When I started acupuncture school, there was no such thing as community style acupuncture and if there was, I certainly wasn’t shown it in school. We were only taught private setting acupuncture. I found that private business model, the one we were taught in school, to be unsustainable for me and for my patients. I knew they needed more acupuncture, 2 or 3 times a week, but I also knew their story, and I knew that they couldn’t afford 3 treatments per week for $75 each. As far as acupuncture is concerned, it’s so much easier and efficient to come in to the community clinic for $20-45 and get your treatment, as often as possible! That’s how acupuncture works best and seeing it these past 5 years has been soul filling. After 5 years of practicing in a community setting, I now believe that this community model is the key to sustainability in an acupuncture practice, it works and I’m so glad I do it!
I’ve kept in touch with a few classmates from school and I occasionally check in with them. Most of us had similar stories about what was working in our practice and what wasn’t. We all seemed to be experiencing similar issues within our acupuncture practice. One day, my dear friend Melonie Burgess called to tell me about a book she’d read called “Acupuncture is like Noodles,” by the amazing Lisa Rohleder. She said I NEEDED to read this book. She then filled me in on she and her husband’s newest business plan, community acupuncture. A totally different, revolutionary way to practice our trade. A clinic where there are multiple recliner chairs in one room, the acupuncturist spends 10-15 minutes only with the patient, then moves on to another patient, while that one is resting and on and on. The best part is that the patient pays whatever they can on a sliding scale of $20-45, they choose what they pay, what? Really? Why? Everyone has a different story and as a community, we need to trust that people will truly give whatever they can. The idea of treating 4 to 6 people in one hour, at that pay rate, means that the acupuncturist still brings in their $75 per hour, or more, they just treat 4 -6 people instead of 1. Not to mention, that at that price, the patient can afford to come in more often and get treatment more often and getting more acupuncture means they will get better. Hmmmmm…..I wasn’t so sure about this, I was a MAJOR skeptic.
I had yet to read Acupuncture is like Noodles, I had 3 babies in 5 years and just didn’t have time, but I decided I just had to see this idea in action. I headed down to Bradenton to check out this new idea that they had set up in their new office. On first glance, I saw 5 chairs in one room, and I think I wrinkled my brows, like an irritated 16 year old girl, to show my disapproval. I wanted to dissect it, tell them why it would never work, tell them all of the same arguments that everyone has, I mean, come on! THIS WAS CRAZY WEIRD. I figured most people wouldn’t go for it. I didn’t think that Mel and Gene could possibly make any money at $20-45 a treatment, I mean, if you allow people to pay what they “can,” won’t everyone just pay $20?
I had NO IDEA that there was a revolution building in Portland, I hadn’t read THE BOOK yet. I didn’t realize that all of the doubts I was having about this idea had already been thought of and solved. I was hyper focused on the financial side of things, like a capitalist, all I was thinking about was the bottom line and how were they going to make money. I hadn’t even touched on the true sense of community yet, I hadn’t begun to hear about community qi, that’s the qi that moves throughout the room and adds to the healing vibe. “Noodles are better when they’re eaten together in a group. ” I was in for an awakening for sure.
It was CRAZY, I was skeptical, I just went home, resolved to watching it unfold. I actually watched Mel and Gene for 2 years before I really got on board and you know what I saw? It was WORKING. They loved it, their patients loved it, they were busy, the money that they needed was there AND, the idea was spreading EVERYWHERE. I discovered there was one in St. Pete! yup, St. Pete Community Acupuncture, “sticking it to the man since 2007!” I could feel it building.
Just a short 2 years later, I woke up one day with three kids, 7, 4 and 2 and my husband no longer wanted to committ to our family. I needed a job and an income fast, I needed something strong and dependable. During one of my sleepless nights, in total desperation, there it was, THE BOOK, “Acupuncture is like Noodles.” I picked it up and then, I didn’t put it down, until I had finished it. I needed, NEEDED to find a space to make this happen. After reading the book, I not only knew that this would support me financially, I could feel that it would support ME, HOLD ME UP. I went by a space on Main street, in Safety Harbor, that had been for rent for years and called the number. It was available and it was perfect. I waited tables at Bonefish, for a year, while I rented the space and got the word out in the community. I put 5 recliners in the space, $35 a piece, an old desk from my garage and some soap in the bathroom. I put a sign outside ” Community Acupuncture $15-40, with my cell phone number. Mel and Gene suggested a $5 Friday, I did it. I made $50 that day. Each week, the numbers grew and grew. I was able to quit waiting tables and focus on this beautiful, soul filled, being of a career. I have since moved to a bigger space, my sliding scale is now $20-45 and I treat anywhere from 70-100 people per week, depending on the time of year.
Can you imagine if all Doctors, Dentists and Vets practiced in a community style? Forget insurance, pay what you can! There are now community restaurants, check this out in Safety Harbor! Jon Bon Jovi is all wrapped up in the community restaurant concept, this video makes me cry! I believe that this concept of Community Acupuncture CAN change the world, if everyone lived and loved this way, wouldn’t this be a wonderful world??
When I started out, I didn’t realize that when you ask people to pay $15-40, whatever they can afford, you’re relying upon their honesty, that was a leap for me. I didn’t know how many honest people there were in this world. When you ask people to take care of each other, they do it. The patient who can afford $45 this week, is willing to pay that, so that the man with ALS, who is now wheel chair bound and can’t work, can pay $20. I watch it everyday, those who can DO, to help those who cannot. It’s truly beautiful.
I have been practicing community style acupuncture for 5 years and I know how many people I help, I also know how they have all saved my life. I couldn’t be more grateful.
One more thing, Acupuncture works, it relieves pain, I see it EVERY DAY. People who have had a chronic pain for years with no answers get relief. It doesn’t need to take a long time or cost a lot of money to be good and effective. It relaxes the anxious and makes the hyper calm, yes, Calm. It doesn’t require an hour long conversation, it just requires a gentle touch, a kind smile, and half hour nap with these magic needles in your body. I am so grateful. My heart is blissfully ready to burst and my soul is fulfilled.
I know that Melonie and Gene Burgess at Sarasota Community Acupuncture are my angels, here on earth. They showed me this business model, made me a believer and helped me to arrive where I am today.
I <3 my job.
Are you getting regular acupuncture? If not, why not? Read this. Then go to www.pocacoop.com and find a community Acupuncture clinic near you. Community Acupuncture CAN change the world, one acupuncture treatment at a time.