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Acupuncture Today – August, 2008, Vol. 09, Issue 08

NCCAOM Seeks Federal Recognition of the Profession

By Kory Ward-Cook, PhD, NCCAOM CEO

Did you know that if you were to search for "Acupuncturist" as a distinct professional designation on the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Web site, you wouldn't find it? Additionally, if you searched the BLS database using the term acupuncture, you would find it is listed as a therapeutic technique under the professions of "Chiropractors" and "Registered Nurses."

What does this mean for the acupuncture and Oriental medicine profession in the United States? It means your occupation is not listed as a profession with the BLS. As a result there is little or no federal recognition.

Why, you might ask, do we need federal recognition for our profession? Here is just a short list of the reasons why:

  • When you look up "Acupuncturists" under the BLS, nothing is listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
  • Acupuncture is only listed as a treatment modality, not as a profession.
  • It is the first step toward federal loan forgiveness.
  • Doors potentially open for greater reimbursement from insurance companies, along with the possibility of Medicare reimbursement in the future.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) support research in acupuncture. However, members of our profession will not receive direct funding for grants unless and until we are federally recognized as a profession.
  • Acupuncture and Oriental medicine schools will have a greater opportunity to recruit new students and grow the profession.
  • The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) does not recognize, list or link to any AOM national organizations that recognize acupuncture as a profession unless it is associated with "medical acupuncture."
  • It should facilitate protection of our access to Chinese herbs, herbal formulas and other treatment modalities.
  •  It will raise consumer awareness nationwide.
  •  Acupuncturists and Oriental medicine practitioners will receive greater credibility from other health care professionals.

For these reasons, along with the oversight of the federal government, the national acupuncture and Oriental medicine leadership organizations have come together to take immediate action to request the addition of "Acupuncturists" as separate and distinct listing with the BLS.

The timing for this is now. A unique opportunity has presented itself for our profession's leadership and practitioners nationwide to voice their support by providing the BLS with the rationale for adding "Acupuncturist" to the federal government occupational code.

What exactly does this involve? The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) is collaborating with the American Association for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM), the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM), the Council of Colleges for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM), the Federation of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Regulatory Agencies (FAOMRA), and the National Acupuncture Foundation (NAF) to submit a request to the BLS for "Acupuncturist" to be classified as a unique profession under the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) codes.

For more information on the BLS and the Occupational Outlook Handbook, visit The NCCAOM will be utilizing its 2008 Job Task Analysis data to support this effort.

In a prior notice from the Federal Register (71FR 28536, May 16, 2006), the Office of Management and Budget and the Standard Occupational Classification Policy Committee requested comments on the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) and corrections to the 2000 SOC manual. Since this did not occur in 2006, the various AOM leadership organizations are joining together to write a formal request for the committee to correct what they believe is an oversight in not recognizing acupuncture as a profession in its own right.

The organizations will include a detailed description in the information submitted to the BLS, demonstrating that the profession has national standards for education, training, certification and licensure. It may be that the federal government is unaware of the fact that the acupuncture and Oriental medicine profession has been regulated as a distinct health care profession since 1973 in the United States when the first practice acts were adopted.

In addition, as shown by our collaborative 25th anniversary celebrations last year, the ACAOM, CCAOM and NCCAOM were established in 1982 specifically for the purpose of promoting national standards for AOM practitioners. The AAAOM also was established that year for the purpose of promoting and advancing the profession through its activities.

Many of you might wonder why it has taken so long to address this issue with the federal government and to take action to remedy the situation. Although the AOM leadership organizations have been in existence for 25 years, a unified and comprehensive national method of data collection describing the profession was not begun until 2008. This data, in the form of the NCCAOM 2008 Job Task Analysis, will be provided to support the recognition of acupuncture as a separate and distinct profession with independent demographics from any other profession. This data will be accompanied by letters of support from the various AOM leadership organizations.

Acupuncturists already are licensed and regulated in 43 states. The BLS will receive data supporting the fact that acupuncture should notappear just as a modality under registered nurses or chiropractors, as these practitioners do not meet the rigorous national standards for education and certificationthat comprehensively trainedacupuncturists achieve for licensure. A detailed description of the profession, Acupuncturists: Profession Overview, will fully explain and support these standards.

If you are interested in supporting the efforts of the AOM leadership organizations and others in receiving federal recognition, please contact the NCCAOM at to write a letter of support or to voice your comments. Please stay tuned for future updates on the progress of this important initiative.

Dr. Kory Ward-Cook has over 35 years of experience as a medical laboratory professional, educator, and executive in association management. She is a Certified Association Executive (CAE) and currently serves as the CEO Emeritus of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). she served as NCCAOM CEO from 2004-2019.

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