Do You Understanding Acupuncture Licensing ?

| March 3, 2010 | 0 Comments | 255 views
Acupuncture Licensing

Acupuncture Licensing

All acupuncturists would like to be viewed as well qualified. However, some practitioners go overboard and mislead the public regarding their credentials. In fact, many acupuncturists take advantage of a loophole to add the title "doctor" to their name, even though they may have no more education or training than another practitioner with the title "licensed acupuncturist."

To understand how this is possible, we must begin by recognizing that acupuncture is regulated at the state level. In other words, acupuncture licensure requirements differ from state to state and acupuncture licensure titles also differ from state to state. Although most states have very similar requirements and titles, there are a few exceptions, and these exceptions provide an opportunity for practitioners to appear more qualified.

Let's start by exploring the most common requirements for licensure. In most states, the requirements for licensure are a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine or equivalent degree from an accredited institution and national board certification. National board certification is awarded by one specific organization, the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). This organization administers national board examinations to certain qualified individuals (those who have met specific educational requirements).

An individual who passes these national board examinations is awarded NCCAOM certification and becomes designated a Diplomate in Acupuncture, Chinese Herbology, or Oriental Medicine (depending upon which examinations were passed). A Diplomate in Oriental Medicine has met the requirements for board certification in both Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology.

In most states, the acupuncture licensure title is "licensed acupuncturist." Thus, when an individual meets all of the state requirements to become licensed, that individual can be designated a "licensed acupuncturist", or usually "L.Ac." for short. However, some states use very different title terminology. In New Mexico, a licensed practitioner is designated a "Doctor of Oriental Medicine" or "D.O.M." In Florida, a licensed practitioner is designated an "Acupuncture Physician" or "A.P." In Rhode Island, a licensed practitioner is designated a "Doctor of Acupuncture" or "D.Ac." These states do not necessarily require additional education or training, they simply use a different title for licensed acupuncture practitioners.

Unfortunately, some practitioners choose to get licensed in these states, despite having no intention of practicing in these states, for the sole purpose of adding another title to their name and appearing more qualified. Although they are supposed to designate the state in parentheses after the title, some do not. As an example, a licensed acupuncturist with the title "John Doe, L.Ac." that becomes licensed in New Mexico can use the title "Dr. John Doe, L.Ac., D.O.M. (NM)", regardless of where he practices. Furthermore, it is all too common for practitioners to omit the state designation at the end, "(NM)" in this example.

I do not mean to imply that all individuals that get licensed in these states are trying to be deceptive. Obviously, for the practitioners that actually practice in these states, it is not only understandable, but required that they use these state designated titles. However, for practitioners with no intention of practicing in these states, their motives for becoming licensed are questionable at best.

Other healthcare providers such as physicians and chiropractors may also practice acupuncture, however they often receive less training than licensed acupuncturists. Licensed acupuncturists receive approximately 2500 to 4000 hours of training in Chinese medical theory, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and biomedical science. The amount of training required for other healthcare providers who are not licensed acupuncturists varies from none at all to a few hundred hours. Although these other healthcare providers are not given the title "licensed acupuncturist", in many states they may be designated a "certified acupuncturist", usually abbreviated as "C.Ac."

It is important not to confuse national certification (from the NCCAOM) and state certification (for other healthcare providers practicing acupuncture). Therefore, when inquiring about a practitioner's credentials, there is a big difference between asking if a practitioner is "certified" and asking if a practitioner is "nationally board certified with the NCCAOM." If you feel a practitioner is not being straightforward, you may visit the NCCAOM website and search for practitioners that are nationally board certified.

To understand an acupuncturist's qualifications, especially an acupuncturist that uses the title "doctor", it may be helpful to ask the following questions and compare the results among different practitioners:

  1. What acupuncture degree did you receive? How long was the acupuncture degree program (in hours)?
  2. Are you nationally board certified by the NCCAOM for acupuncture?
  3. Are you nationally board certified by the NCCAOM for Chinese herbs?
  4. Are you licensed to practice acupuncture in my state? What is the licensing title?
  5. Are you a doctor? If so, what entity awarded you that title? Are you an M.D.?

Understandably, there is a fair amount of confusion surrounding the credentials of acupuncture practitioners. With such varied levels of practitioner training and so many types of certification and/or licensure at both the state and national level, it is important to phrase your questions properly and to understand the specific terminology. In the end, this understanding can help you make an informed decision in choosing a qualified acupuncture practitioner.


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