Making It Work: Reflections on Opening a Community Acupuncture Clinic

by Sean Honea L.Ac

reposted from Acupuncture Society of Virginia (ASVA), September 2017 Newsletter (page 10)

Butterfly

In June 2016, my wife and I opened Southside Community Acupuncture, LLC in Richmond, Va. Now a year later, the clinic is moving towards profitability, hallelujah, and although things have slowed down in late summer as people take those last vacations before the school year begins, we still attract new patients almost every week.

Much has changed since we opened our doors. Our fees have changed from a set rate to a sliding scale, the furniture has moved multiple times, and we have modified and upgraded our operating systems. Yet, we remain committed to providing affordable acupuncture to people who may have believed treatment was beyond their means.

During graduate school at Acupuncture and Integrative College in Berkeley, California, we were often told that going through the 3-4 year program was like running a marathon. Indeed, it takes so much of yourself just to complete your studies. Yet, you must save enough energy to pass the board exams after graduation, and then start the daunting task of opening a business, and finally, save enough energy to maintain your own health while you begin treating patients.

My wife and I signed up for an extra challenge by having a baby during our last term of school. So it became imperative that we ask for help and lean on family and friends to recover from graduate school while taking care of a newborn. We continue to be grateful for their support.

Starting your own business takes a lot of faith. I pray a lot, meditate, do affirmations, sing positive songs to my toddler, even if the sum of all those only adds up to 10 minutes a day. It makes a difference, but it's a process. Sometimes I get discouraged when the schedule isn't as full as we would like, but I try to take the long view and focus on how our patient numbers are steady or growing each week. And it is very encouraging that not only are patients referring their family and friends, but doctors, nurses, therapists and some energy workers have recommended us to their patients.

The words from my late Qigong Teacher Suzanne Friedman offer encouragement: “it takes at least 5 years to build a sustainable practice.” My wife and I have our first year down, with many lessons learned and many more to come. As we acupuncturists know, it's a privilege to do this work and take this journey.

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