With complementary therapies more popular than ever before, there has never been a better time to consider a career in acupuncture.
To qualify as an acupuncturist, students must undertake a three year, full-time (or part-time equivalent) degree course. There are nine colleges in the UK offering an accredited acupuncture degree. The courses give students extensive training including a strong grounding in western medicine, as well as comprehensive training in various classical and modern acupuncture techniques, plus treatment observation and experience in teaching clinics.
Acupuncture is a popular career change option with around two thirds of current students coming to acupuncture as a second career, from business, the health professions, or other complementary therapies.
Students who complete an accredited course are eligible for automatic membership of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC), the largest professional body for acupuncturists in the UK, with around 3,000 members. The BAcC provides members with professional indemnity insurance, Codes of Safe Practice and Professional Conduct, current health and safety legislations, as well as a business support programme, guidance on mandatory continuous professional development and opportunities to network with other members.
Ten years ago Judy Bowen-Jones was a business executive for XX, working long hours and travelling all over the country. In 2002, Judy made the life changing decision to abandon her successful career in marketing and management for a future in acupuncture. Nowadays, she's ditched her power suits in favour of a white clinic jacket, it takes 30 seconds to get to her 'office' and she's happier at work than she's ever been.
Aged 44, Judy undertook a three years degree at the International College of Oriental Medicine (ICOM), in East Grinstead, West Sussex. Initially after graduating, Judy worked a couple of days a week at local acupuncture practices so she could start earning. Two years on, having taken advantage of local networking events, and business support from both the BAcC and Business Link, she runs a busy practice from her home in Crowborough.
Judy says: 'During the late nineties I found myself increasingly disillusioned with the lack of integrity in business. Around the same time I started receiving acupuncture for an old whiplash injury aggravated by long hours working at a computer screen and driving. I was amazed at the results. My neck pain and stiffness started to ease almost immediately, my sleep improved, I felt less stressed, more energised and prepared to take on the world.
'I understand now that by treating the root cause of your problems, as well as your symptoms, acupuncture treats all of you.....your mind , physical body and emotional self, not just the problem you first presented with. Once my stress levels reduced it became clear to me that I wanted a career change â€“ but I had no idea what I was going to do.
'Having decided on acupuncture, I signed up for a course at the International College of Oriental Medicine (ICOM). I must confess to feeling some trepidation at the start of the course. The world of Chinese Medicine and acupuncture was completely new to me. But I need not have worried, by the time I graduated, I had already been treating patients for two years and was ready to start my own acupuncture practice.
'It takes quite a bit of effort to set up your own practice. Nowadays, most of my new patients come to me from referrals from existing patients, but initially, you need to get out into the community and meet people, face to face. In the early days, I booked stalls at local fayres and pamper evenings and gave lots of talks to community groups. I would recommend anyone wanting to build their business to get networking. Having a website is also essential. I get many more enquiries from my website www.acupunctureinsussex.co.uk and online directories than from printed directories.
'Now most of my time is spent in clinic, treating patients. It's a dream job. I choose when I want to work. Every patient is different, so I'm mentally challenged. It's up to me to ask the right questions, make the correct diagnosis and work out a successful treatment plan. It's amazing to hear peoples' stories and simply wonderful to know that you have helped.'
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