“There are roughly 170 acupuncturists in Ohio, which means that there is a tremendous opportunity for Oriental Medicine to grow here.  However, unlike many other careers, there are not a lot of employment opportunities yet.  So, although more and more places are starting to hire acupuncturists, you should still develop the skills to build a practice.  AIAM offers a business class in addition to the normal curriculum and clinic time.  It is a good opportunity to hone your business skills so that you can be successful after you graduate. This is a rewarding career that offers a lifetime to grow and develop. It is fun and challenging work. Enjoy!”

Jared West, a 2008 graduate of AIAMs Masters Acupuncture program works in the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Integrative Medicine and operates his own private practice; Acupuncture and Integrative Solutions in Warrensville Heights, Ohio.

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Jared stumbled upon AIAM through a Google search.  He researched schools in Chicago and along the East Coast, but chose to move to Columbus from his home in Indiana to pursue a new career.

“It was so much less expensive to live in Columbus and I was very impressed by the quality of the teachers at AIAM. There is a great team at AIAM beyond just the teaching faculty too.  They helped me find housing, work, financial aid, and so much more so my time there could be a success.”

Many students set goals to open their own practice. Opening a business in an unfamiliar city wasn’t easy for Jared; it took a lot of networking to build a client base.

“I moved to Cleveland right after graduating.  It is hard to build a practice without knowing much about an area ahead of time.  Once I started getting to know people, things began to get easier.  The referral law in Ohio is both a challenge and a benefit in that sense.  The referral law did slow down my new patients but it also forced me to get to know a lot of the chiropractors and physicians in my area and they ultimately became good referral sources for me.”

Ohio referral law states that acupuncturists may preform acupuncture on a patient only if the patient has received a written prescription or referral from a licensed physician. Obviously, this builds a barrier between potential patients and acupuncturists; a barrier that can only be broken by networking with physicians. This is why Jared recommends all acupuncture students join The Ohio Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine after graduation.

“If you want to see things continue to improve for acupuncturists in Ohio, become a member.  Twelve years ago, there was no licensure for acupuncturists and it was illegal to practice.  Five years ago the referral law was changed to exclude practitioners after their first year.  Two years ago, a license was created for the practice of Oriental Medicine.  A lot of people have donjared weste work to get us to where we are now; we still have work to do, and there will definitely be challenges along the way, but together we can make a difference!”

“The Ohio Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is also a good way to build a good reputation, get referrals and learn about business opportunities in the state. “

The ability to build a solid client-base is a concern for many students and prospective students who are interested in acupuncture as a career; while knowledge of acupuncture treatments is growing, there are still many people who are not educated on its benefits.

“It can be hard to build a practice.  It helps to remember that you are offering something valuable to your patients.  Acupuncture works.  It’s relatively cost effective and it’s safe.  Success as a practitioner depends on your ability to build trust and connect with your patients.  Think about whom you would refer your friends to, your parents, your grandparents?  If someone wants to send their grandmother to you for acupuncture then you know you are doing something right!”

As a student Jared was nervous when he first began interning in the AIAM clinic and working directly with patients.  However, his fellow classmates and instructors helped him not only build his courage, but also give him the confidence he needed to put his knowledge to use.

“The teachers were very helpful as I learned how to do a treatment.  I also learned a lot from the other students.  There is a reason that they call medicine a practice, so be patient.  It will get easier. Enjoy your time at school and learn as much as you can from the teachers.  They are incredible.”

One challenge acupuncturist’s face is educating the community on the benefits of Eastern Medicine by debunking myths that surround it. Jared does his best to take an educational approach when discussing his profession.

“You have to be patient and professional.  You will hear some funny things and you might as well laugh.  There has been so little exposure to acupuncture that you will meet people who think it is voodoo.  If you can talk with them openly and help them feel comfortable they may become your patient!  Being an educator is part of what we do.”

Jared encourages students to study hard and ask questions while at AIAM, as well as utilize their clinic time to focus on professionalism.

When he first began his journey with AIAM, Jared found adjusting his way of thinking about medicine and the human body challenging. He used this as motivation to immerse himself in his studies, and try even harder to learn everything he could.

“Chinese Medicine is from a totally different culture.  It’s challenging to think about energy and balance in concrete terms, but it helped me to immerse myself while I was at school.  The other students and the tremendous faculty at AIAM made all of this so much easier. It’s not easy, but it can be fun and it is definitely rewarding!”

For more information on AIAM’s Master’s-level Acupuncture program click here!