RN or Accupuncture?

  1. Hello all!

    I am currently finishing up my pre-reqs and am most likley going to begin a two year ADN program in the fall (already have a BA but the price is right for the ADN at this point) I am VERY interested in holsitic and alternative medicine and the more I am learning about nursing--the more I wonder if I will be headed in the wrong direction. At the same time I can see how having a nursing liscence will give me the chance to explore holistic medicine in the future--like all of you on this forum! I am wondering if I should maybe go to get my masters in TCM and go the accupuncture route instead of becoming an RN. ANy thoughts or experiences? I don't know too much about the job market for this kind of career so I am a bit nervous about it. I am positive health care is for me but I am much more interested in natural healing, nutrition, etc and I am realizing that as a RN I may not be involved in that at all.

    I just feel like my family and friends are kinda pushing me to just do the RN thing and think I am being totally insane for turning in a new direction after a year and half of pre-reqs and changing my life plans to become a nurse. I see their point--it makes sense to just go and get my RN degree and work. I have no money since I have been at school and am sick of awful waitressing jobs! They are also worried I will put money and time into a three year TCM program and have a tough time getting a job. I am trying to find info about what the job market is like but am having a tough time.

    Any of your thoughts on this subject would be so helpful to me! I am at a crossroads. I am having a hard time figuring out what my gut is telling me and I feel all this pressure to make a decision now before I go any further.
    Thank you so much!!

    -Zen Student
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    About ZenStudent

    Joined: Dec '07; Posts: 39; Likes: 9

    18 Comments

  3. by   CanyonWren
    Hi Zen Student --

    I don't have a lot of advice for you, but I just wanted to reach out because what you're writing sounds a lot like what I have been wanting to write. The difference I have from you is that I already made the decision (despite some of the same misgivings you described) to go ahead and start an ADN program. I too have a previous bachelor's degree. I am now finishing up my first year of nursing school, and I'm halfway done.

    I go back and forth about what I think of my decision. TCM is not the only holistic specialty I've thought of, I'm also interested in CranioSacral Therapy ... but I have been practicing Tai Chi and Qi Gong and feel a lot of resonance with these practices. I definitely feel a lot of difference between how I'm oriented and where a lot of my fellow students are at, though I think they're going to be awesome nurses. Maybe they'll just be more suited to a telemetry floor at the local hospital than I am.

    I'm hoping to go a lot further in my study of Tai Chi and Qi Gong. I have broad, vast altruistic visions for what could be done with integrating a nursing degree with Chinese healing practices ... but so far, one year into nursing school, I'm still not sure how it will all take shape.

    I do know that reading your post I feel like there are more people out there who are thinking like I am, and I think it's a wise track for us to be on. We just have to keep in touch with each other along the way and help this movement of integrating western medicine with holistic medicine.

    I'm not going to tell you what decision to make. Good luck on that. But one thought that influenced me is that being an RN will always give you more credibility to those who doubt your expertise, especially those skeptical of holistic medicine. And there are some really good, nuts-and-bolts things that you learn in nursing school. Western medicine is pretty good at saving people's lives when all else fails. It can't hurt to know that stuff.

    Anyway, blessings on your journey, whatever path you choose to take.
  4. by   ZenStudent
    Thank you so much for your reply! It is good to know others are thinking about the same things. I do think I will end up going ahead with the ADN program--you are right that it is a good background to have and will certainly give us more credibility in the future. I think for now I will continue to read up on Chinese medicine and other practices so that I can really decide what to pursue later on. Good luck! I am sure I'll be posting more ont his thread and hope to keep in touch as we both figure all this out
  5. by   Pele
    You are both speaking my language! I'm graduating in 2 weeks from an associate's degree program and i'm freaking out just thinking about working in a hospital giving meds i don't believe in. But I want to work and get those nuts and bolts down pat. I want to be someone who is a bridge between allopathic and natural medicine. lets keep in touch!
    Pele
  6. by   StarBelly
    Hi there, just thought I'd chime in here. I chose acupuncture over nursing 10 years ago. I am now in a nursing program, getting my BSN. For me, there are more opportunities to be part of the integration of natural therapies as an RN. And there are more opportunities in general as an RN. I didn't like being on the "fringe" as an acupuncturist. As a nurse, I can be part of the integration, like a pioneer. As a nurse, I can collaborate, participate in research, and help bridge the gap. Nurses historically have been progressive and radical thinkers. We can really contribute to the use of holistic medicine in this country.

    If you are seriously considering acupuncture, I would recommend interviewing ten acupuncturists in your area to see if they are satisfied with their career path. When you find a successful acupuncturist, ask yourself: do I have the qualities necessary to be successful? What kind of setting do you envision yourself working in? Most acupuncturists work in "boutique" clinics, and charge a lot of money. How realistic is it for you to build a thriving practice? How many people would you have to see per week to make a decent living. How long will it take you to reach that number?

    Good luck on your decision. Let us know what you decide.
  7. by   zenman
    I had already been an RN for many years before going to an Oriental Medicine school to study acupuncture. I didn't like it as it was too theoretical for my right brain. However, we were also required to study bodywork at the same school so I went with Zen Shiatsu. I loved the Japanese approach of just getting right down to it. The first hour of class you were touching people. I dropped acupuncture and finished the Zen Shiatsu program and they made me become a teacher at the school. Lot's of fun, plus I did nursing prn.

    I probably should have been a medical anthropologist as I wanted to explore original methods of healing so I jumped into shamanism and there discovered many other physicians and psychotherapists who were searching as I was. As one psychiatrist told me, "I'm here so I can finally treat my patients."

    I'm now completing a post-masters psych NP program mainly as it was a goal I set a long time ago and I get to drive my teachers, who keep trying to slap me back into the realm of evidence-based medicine, absolutely bonkers.

    Main thing is to do what you love.
    Last edit by zenman on Sep 23, '09 : Reason: None of your business.
  8. by   pmeaden
    I am a licensed acupuncturist and I have just started an ADN program. I love Chinese medicine, and think it desperately needs to be integrated into the Western medical establishment. An issue for you to consider is your ability to make a living. Chinese medicine is a difficult profession to make a living in. As it becomes integrated more thoroughly into our culture there will be more opportunity to get salary positions. Currently you will most likely be an entrepreneur and your income will be limited by how many patients per week you are able to see, and then how much disposable income the community you work in has to spend on care.

    The other major issue here is Western medical providers trust of Chinese medicine. By and large they are ignorant of what it is, how it is used, and it's effectiveness. It is very difficult to get into a position where you are seen as the medical professional you are as an acupuncturist. However, if you hold an RN, then many walls will drop. You will be trusted to work in hospitals and other medical settings. Most physicians I have talked to think that what I practice is more dangerous than what they do, and that Chinese medicine is the same as placebo. It is an amazing tradition, and the main reason it gets pushed aside in the states is because the medical establishment is protecting their profits.

    Incidentally, in China, most traditional medicine providers study a great deal of Western medical science as part of their training. Some are MDs first, and then specialize in herbal medicine or acupuncture. So, if you get an RN first, your training will be more close to what providers in China recieve.

    Finally, you'll be able to pay for your education as you get it instead of going into debt if you have an RN. I spent $80,000 on my Masters of Science of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and won't be able to think about paying that back until I get a job as an RN. Keep those practical considerations in mind. If I had to do it over again I would get my RN first and then get my acupuncture license.

    Good luck!! By studying Chinese medicine you will be learning the oldest, most used, and most highly developed medicine that mankind has ever created. It is very safe, highly effective, and low cost. When Western medicine and Chinese medicine are used together in a truly integrated fashion, the results for the patient are often better than what either one could do alone.
  9. by   pmeaden
    A couple more things...

    I know a few physicians from China who worked in hospitals as traditional medicine providers there for 10 years or more. When they came to the states they were unable to get work as medical professionals here even if they went through the licensing process. They ended up going back to school so they could get a job.

    Also, none of the classes you take in your acupuncture program are likely to transfer to any other school if you choose to go back to school at a later date. None of the classes I took for my masters degree have transferred to my nursing degree. There is no acupuncture school in the country with the accreditation necessary for classes to transfer to other institutions. I have yet to find an organization that will even recognize that I have a valid masters degree. This is after I went to school 4 years straight will little break.
  10. by   zenman
    Quote from pmeaden

    Also, none of the classes you take in your acupuncture program are likely to transfer to any other school if you choose to go back to school at a later date. None of the classes I took for my masters degree have transferred to my nursing degree. There is no acupuncture school in the country with the accreditation necessary for classes to transfer to other institutions. I have yet to find an organization that will even recognize that I have a valid masters degree. This is after I went to school 4 years straight will little break.
    Didn't you know going in that it wasn't a valid masters degree from a university?
  11. by   J9G2008
    To the OP: There is a place for holistic medicine in regular hospitals, and their role is expanding all the time. One of my favorite hospitals in Cincinnati has a holistic department, and their staff offer Reiki, touch therapy, massage, etc. I'm sure there is some acceptance of nutritional therapies, too, but I haven't used that aspect much. I am a nursing student, and I am leaning toward wanting to explore the holistic side as well, but I also realize that the more I know of the medical issues, what drugs can/can't do, the better off I will be as a professional giving advice to my patients. Plus, I can pay my bills! : )
  12. by   moriahc
    I am so happy to have found this forum. I have been in this same dilemma for years. I have a degree in Biology and I love both western and eastern medicine, although I disagree with a lot of western med's treatment methods (ie. treating symptoms vs. the problem). Either way, I respect both styles of medicine! I would have launched full throttle into acupuncture school, but the debt and prospect of running my own business frightens me. I have been advised by multiple people to do nursing first (probably ADN), for all the obvious reasons already mentioned My biggest obstacle would be getting over all squeemishness though first!

    What I want to know though is how do you incorporate the two fields? The only plan I know of would be to work as a nurse full time for a year or two and then go PRN while attending acu school, maintaining both a nursing job and a fledgling acu practice. Are there better ways?

    I would love for this thread to be a formal group somewhere, so we can follow what each other is doing along the way...it can sometimes feel very isolating to be on the fringe of two medical worlds, especially one that is not fully accepted yet (it was just last weekend that my husband's brother, who is a doctor, warned me about the astragalus tincture i was taking )
  13. by   touchhealth
    Hi!

    I understand the dilemma. After much debate between Western/Alternative medicine I decided the RN degree would provide the best professional foundation for my holistic work. I really want these methods of healing outside the western medical model to be available to everyone. Personally, I liked the idea of integrating from within hospital system.

    I am also a certified massage therapist and volunteer with a hospital massage team. Please take a look at the Institute for Health and Healing program at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. It's an amazing and inspirational model for an integrated, team-approach to patient care (both inpatient and outpatient services). You can read the practitioner bios and see some examples of how others have blended alternative/CAM therapies with Western medicine.

    http://www.cpmc.org/services/ihh/

    They've been providing inpatient massage therapy for almost 30 years!!

    Good luck on your path,

    :redpinkhe
  14. by   freeflowchi
    Quote from pmeaden
    A couple more things...

    I know a few physicians from China who worked in hospitals as traditional medicine providers there for 10 years or more. When they came to the states they were unable to get work as medical professionals here even if they went through the licensing process. They ended up going back to school so they could get a job.

    Also, none of the classes you take in your acupuncture program are likely to transfer to any other school if you choose to go back to school at a later date. None of the classes I took for my masters degree have transferred to my nursing degree. There is no acupuncture school in the country with the accreditation necessary for classes to transfer to other institutions. I have yet to find an organization that will even recognize that I have a valid masters degree. This is after I went to school 4 years straight will little break.
    This is not correct. I believe Pacific University in San Diego, NYC and Chigaco has western science classes that are accredited.

    However, I agree that you should do nursing first. It makes more sense financially. I have been an acupuncturist for over eight years and finished my ADN program last May (2009) and am having a lot of trouble finding interviews. I received feedback on this site that any Master's degree threatens nurse managers. Alternative medicine is also frowned upon by many western institutions. If you can, do an accelerated BSN if you already have a bachelor's in another field.

    On a positive note, I LOVE practicing acupuncture and my clinical skills were very useful during nursing school. Send me a message if you have any more questions. I would love to speak with you.

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