Southwest Acupuncture College recently conducted an alumni survey to see how its graduates are faring as licensed health care professionals. The school sent questionnaires to 382 students who had graduated from its Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico campuses between 1983 and 2000, asking about a variety of subjects such as patient care, the type of practice they operate, gross and net income, and how well the school prepared them to practice.
Results of the survey are as follows.
Ninety-five percent of those who returned the survey held a diplomate in acupuncture (Dipl.Ac.) from the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Twenty-seven percent held a diplomate in Chinese herbology (Dipl.Ch). Slightly over half of the respondents held licenses to practice in New Mexico; in all, practitioners noted having licenses to practice in 22 individual states.
Ninety percent of the respondents currently have an acupuncture practice. Twenty percent of those that have a practice are associated with other health professionals, such as a medical doctor or chiropractor. Most practitioners (58%) rent or lease office space; another 30% have an office in their home.
Forty-five percent of the respondents practice in population centers that have less than 200,000 people. More than half of those who returned the survey (54%) reported practicing in cities that have less than 50 other practicing acupuncturists.
Gynecological problems were the most common type of medical condition treated by acupuncturists, as reported by 31% of the survey respondents. Pediatrics ranked second (30%), followed by internal medicine (26%), weight loss, smoking or addiction (22%), physical medicine (20%) and sports medicine (17%).
Most of the respondents (66%) charged between $41 to $60 per patient visit; nine percent charged $40 or less. In terms of starting up a practice, most respondents showed a gradual annual increase in gross and net income. By the third year of practice, most acupuncturists grossed between $20,000 and $80,000 per year. At the time of the survey, 79% of those who answered questions about net income reported making between $21,000 to $80,000 annually; a small percentage made over $100,000.
Training and Preparation
The respondents gave mostly favorable reviews to Southwest for the training they received:
In case history, examination and intake, 98% of the respondents reported being "very well" or "well" prepared.
Two-thirds (67%) indicated being "well" or "adequately" prepared to give a prognosis.
Eighty-one percent of the acupuncturists said they were "very well" to "adequately" prepared to deliver acupuncture treatment. A slightly lower number (68%) reported being similarly prepared to administer herbal remedies.
For patient counseling, 83% stated the training they received left them "very well," "well" or "adequately" prepared.
Sixty-eight percent of those responding to questions about practice management said they were "very well" to "adequately" prepared.
A high number of respondents (89%) said the education they received at Southwest made them "very well" prepared to take the state acupuncture licensing exam; 83% said they were "very well" prepared for national examinations.
The college noted that most of those who marked being very well or well prepared in all categories of training had graduated in 1992 or later, while those who considered their preparation adequate or inadequate graduated over a broader time span.
Southwest plans to conduct a new alumni survey - this time including graduates from its newest campus in Boulder, Colorado - later this year.