[Guest Post] Thoughts for Your First Year of Practice

by Honora Lee Wolfe (with help from Daniel Schulman)

  1. Set Your Fees and stick to them. You can offer an occasional discount day for special groups, fundraising events, clients’ birthdays, patients’ children, or an ongoing pay-at-the-time-of-service discount if you regularly bill insurance. But you work with all your brain and body on each patient…don’t sell yourself short.

  1. Do the Math. Figure out what you need for overhead and a decent living. Assume the average patient will visit you six times (this is remarkably accurate in most cases). With these numbers you can see how many patients you need each year, month, week, etc. This may be easier than you think to accomplish. For example, to create $100,000 per year before tax, you need 200 patients to average six visits with at $75 per visit (treatments, herbs, other product sales). Put another way, you need 1200 patient visits per year, 100 per month, or 25 per week at about $75 per visit. The math makes it feel less overwhelming.

  1. Be Clear about everything: fees, policies, beliefs about whom you can help and how many treatments it will take. Remain flexible, but the more clear and honest you can be with your patients, the respect you will receive in return is remarkable. When asked “Can you help me?” and “How long will it take?”, you can honestly say “The treatment is the diagnosis” and you will know more in two or three treatments. Such an answer allows you to be clear…even about your lack of clarity.

  1. A Modest Confidence. Even when confronted with the most complex, confusing cases, know that you can trust the lineage of the medicine. Don’t melt down in fear and confusion (at least not in front of the patient!). Do a treatment with the most love and confidence you can muster, and see what happens. You will often be happily surprised.

  1. Provide Comfort. Make your treatment rooms into havens. The lighting, atmosphere, music, air quality, art, pillows, temperature, furnishings…should all be designed to foster relaxation and quell anxiety.

  1. Non-attachment to Results. Do your utmost and best with each patient in diagnosis and treatment. Do not allow yourself to be lazy. Then be an impartial spectator with regards to results and average out your effectiveness rate over 4-5-6 weeks, not one or two treatments. Learn from each patient encounter and allow your practice to flow and unfold.

  1. Develop Good Habits. In your first years of practice, everything from how you set up treatment rooms, what type of history/intake forms you use, how your phone gets answered, to what acupuncture style you adopt, will become hard-wired. Force yourself to try different things that you’ve learned so you don’t fall into clinical ruts. Ask yourself, “Could I do this part of my practice better?” or “Do I like this system that I’ve developed?”

  1. Plan Your Work; Work Your Plan. When marketing and connecting with your community, don’t let fear or laziness get in your way. When you get a “no” or resounding silence from one idea you’ve pursued, move on to the next. There is no need to be discouraged and every reason to pick up the phone or put on your walking shoes and make the next call, arrange the next visit, do the next lecture.

Assume success and have faith in yourself!

Honora Wolfe is co-author of Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists. See her books, classes and blog archive at www.bluepoppy.com. Dan Schulman practices in Prince Edward Island, Canada.