If you are thinking of becoming an acupuncturist in the United Kingdom, then there are a few things you need to know.
Firstly, the UK's national health service recognises that acupuncture can indeed have several benefits for the public. For instance, acupuncture for helping to relieve pain has been documented as largely successful in people. The Oriental therapy is now often recommended by doctors and physiotherapists for chronic pain sufferers who have found that traditional pain relief has been insufficient in helping them. This is great news for the profession and anyone looking begins a career in acupuncture.
Acupuncture training requirements in the UK are quite strict. Acupuncturists are expected to have studied a course which is accredited by the British Acupuncture Accreditation Board (BAAB). The requirements for accreditation are also fairly stringent. The reason for this is to ensure a high standard of practitioners and to help better to protect the general public from practitioners who may otherwise be unsuitable and unfit to practice.
For a training institution to be accredited, the course must include at least 400 hours of practical experience in a clinical setting, and students must have an understanding of Chinese medicine theory, as well as physiology, anatomy, and medical science. So on the whole, the training at UK institutions, in general, is at a high level.
Training in Clinical Practice
Training in acupuncture does not just include training in the placement and use of needles; it also includes clinical observation and practice, diligent study of Chinese philosophy, Chinese and Western Pathology, Western anatomy, physiology, and training in the area of handling patients and understanding their needs as well as their ailments.
While acupuncturists are trained to diagnose symptoms and pathology from a perspective of a Chinese medicine perspective, they are not trained in the use of prescriptive medications. Often, their patients will ask their practitioners for advice on medical matters. Therefore, it is important that acupuncturists understand what they are allowed to say, what not to say, and how to refer patients back to a General Practitioner if necessary.
When you attend an open day at a credible training institution, they should also brief you on this criteria to give you the complete picture before you take the important step of signing up for a course. Arriving at the conclusion that the course is not for you half way through your studies is not ideal.
Most colleges will provide ample information about their courses to attendees of open days. However, it can be very helpful to gather as much information as possible about each course before traveling to visit the institutions.
Following the training institutions in social media can not only be an effective way to gain an overall flavour of the college and the type for course that they are offering, but also to receive information on their up and coming open days and events. The International College of Oriental Medicine (ICOM) for example, provide information about their acupuncture courses on Twitter.
British Acupuncture Council
The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is the primary governing body of acupuncture practitioners in the UK. While a student is undergoing their studies in acupuncture, they can become a student member of the BAcC, and this gives them access to guidance and advice on how to set up a practice once they have completed their qualification.
Furthermore, the BAcC also provides continual support for acupuncturists once they are qualified along with other benefits of membership.
A High Barrier to Entry
To be considered a fully qualified acupuncturist in the UK, you must complete a course that is equivalent to at least a three-year degree. The acupuncture training requirements in UK practices are not to be underestimated. It can be quite expensive to fund the course, but it is worthwhile if it is what you want to pursue.
Some two-year diploma courses are recognised by the BAcC, although these are intensive degrees which typically require the student to have an understanding of western medicine and biology before they begin. These diplomas are ideal for physiotherapists, personal trainers, nurses and others who are looking to cross-train and add acupuncture to their repertoire. Such students already have the maturity and sensitivity required to support patients.
Just like chiropractic treatment, acupuncture has a place in western medicine and those who understand both its effectiveness and its limitations can do a lot of good. The 'gold standard' for acupuncture training is quite clearly the three-year course, because of the sheer number of hours of actual clinical observation and practice that the student must go through to complete the course.
On top of completing a three-year degree in acupuncture, being a member of the BAcC will also contribute considerable credibility and also support to practitioners once they are qualified and practicing in the real world.