AOMA Blog

Medicine from the Bottom of the Heart: AOMA Student and Pediatric Stroke Awareness Advocate

Posted by Diane Stanley on Thu, May 12, 2016 @ 03:42 PM

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In Mandarin, there is a character pronounced “de" 得. It's a neutral tone, and it's typically translated as "virtue". There's nothing particularly wrong with this translation, but something that people don't know is that it's part of a grammatical structure that indicates how you do something. While adverbs are optional in English, in Mandarin Chinese, you never miss a verb complement or this "de"-structure to indicate how you do what you do. This is an important aspect of our medicine we often miss. Deeply rooted in the culture behind our medicine is the emphasis on how we approach the things we do in our lives.

I became a mother in June of 2015, and leading to that point, I would rub my bump everyday, especially when I could feel where Logan was and say, "I love you, but you should know, I have no idea what I'm doing. Please, be sturdy." Everyday, "Dear baby, I love you. I have no idea what I'm doing. Please, please, please, be sturdy." Logan was born, after 25 hours of labor, in the 99th percentile for height, weight, and head size. He also had an infection, shoulder dystocia, a ring of hematomas around his crown, and required a cpap machine and pharmaceutical intervention to help his lungs absorb oxygen due to the prolonged compression of his chest.

On our fourth day in the NICU, my husband and I left to get dinner and received a call. Logan was having focal seizures localized to his right arm and leg, and they would need to do an immediate CT scan to look for the cause. We arrived as they received the results, and our neonatologist told us that our son suffered a stroke. His CT scan looked like his left sensory motor cortex hadn't develop at all. However, an MRA and MRI showed that his brain developed perfectly and, most likely, the injury occurred during my delivery. The neonatologist and the neurologist also told us that we could expect Logan to start showing symptoms as early as eight or nine months. I thought, "Thank God, I have time to research."

At four and a half months, I noticed that Logan always had his right arm forward at tummy time. I always just thought it was cute until I realized it was because he wasn't putting weight on his right arm. I thought I had time, but he already quit using his right arm, which never left a fist. I immediately took him to see Dr. Song Luo at AOMA acupuncture clinic. After one treatment, Logan slept with his hand open for the first time ever. After a few days and a follow up treatment, I was holding Logan and felt this slimy sensation on my cheeks. After the initial thought of how much drool was covering Logan's hands, I realized he was grabbing my face with both hands!

Regular, local treatments have kept Logan's development on track. Even when he started to show weakness in his right leg, just two points on the stomach channel followed by massage led to him crawling forward for the first time. I talk to parents around the country caring for children who have suffered from strokes and hemiplegia, and without acupuncture, many of these children grow up not being able to use their arm and often unable to walk unassisted. Dr. Luo tells me that Logan's experience is not uncommon. To see these children who aren't recovering and to know that acupuncture is so effective even with just three points and without needle retention is unacceptable to me.

Dr. Luo once shared a story about his great grandfather who taught him TCM. He was in his nineties and without hesitation, got up and got dressed in the middle of the night to help a patient in need. Dr. Luo said he taught him to practice medicine from the bottom of his heart, and it is this complete and utter compassion with which he approaches medicine that I feel makes him Logan's favorite doctor. His compassion and dedication combined with Logan's recovery have inspired me to dedicate myself even more in my studies in hopes of becoming a better acupuncturist when I graduate. These days, I don't generally ask the universe to keep Logan sturdy anymore. I know acupuncture has him covered. I just try to approach medicine and motherhood from the bottom of my heart.

Schedule an appointment at the AOMA acupuncture clinics in Austin:

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Learn more about the AOMA Master's Program in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine:

Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program

Topics: pediatrics, acupuncture clinics, acupuncture, acupuncture patients

Acupuncture and TCM for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Posted by Yongxin Fan on Fri, Apr 08, 2016 @ 10:40 AM

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort, and altered bowel habits; for example, chronic or recurrent diarrhea, constipation, or both – either mixed or in alternation. It has become a major health concern. 

IBS affects 10% to 15% of the population in the United States, and 9% to 23% of the population worldwide. As many as 20% - 50% of patient visits to gastroenterologists are due to IBS symptoms. Most people with IBS are under the age of 45 – 50, and about 2/3 of IBS sufferers are female. (1)

The exact cause of IBS is not known, and Western doctors consider IBS to be a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. Functional GI disorders happen when your GI tract behaves in an abnormal way without evidence of damage due to a disease.  

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), IBS is a condition caused by Spleen and Liver disharmony, which manifests as Liver Qi stagnation and Spleen Qi deficiency. 

TCM relates the symptoms associated with IBS to stress. Stress affects the Liver Qi (energy), which handles the smooth flow of Qi throughout the whole body; excess stress then results in Liver Qi stagnation. The Spleen is in charge of digestion according to TCM, and stress weakens Spleen Qi, leading to disturbances of the GI system. The major IBS symptoms such as abdominal bloating or pain, mixed or alternated constipation or loose stool, mucus in the stool, or incomplete evacuation, are all results of Liver overacting on the Spleen and Stomach.

A study done in 2009 in the USA on managing IBS symptoms with acupuncture showed that after 4 weeks of twice-weekly acupuncture treatment, average daily abdominal pain/discomfort improved, whereas the control group showed minimal reduction. The intestinal gas, bloating, and stool consistency also showed improvement. These findings show that acupuncture treatment shows promise in the area of symptom management for IBS. (2)

In addition, a large amount of clinical research in China has showed that TCM therapies, which include acupuncture, acupuncture with electric stimulation, moxibustion, auricular acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbal medicine and external application, have positive results for patients with IBS.

Clinical studies have also shown Chinese herbs to improve the effectiveness of IBS treatments. For example, Fuling (Poria) and Shanyao (Rhizoma Dioscoreae) can relieve diarrhea. Baizhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae) is well known for its regulating and dual effect on the gastrointestinal tract: it treats diarrhea at low doses and constipation at high doses. With this dual effect, it is the ideal herb for relieving the major IBS symptom of alternating diarrhea and constipation.

Since stress is a major factor that can worsen or trigger IBS symptoms, another important point for IBS patients to keep an eye on is the diet. Patients should avoid gas-producing foods such as:

  • onions
  • soda
  • beans
  • cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • milk

Other foods containing lactose may also induce symptom flare-ups in some people. It is important to remove spicy and acidic foods from the menu that stimulate the lining of the intestine. It is also necessary to stop smoking and reduce the intake of coffee, since both may irritate the bowel.

At the AOMA acupuncture clinics in Austin,TX, practitioners of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine may use a variety of methods to restore a patient’s Liver and Spleen disharmony. Application of acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbs, dietary therapy, and Qigong and other lifestyle changes will promote the healing of IBS. 

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Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program

(1) http://www.aboutibs.org/site/what-is-ibs/facts/

(2) Anastasi, Joyce K, McMahon, Donald J Kim, Gee H MA 2009 Gastroenterology Nursing

Topics: acupuncture, tcm health, digestion, IBS, digestive health

Acupuncture and Insomnia

Posted by Nelson Song Luo on Tue, Mar 08, 2016 @ 11:38 AM

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If you've ever deprived yourself of sleep, you know that deep and restful sleep is a human necessity. The average adult needs 8 hours of sleep a day. A good night of sleep improves learning and helps you pay attention and make decisions. Sleep also promotes physical growth and development in children and teens. Yet, as many as 95% of Americans have reported an episode of insomnia at some point during their lives.

People with insomnia may experience one or more sleep disturbances such as: difficulty falling asleep at night, waking too early in the morning, waking often throughout the night, or sleep that is chronically non-restorative. In addition, ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes and hypoglycemia
  • Immune disorders

In the practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), insomnia represents an imbalance of the fundamental substances (Shen (spirit), Qi, Blood, Yin, Yang), or the major organ systems (Lungs, Heart, Spleen, Liver, Kidneys). For example, when a person suffers from insomnia due to an imbalance between the Heart and the Liver, the resulting Shen disturbance in the patient can cause insomnia, mood disorders, and heart palpitations.

Insomnia is organized into several different patterns according to TCM.

  • Difficulty falling asleep is often related to excess conditions of the Liver and/or Gall Bladder, where people lie awake, tossing and turning for hours.
  • When people fall asleep easily, yet wake early, they tend to have Heart and Liver deficiency.
  • Waking at specific times each night is often due to functional disorders of particular organs.

As a biorhythm, Qi is considered to circulate through the twelve meridians over a 24-hour period. Each meridian relates to an internal organ. People waking at the same time every night, may have an imbalance in the organ system that is "highlighted" at that time of day. Energy peaks in the Liver meridian at 3:00 a.m., which is why people often wake up then. In Chinese medicine, Liver problems can result from stress and anger.

Acupuncture is a safe and effective treatment for treating any of these patterns of disharmony that are related to insomnia. Acupuncture can balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This balancing process increases levels of serotonin, which can improve sleep quality.

Acupuncture balances the Yin and Yang and tonifies Qi and Blood. Based on different patterns of insomnia, many auricular or body acupoints are effective in the clinic. For example, if insomnia is due to Heart and Liver deficiency, auricular Shenmen Xue or Liver 8 and Heart 7 points may be used to nourish Heart and Liver Yin or Blood. Acupuncture treatments combined with meditation often turns out to have an even better result.

Traditional Chinese herbal medicine can be effectively used for insomnia as well. One of the most popular Chinese herbs for treating insomnia is Suan Zao Ren (Zyzyphus combination), which nourishes Heart Shen and Liver Blood. This herb makes it effective at "calming the Shen" and dealing with stress. Gui Pi Wan (Ginseng and Longan), yes ginseng assists sleep and in this formula nourishes Spleen Qi while other ingredients nourish Heart Blood. It is often combined with Suan Zao Ren.

Acupuncture promotes natural sleeping patterns without the hangover effect of sleeping pills. If you have been having sleep problems, it may be worthwhile to give acupuncture a try before taking medications. Consider talking to your doctor or a Chinese medicine practitioner about alternatives.

In addition to acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine, your practitioner may share tips on dietary modification and exercise therapy during an acupuncture appointment. As you begin to find balance through these treatments, you'll be sleeping soundly in no time!

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Luo at the AOMA Clinics:

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Topics: insomnia, acupuncture clinics, acupuncture

Catching Up With Ashley Oved, Acupuncturist, Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Posted by Rob Davidson on Wed, Nov 04, 2015 @ 11:57 AM

On Thursday, October 15, AOMA Alumni Ashley Oved presented “Acupuncture in the Integrative Hospital”, a Brown Bag Lecture about her experience in the increasingly common practice of acupuncture in an integrative hospital.

We caught up with Ashley to ask her a few questions about her life at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and how she felt her education at AOMA helped prepare her for the challenges she faces each day. 

What does a typical work day look like for you at the hospital?

There are two acupuncturists at this location and we each treat between 9-14 patients a day. It’s a fast paced environment but quite manageable. We treat most of our patients in the Outpatient Clinic but we also treat patients in the Intensive Care Unit or will visit them when they are receiving chemotherapy in the Infusion Center. Just recently, we’ve started Group Acupuncture twice a week which has been a huge success. Our patients really love acupuncture, so there is rarely a dull moment around here.

Do you feel like your training at AOMA adequately prepared you for work in an integrated environment? 

I really do! Working at Seton Topfer and Austin Recovery gave me a ton of experience. Austin Recovery intimidated me so much the first couple of weeks (shout out to Claudia Voyles for being my pillar of strength) but it was probably the best clinic I ever had at AOMA. It exposed me to a different patient population and prepared me for leading Group Acupuncture here at CTCA.  The information I learned in the Physical Assessment classes has also come in handy.  The first time I saw “No Babinski, Negative Romberg” on a patient’s chart I thought, “I know what that means! 

Any advice for current students or alum who are interested in working in an environment like CTCA?

It’s a good idea to focus in on a specialty.  Whether it’s pediatrics, oncology, or fertility it really is up to you. Get some books on what interests you, or take some online CEU’s. Having that leg up gives you an advantage when applying to jobs.  But truly my best advice is to just go out and apply. The clinical experience you gain in the student clinic has prepared you more than you know. You don’t have to be the greatest acupuncturist that has ever lived. You just have to be confident in yourself and your abilities. If you continue to learn new techniques and keep up to date on the latest studies, you will be well on your way.  There are many hospitals that already incorporate acupuncture into their model of care, and many more on the verge of it. So don’t get discouraged! There are definitely jobs out there.

To learn more about the Student & Career Services’ Brown Bag Lecture Series check out our website.

Download Guide to Career in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Topics: alumni, efficacy of acupuncture, acupuncture, licensed acupuncture, cancer treatment

From Patient to Practitioner: Two Perspectives on Chinese Medicine

Posted by Stephanie Madden on Thu, Oct 08, 2015 @ 03:00 PM

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Many acupuncture students begin their journey as patients before becoming fully invested in the academics and practice of oriental medicine. For one reason or another, this functional medicine resonates with the healing process better than others you have tried before and the interest is sparked. At some point the fascination exceeds the mystery and develops into a desire to understand how it works. Like many others before me, I was incredibly curious about this profound method of manipulating qi.

When I was having complications with my own health going to doctors became a fearful chore. In the waiting room I would work myself into a clammy sweat anticipating whichever test they would need to run next, but unfortunately, leave feeling the same as the day before and without conclusive results. There were so many follow-ups and referrals to get to a place of homoeostasis it seemed the horizon would never come.

The experience with my acupuncturist was a world of difference – the closer I was to the office the better I felt. As soon as it was my turn to be seen I could feel my muscles unlock from the base of my skull to the tips of my toes. I could release my tension onto the floor and finally take a breath. The building my acupuncturist worked in including the treatment rooms were nothing special, but there was something about the energy of the space my practitioner created for me that was more therapeutic than any other place I had known at the time. Walking into that space with her made me feel confident I would leave feeling better than I came, which I always did.

I admired her. She portrayed freedom with her personal style underneath her lab coat and by the way she was accompanied by her small child at work. I felt her mind was completely focused on me and my healing while I was in her presence. The passion and independence she had as a businesswoman was something I had only fantasized about. Seeing it right in front of me was promising for my dreams.  It was about more than the incredible healing I achieved while I was under her care that convinced me I had found my divine decree – the harmonious lifestyle she portrayed is what held a mirror to my future.

Now as a young practitioner and student of the medicine at AOMA, I aspire to create the same atmosphere my acupuncturist did for me. When I see patients I always try to meet them from wherever they are coming from. For several of them this is their last resort, a shot in the dark, because they have been in pain for so long. For others, it's an intricate part of a well thought out therapeutic plan. The essence of transitioning from patient to practitioner is that I am now the one who creates the space.

Whatever was happening before they stepped into my treatment room has lost all of its power. I open the space to allow my patients to leave whatever misfortunes they have on the floor, jump up on the table, and heal. At the end of each session I watch my patients walk away with a lighter heart as I wash their pain from my hands and, we both leave the day behind us on that floor and go home.

Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program

Topics: acupuncture school, acupuncture clinics, acupuncture, acupuncture patients

Beyond the Yang of Acupuncture: Yin in Practice

Posted by Jessica Johnson on Fri, Sep 25, 2015 @ 11:27 AM

The reason why most people choose to go into the field of Integrative Medicine and attend school at AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine may not be what you think. More often, it is not about the money or the title. In actuality, people are choosing this field because, as acupuncturists and integrative medicine practitioners, they have a fantastic opportunity to connect with their patients on a deeper level than most medical professionals. Needling is only a very small part of what we learn in school and an even smaller part of an acupuncturist’s practice.

Needling is part of the yang portion of our studies- the part of physically doing something, of direct intervention. However, it is my opinion that the yin side of our studies here at AOMA may be the more interesting of the two. The yin nature of a practice – what goes on beyond the needles, is about nurturing; it is about presence and solidness. Yin is the substance with which yang can be utilized. Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine know that one cannot have yang without yin; there has to be a balance of both within the body and within any good medical practice. Therefore, here at AOMA we learn and practice how to bring the yin into our practice.

Every Friday morning of the summer term of 2015, Rupesh Chhagan leads his Clinic Communication class in a mind-body practice – a series of qigong movements, followed by a guided meditation. Only after the students have taken the time to check in with their own wellbeing through movement and deep inner connection can class lecture begin. But class lecture in Clinic Communication is anything but a lecture.

As a practitioner of Hakomi, a form of mindfulness-centered somatic psychotherapy, Rupesh believes that the body is a gateway of the unconscious mind. The body reflects what is happening internally- emotionally, spiritually, and physically. In Clinic Communication class, Rupesh reminds his students that that their patients have individual feelings, emotions, beliefs, and thoughts, and they are not just a set of symptoms and complaints in the clinic.

Instead of being instructed on how to act in the clinic setting, students are asked to actively participate in listening exercises. Instead of formulating their next response and interjecting their ideas immediately, listening students are asked to embody the idea of “the person sitting in front of me is an inspiration to me." They practice feeling what real listening is like, what it looks like. Each of the students in the classroom teams up with another student and they each present the other with a mild problem they are experiencing in their lives while the other student listens. They are not just practicing listening, but they are learning to actually hear what the other student is saying and feeling. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, you learn to “listen with your whole body” and at AOMA you learn to embody loving presence, you learn to see your patients and those you listen to as inspirations for you.

If there is one thing to take away from the Clinic Communication course with Rupesh, it is that even when we feel that we have nothing in common with another person, we always share the human experience. Patients are people. We all have our own set of beliefs, emotions, histories, and thoughts but we are all so similar. We are all in search of balance. As acupuncturists, it is our job to find our own sense of balance so that we can help our patients find theirs. We practice listening to our patients and in turn, they inspire us. We are not just needling - we are connecting with our fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters as student interns and one day as practitioners. Through empathic listening along with mindfulness in providing treatment, yin and yang are balanced.

Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program

Topics: acupuncture school, yin/yang theory, acupuncture

5 tips for Applying to Acupuncture School

Posted by Justine Meccio on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 @ 11:02 AM

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Pursuing a master’s degree in Chinese medicine is a choice that will lead you to a rewarding professional career, one that enables you to have a real impact on the health of people in your community.

Now that you have made the decision to attend acupuncture school, what’s the next step? Your journey will most certainly start with the admissions department!

Check out these handy tips for students applying to the graduate program: 

  1. Connect with admissions before applying.

    Before you apply, it’s a good idea to contact the admissions staff. Not only can they address any questions you have about the admissions requirements, the required application materials, they can even help you decide what term to apply for. It’s important to keep in mind that the admissions staff is here provide guidance during the application process – they’re ready and available to help you!
  1. Apply Early.

    AOMA conducts admissions on a rolling basis, meaning applications are processed individually as they are received. Applying well in advance of the application deadlines ensures that you have plenty of time to gather all of the required application materials. Similarly, by completing the application process as early as possible, you are giving yourself plenty of time to prepare for classes and make your post-acceptance plans.  
  1. Order your transcripts first.

    Official transcripts from your undergraduate education are required as part of the application process. Unfortunately, obtaining official transcripts can take several weeks, potentially extending the length of the application process. To prevent issue, the first step after completing the application form, should be to request official transcripts from your previous school(s) be sent to the AOMA Admissions Office.
  1. Address concerns in your personal statement.

    If you are concerned about factors such as your previous undergraduate GPA, limited experience with health sciences, or anything else that you feel may be relevant to the strength of your application, it’s best to address these issues in a straightforward manner. The personal statement is a wonderful place to do this!
  1. Choose your references wisely.

    As part of the application process, each candidate is required to submit two letters of recommendation. The individuals you select to write these letters on your behalf should be able to address your skills and abilities that are relevant to graduate-level study. Choosing references who can speak to your academic or professional background such as former professors, professional supervisors or colleagues lends strength to overall quality of your application.

With that stated, if you have an author in mind, and you’re not sure whether they’re an appropriate reference, you can always contact the admissions team for guidance.

For more information about applying to acupuncture school, visit AOMA’s website at aoma.edu/admissions or contact the admissions office today!

Begin Your Journey: Apply to AOMA Contact the Admissions Office

Topics: acupuncture school, admissions, acupuncture

Can you Love Acupuncture and still Fear Needles?

Posted by Stephanee Owenby on Wed, Jul 08, 2015 @ 03:13 PM

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Trypanophobia, or the fear of needles, is fairly common, affecting an estimated 10% of Americans. Chances are that either you or someone you know experiences stress and anxiety at the thought of a medical professional sticking them with a needle. And it’s no wonder! I’m sure that very few of us can say that we have ever had a positive interaction with a needle. From a very young age we’re taken to the doctor for injections, accompanied by promises that “it won’t hurt a bit!” This is of course a lie, which then associates needles with both deceit and pain. From tattoos to stitches to blood draws and vaccinations, all of our needle experiences are uncomfortable and/or unpleasant, which eventually takes its toll. In extreme cases the fear of needles can lead to people avoiding doctors and medical care altogether, which can definitely make acupuncture a tough sell. But hear me out.

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Most people that I talk to about acupuncture have one major question: does it hurt? The quick answer: no it doesn’t. But we’re going to explore that question a bit more. Let’s talk numbers. Needle widths are measured in a term called gauge, with the gauge of commonly-used hypodermic needles (the kind used for injections) being anywhere from 7 (largest) to 33 (smallest). To compare, the largest commonly-used acupuncture needle is 28 gauge, and the smallest is 42. That’s anywhere from .35-.14 millimeters in width! To the naked eye, acupuncture needles are thinner than a human hair. Additionally, hypodermic needles are hollow to allow for fluid transfer, whereas acupuncture needles are solid. This combined with their thinness allows for a lot of flexibility in acupuncture needles. They are less invasive than hypodermic needles, and as a result you feel them significantly less. Upon insertion you might feel a tiny tingle, or a warm sensation, which is completely normal and usually fades within seconds. You may also feel very relaxed or drowsy during your treatment; I generally nap through my acupuncture sessions. After your treatment you will probably leave the clinic with an increased sense of well-being or even mild euphoria. This is also completely normal, and is one of the best side effects of acupuncture.

The other main question I often get asked about acupuncture is if it’s safe. At the AOMA clinics we take great care to make sure that our policies and practices follow the strictest guidelines of cleanliness, and patient safety is our highest priority. All of our clinicians, including student interns, are required to take and pass the CCAOM’s Clean Needle Technique (CNT) course prior to treating patients in our clinics. Acupuncture needles are factory-sealed to ensure sterility, and open packs of needles are properly disposed of if not used. Acupuncture needles are used once and only once; we never re-use them. Following CNT guidelines, once they are selected by your practitioner the necessary acupuncture points will be cleaned with a cotton ball and rubbing alcohol. A clean cotton ball will be used to close the points once each acupuncture needle is removed.      

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Now that we’ve talked about needle size and clean needle techniques, let’s talk about the overall experience. An acupuncture session will be the most positive needle experience you will ever have in your life. The acupuncture experience is highly focused on relaxation, as relaxed bodies heal more quickly than tense ones. You will rest on a massage table in a dimmed room with soft music playing, and your practitioner will do their best to make sure you are comfortable and relaxed. The temperature of each room can be adjusted with fans or heaters, and we have blankets, pillows, and bolsters available for your comfort. Your acupuncturist will spend time with you before your treatment discussing the points they’d like to needle and why; please feel free to ask as many questions as you’d like! We love for our patients to be actively involved in the care they receive at our clinics.

I am a huge fan of acupuncture, and not only because I work at an acupuncture clinic! I myself have experienced the amazing transformative power of this medicine; I have witnessed its healing potential on numerous friends and family members, and I am privileged every day to see the positive changes it brings into our patients’ lives. Give acupuncture a try, even if you’re nervous or afraid. It’s definitely possible to hate needles but still love acupuncture!

Request an appointment at our Austin acupuncture clinics below:

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Topics: efficacy of acupuncture, acupuncture clinics, acupuncture, acupuncture needles

Nurses Expand Scope of Practice, Study Acupuncture

Posted by Christina Korpik on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 @ 09:00 AM

 

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AOMA is well-known in its field for attracting a highly diverse student body consisting of gifted practitioners with a wide variety of backgrounds under their belts. Many students come into their studies having already obtained a background in a particular healing modality or healthcare field.

Many students at AOMA studied Western medicine in nursing school and obtained a strong background in nursing before they decided to advance their careers with Chinese medicine studies. We interviewed them to share their knowledge and stories around returning to school after receiving a nursing education, as well as their thoughts around combining the two very complementary modalities.

 
 

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Nurse/Acupuncturist in Training: Natalie Ledbetter 

What prompted you to return to school?

I have been very interested in alternative medicine for years and have been wanting to gain education and training in other modalities of healing. My children are older now, and I thought it was a good time to go back to school now that they are more self-sufficient.

Why did you choose AOMA?

AOMA is a highly ranked and highly respected school for TCM. They are accredited, and I was impressed with the herbal program as well as the other classes offered.

What is your nursing background?

I taught nursing school at Galveston College, worked in ICU, obtained a master’s degree in administration, and then a master’s in nursing anesthesia. I currently work as a certified registered nurse anesthetist at the office of a local plastic surgeon, providing anesthesia for her patients undergoing surgery.

How has your background in nursing impacted your experience as a student/practitioner of Chinese medicine?

In some ways I think it has made things a little more challenging, but it has made it easier in other ways. I had a difficult time at first with the concept of "organs" in TCM and how different it is from Western medicine. I often thought I was memorizing "facts" that were not really facts at all, but odd theories. I decided to suspend judgment and just learn all that the instructors had to offer and sort it all out in the end. This has been working well for me so far.

The fact that I am familiar with anatomy, physiology, physical assessment, and other biomedical subjects has allowed me to skip the biomedical courses, which gives me time to continue working. This is a huge plus, because I refuse to take out loans to pay for school.

What has your experience been like as a student of Chinese medicine?

I love most of the instructors and others who work at AOMA. I am learning so much. It can be hard to balance school, work, and family, but I believe it will be worth it. If AOMA would offer some of the courses online, it would make things so much easier to juggle. 

What advice do you have for other nurses returning to school?

Be ready to learn things that are very different from what you have been taught in the past. Be ready to be challenged in the area of time management if you are going to work while in school. Give yourself permission to be less than perfect as you juggle job, studies, home, family, etc. 

 

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Nurse/Acupuncturist in Training: Jason Spees

What prompted you to return to school?

I returned to school to shift my life practice of helping others into a more holistic direction. 

Why did you choose AOMA?

There were many factors, some of them more logistical, like family, a great job market, and that AOMA is in a counter-culture-strong city. The main thing that drew me to Austin was how strong AOMA is into integrative medicine, how they are research-driven, with several experienced teachers, and aligned with other healthcare disciplines. I believe every facet in healthcare needs to engage with the others in a harmonious and collaborative way to bring about the best results for the patient.

What is your nursing background?

Emergency medicine, chronic pain/rehab, and hospice/palliative care. 

How has your background in nursing impacted your experience as a student/practitioner of Chinese medicine?

It helped to already have strong assessment skills and be informed on pathology and pharmacology. That is something that people who are just entering patient care struggle with in the beginning. It has been a challenge to start seeing medicine from the Chinese theory angle, but now I am a lot more empowered, being able to view disease in two or three different ways according to theory. It is like looking at different surfaces of a gem. I find that people are also uncomfortable speaking with acupuncturists if they don't have Western medical experience. For me, that is something to worry less about.

What has your experience been like as a student of Chinese medicine?

I have had a great experience. There are great teachers here, and AOMA is very supportive and full of a lot of good people. 

What advice do you have for other nurses returning to school? 

Jump on board! Keep up your nursing skills, and see how you can keep helping people, but in an expanded way.

 

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Nurse & Licensed Acupuncturist: Katie Burke

What prompted you to return to school?

I have always enjoyed helping others and have been particularly drawn to assisting in the healing process and gaining optimal health. While nursing has been a wonderfully rewarding career in many ways, working within the confines of the hospital setting and having only medical interventions and pharmaceuticals as my ways of treatment were not completely fulfilling for me. I knew there was a more natural way to heal (and prevent illness). The feeling that something was missing prompted my path to delving into natural medicine.

Why did you choose AOMA?

Since I was already living in Austin and wanting to continue my work part-time as a nurse while going to school, I knew I wanted to choose a school in Austin, if possible. After doing some research I was delighted to find out that there were two acupuncture schools here. I have an acquaintance who was going to an acupuncture school, so once I had set my sights on a career change I talked with her about her experience. She told me she was going to AOMA, and she had nothing but positive things to say about the school. After that, I set up a tour of the campus with the director of admissions. After learning more about the program, I knew that AOMA was where I needed to be. I immediately felt like I was in the right place. Call it a hunch. And of course the school's outstanding reputation in the field didn't hurt, either.

What is your nursing background?

I graduated with my bachelor's in nursing from the University of Texas at Austin in December 2006. I started out working full time in Labor and Delivery prior to going back to school at AOMA. Once I started classes, I continued to work, but on a part-time level. Today I am still working at the hospital (but less frequently), in addition to my work as an acupuncturist.

How has your background in nursing impacted your experience as a student/practitioner of Chinese medicine?

Having a nursing background had been extremely helpful when going through the program. You start off with a base knowledge of anatomy and physiology, disease processes/medical conditions, and pharmaceuticals before you even begin classes. Some of my bio-med classes also transferred, and I was able to get credit for them, which helped in lightening the course load and the financial burden of grad school. Aside from that, nursing helps you develop your interpersonal and diagnostic skills and gives you a leg up once you start treating patients in the student clinic. Now that I'm practicing, my clients are always interested in my work as a nurse and how I integrate both medical models. Being a nurse makes you a ‘familiar’ person in the eyes of people who are new to Chinese medicine. I have personally witnessed it reduce anxiety and increase receptiveness in clients once they realize that I also have a Western medicine background.

What has your experience been like as a student and alumna?

As a student I was probably a bit frazzled while going through the program (as were many of my classmates, I'm sure). Working part time while taking a full load of classes was hard, but I'm glad I continued my work in nursing while going back to school. The program at AOMA is rigorous but rewarding. As an alumna I have been fortunate in many ways. Continuing my work in the hospital allowed me to have a "career cushion" during the transition phase after graduation. I was able to have an income while determining what my next step would be (which was truly a blessing). I am now happily practicing acupuncture at a clinic in Austin that specializes in fertility. I’m working with a wonderful team of skilled practitioners. I am also continuing my work in Labor and Delivery a few days a week.

What advice do you have for other nurses returning to school?

If natural medicine is something that interests you, then AOMA is a great place to find what you've been missing. Western medicine and Chinese medicine go hand in hand. It's wonderful being able to practice and have a solid knowledge base in both fields.

Get a Guide to Careers in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Topics: herbal medicine, acupuncture school, chinese medicine school, nurses, acupuncture, nursing

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