When I graduated college, I had grandiose dreams of becoming an amazing acupuncturist. I wanted to build a great practice and make a good living. For four years, 13 semesters to be exact, I had a spreadsheet. I always knew exactly how many classes I still needed to take and how long it would take for me to complete them. If I wasn't studying, I spent my time imagining how life would be "after college." I created an image in my mind of the perfect community for my family. It had four seasons; hunting, camping, fishing, affordable housing, a hometown feel, a university and an airport.
The lifestyle I wanted to enjoy was perfectly planned and based on how many patients I would eventually treat. I'd done the math, crunched the numbers and laid out a plan. I would become a specialist in chronic pain, pregnancy and pediatrics. I had rubbed shoulders with the best while I was in school and I'd continue to do the same in my career. I wanted to continue learning and growing, with the end goal of someday retiring and teaching other acupuncturists the things I'd learned. The picture was perfect.
How The Story Begins
I found the perfect community that fit my vision precisely. I had everything I wanted for my family and my clinic. Well, almost everything ... My plan would involve moving far away from California after graduation. This was a bit scary. California was my hub. If I ventured into the great unknown (beyond California), who would I turn to for support, to discuss cases, get clinical advice and learn new techniques? I thrive on continual growth. Could I do that in a small town without any other acupuncturists? I had a decision to make. My opportunities to rub shoulders with colleagues would be few and far between. There were only about 100 licensed acupuncturist in the state of Idaho, none of which were in my chosen town. I did not want to become a boring acupuncturist who wasn't progressing in the field. I knew that if I wanted to teach someday, I would need to develop those relationships. On the flip side, I also knew that my family would do best in the community I had chosen.
I was apprehensive, but the decision was made. My family came first. I settled — knowing that I couldn't have it all, but the decision I was making was good. I was getting 90 percent of what I wanted. Maybe I'd create a new "happily ever after," and move back to the hub once my kids were grown.
The Next Chapter
Now that I was done with school, I had plenty of time on my hands. My kids introduced me to Facebook. I thought it was a good way to keep up with family back in California. Little did I know that the AMAZING, beautiful world of social media would allow me to change the ending of my life story!
Who knew Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter could open so many opportunities to rub shoulders with acupuncturists all over the world. No longer was I alone in Idaho! Social media changed the way I communicated with colleagues. As it turned out, I have acupuncture friends and associates who answer questions and give advice instantaneously.
Let me share what I've learned.
A Place to Rub Shoulders
There are acupuncture social media groups to fit the interest of any practitioner, whether it be your alumni group or groups with specific interests such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, Chinese Herbs, Acupuncture Technology, Cosmetic Acupuncture, Acupuncture for Pediatrics, Building your Dream Practice, Microcurrent, etc. It's all out there.
Social media isn't just for socializing with your family. Some call it a waste of time, but I have found it a valuable resource for connecting with fellow acupuncturists. One group I belong to, Acupuncturists on Facebook, which has more than 6,300 following acupuncturists. I love "rubbing shoulders" with so many amazing practitioners who share their advice openly, many of which are BIG names in our field. It's a great place to stay up on anything that is new or changing. I can't tell you how often I've been able to read advice directly from practitioners such as Debra Betts regarding pregnancy, Andy Rosenfarb regarding vision and eye problems, and even Zev Rosenberg regarding classical TCM herbology.
If I have a question, there are always immediate answers. The advice you receive through acupuncturists on social media will often include personal clinical experience along with references and resources on how to study a subject deeper. Sometimes there are even heated discussions and differing opinions relating to the politics of our medicine. (This makes me feel like I'm back in California with my colleagues!) You can learn about anything you want through social media. Here's a list of some interesting topics that have shown up in my feeds within the last few months:
- Can anyone suggest a protocol for undescended testes?
- Did we study Chinese medicine all wrong? What do you think? Let's discuss this article: Chinese Medicine Demystified: A Case of Mistaken Identity.
- Who has dietary suggestions for MS patients?
- I'm looking for a hemorrhoid treatment besides Bu Zhong YI Qi Tang and Du 20. Who can help?
- What imbalances are you finding in pot smokers?
- Has anyone treated chronic hives successfully?
- For those practicing in a small town, how do you keep your town life separate from your practice world? Or do you?
- I'm thinking of switching to sliding scale pricing in my practice. Does anyone use this model? What is your experience?
The archived conversations have proven to be an amazing resource. The search tool allows you to quickly bring up conversations that may even be two or three years old. I've found some really great clinical pearls of wisdom hidden behind that little looking glass.
I keep a file in my computer called "Treatment Strategies." In this folder I keep notes for things I've searched and things I've learned from practitioners via social media. Some of the notes I've saved include: bone broth, breech baby, cancer treatment, fertility protocol, fibromyalgia, frozen shoulder, hot flashes, kidney stone formula, Multiple Sclerosis, post miscarriage, rainbow treatment for end of life care, sea sickness, sprained ankle and urinary calculi.
Getting Your Name Out There
I've seen many up and coming big names get their start through social media. Have you heard of Medigogy? Medigogy is defined as the study of health and wellness via online media. It is a great resource for acupuncturists. I did an interview with Dr. Lorne Brown, (a doctor of TCM in British Columbia) the owner of Medigogy.com, and I was pretty impressed.
First, he explained how Medigogy helps practitioners build their knowledge, for free, by offering one-hour lectures from a plethora of great instructors. He offers one-hour webinars from acupuncturists all over the world who have clinical experience to share with colleagues. These webinars are archived on his website, ready to teach people like me (in Idaho) who want to learn, but don't want to travel.
Finally — once we, the practitioners, decide the new up and coming teacher is awesome, (because of our reviews) he takes them to a higher level and helps them to create a name for themselves in the TCM field by teaching more webinars through Medigogy as well as expanding into the field of paid seminars through a sister company offering CEU/PDA credit. Lorne says Medigogy has an "Oprah effect" in that after offering 1-3 webinars, the speakers experience spikes in book sales and they receive invitations to lecture internationally at Chinese medicine conferences.
In Medigogy's free learning website you will find free educational video training from big names such as Debra Betts, Randine Lewis, Eric Brand, Heiner Fruehauf and Jill Blakeway. You will also find amazing up and coming practitioners teachers in our field such as Yvonne Farrell, Robin Green and Stephen Boyanton. What a great way to learn. It's free, it's relevant and I can do it from Idaho!
How does the story end? The dramatic changes in the world of communication has allowed me to build a life I didn't even know was possible. My learning opportunities are infinite—which makes my potential unlimited.
There was a time in my life when I was willing to settle. Not anymore. Technology allows me to see bigger, and to be better without compromise. If you followed me at all, you know I'm not just big on technology for communication. Technology is great in your practice as well. With a changing world, technology makes us better practitioners in every way imaginable. Keep following me to learn more about how I use technology in my practice.
I'm an acupuncturist in a small town, far, far away from the city. It's a great place to raise a family. I enjoy four seasons; hunting, camping and fishing; affordable housing; a university and an airport. I rub shoulders with amazing acupuncturists on a daily basis. I can't wait to write a book on acupuncture and technology. I won't wait until I'm retired to teach; I can do that now—in my slippers. Maybe I'll inspire others to embrace all forms of technology in an acupuncture clinic. I can live anywhere and do anything I want, and so can you! Tweet me your thoughts at @acukimberly #lovinglife #reallyhappy.
Click here for more information about Kimberly Thompson, LAc.