Amanda Tsangarides, an Australian acupuncturist was kind enough to answer my questions about acupuncture “Down Under.” Amanda practices in Darwin, Northern Territory and has been practicing there for the past 7 years.
Like the United States and Canada, the most common business model is an acupuncturist practicing in their own clinic. The multi-modality model where there are clinics offering a variety of complementary health services is becoming more popular there. Acupuncture models are changing. Amanda says, “In just the past year or so, we’ve had an acupuncturist do enough research in an oncology ward to demonstrate benefit of having an acupuncturist working in the hospital – it’s a very exciting step forward, but largely a rarity.”
Australia is working on guidelines for acupuncture licensing. These are expected with in the year. Currently, the professional membership association has determined that minimum requirements for membership are a three to four year program with a few thousand hours of clinical internship in the last year and half. In addition, many students have the opportunity to do internships in a Chinese hospital which will increase their clinic hours. If a practitioner wishes to have Private Health Insurance Provider status they must be a member of the professional organization.
Although practitioners can get Private Health Insurance Provider status, patients typically pay the provider but are then potentially eligible for rebates on their treatments, depending upon their level of insurance. The government health system only pays for acupuncture if it is performed by a medical doctor. Doctors can practice with a minimal amount of acupuncture training in Australia.
Amanda says she became interested in acupuncture when at the age of 12 she chipped her tail bone. She was quickly pain free. She was assisted through the hormonal changes of puberty through acupuncture and herbal medicine as well. She decided from these early experiences that this was a medicine that she wanted to know more about.
Australia is such a diverse place that I asked where most acupuncturists were centered. They are primarily centered in the more populated areas but people from rural areas often travel long distances for a variety of services. In general acupuncture is well received and acupuncture clinics are showing up next door to invitro fertilization clinics.
In Amanda’s area, there are over 120,000 people and only six acupuncturists. She says that specialization is not something that is needed with those kinds of numbers. Educating patients is a big part of her practice and people really value her efforts in supporting a smaller town where she provides a regular monthly service. She has a wide network of complementary providers who work together to provide the best services and care they can for their patients.
All in all, the business of being an acupuncturist in Australia seems very much like the business of being an acupuncturist in the United States and Canada.