management. My intention in writing was to communicate some basic considerations relevant to the practicing acupuncturist and to hopefully generate productive discussion. 

For further reading on business innovation, please see:  

Johnson, Mark, Christensen, Clayton, et al. (2008). Reinventing Your Business Model. Harvard Business Review, December 2008.

About the author

Greg Carey, aoma alumni, practice managmentGregory holds a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Richmond and obtained his Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine. Gregory holds a Diplomate of Oriental Medicine from NCCAOM and is licensed by the New Jersey State Medical Board in acupuncture. His professional background is in research oncology and pharmaceutical trials, teaching and not for profit organizations.

Over the past 6 years Gregory has specialized in Oriental Medicine, including acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, Tuina and Qigong for the successful treatment of a wide variety of conditions.  He is experienced in facial rejuvenation through acupuncture, including the Mei Zen Facial Rejuvenation System. He is a Manalapan, NJ native and is happy to serve surrounding New Jersey communities. His personal interests include the practice of Qigong, Yang Style Tai Ji, Mandarin Chinese, classical literature, hiking and New York Jets football.

Topics: alumni, practice management

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