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A funny thing happened the other day. I woke up one morning to find it was January 2008. 2008! Have three years really gone by already? Back in January 2005 I’d just started classes here at AAAOM. At that time actually treating patients was just a far-off dream. Now, three short years later, I’m logging hours as a clinic intern.

On one hand it seems like only yesterday I was even considering a career in acupuncture. Back then I didn’t know the difference between Kidney Yin and Kidney Yang or whether the Spleen meridian started on the face or the foot, and I thought hypochondriac pain was the pain felt by people who thought they were sick all of the time. When visiting the school’s clinic for the first time I remember observing the eye-popping needling techniques of Dr. Chi and thinking, “My God, will I actually know how to do that someday?”

The years that have flown by were actually jammed with months of studying and hard work in the classroom. But I’ve found going from classroom to clinic to be the most important step in learning TCM. Clinic internship has been my chance to take all I’ve learned in all of those long hours of study and put it to the test practicing on real patients.

Now that I’m into my second trimester as an intern in the student clinic I can say I have been faced with many challenges, successes and also frustrations. What I’ve found to be the most helpful in my learning process is to remember these few bits of advice: Expectations are the source of suffering. Listen; really listen. Have self-confidence yet keep an open mind. Remain open to the possibility that the books, the supervisors, and you might be right. Remain open to the possibility that the books, the supervisors, and you might be wrong. Have patience. Don’t let fear interfere. Trust your abilities and your instincts. Dive in! Knowing comes from doing. Ask questions! Remember there are many ways up the mountain. Remember the mountain might be gone tomorrow. Nothing stays the same. Ask for what you want. Speak from the heart. Take responsibility for your actions. Take advantage of every resource. You get out what you put in. Practice.

Clinic practice has its many and varied challenges, it’s true. But at the end of the day I love it and know I am on my way to becoming a real-life practitioner of TCM.


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