What were the biggest lessons learned in your first few years of practice?

Bruce Gustafson, LAc:

Lesson 1: “Regardless of how popular or effective one is as an intern with patients in the school clinic, most patients do not follow you into your private practice. Venture out! Practice building takes time OUTSIDE of your school clinic patients and outside of your network of students and other acupuncturists. I relied too much at first on expectations of the former.”

Lesson 2: “Don’t wait after hearing you’ve passed the CAB exam to receive your actual license to get started setting things up. There’s plenty to do in the mean time. You can go on the CAB website, find your name and get your license number, then start applying for your NPI number, build a website/FB page, continue networking, start looking for liability insurance that best meets your needs, etc. I started these things and it helped with the waiting and down time.”

Lesson 3: “There are a number of good practice management/electronic health records/appointment booking software or APP programs out there – BUT: evaluate your true need for these as you build a practice. I jumped in a little too early before I was busy enough, and found that I didn’t need the expense, nor was I making good use of the full features of the software.”

Mike Morgan, LAc:

Lesson 1: “It is important to provide your patient with a context of the healing process for Acupuncture. The healing process is very different than what we have come to expect. Sometimes the initial results may seem worse than better.”

Lesson 2: “Healing is a process and it takes time for that process to unfold. Healing is like a rose it can only unfold, you cannot just open it.”

Lesson 3: “Healing takes a lot of energy (qi), a great deal more than the energy needed to just maintain life. You need to have enough energy to actually heal.”

Christy Vitiello, LAc:

Lesson 1: “Pick your location wisely”
– Choose a place that isn’t an acupuncture practice, for example chiropractor, skin care, or MD office. The cross-referrals are very helpful when starting out.
– Find a place that has a successful business model, and learn from them.
– Treat them for free. They’ll have more reason to talk about you (to their clients, colleagues) from having a positive experience with you, and how you are helping them with their health ailments.
– Seek out a place that isn’t even renting. Figure out where you want to be every day, and just ask! You’d be surprised what’s actually available.

Lesson 2: “Use your downtime wisely”
Instead of worrying that you don’t have patients, try one of these tips:
– Once you’re settled into your new space, send a postcard to new businesses that you just moved into the area. Follow up with a visit to the location to introduce yourself – especially to the front desk staff who have lots of face time with patients/clients.
– Offer a free treatment (you have the time, right?) This will get people talking about you.
– Attend a health fair. It gets you face-to-face, plenty of opportunities to educate people about acupuncture and TCM, and you might get a client or two.

Lesson 3: “Don’t rely solely on acupuncture at first as your income”
– Take a part-time job so you can alleviate some pressure from not (yet) having a full schedule of patients.
– If possible, make that part-time job flexible so you can see patients on the days you rent your office space.
– Quit that job when you are comfortably paying your bills and able to live on your professional earnings.

Lesson 4: “Enjoy what you are doing”
– Know that it will be challenging at times and you won’t “cure” everyone, but you will learn from every patient.

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Practice ManagementLessons learned