How to Thrive in Pediatric Acupuncture by Luriko Ozeki, L.Ac.
Are you considering expanding your practice to include pediatrics, but not sure if it’s the right path for you? Or, you’re excited by the possibilities, but have no idea where to begin? Maybe you’ve been doing pediatrics for a while, but aren’t experiencing the success and satisfaction you anticipated in your work with children? Based on my own hard-earned experiences, the following 5 best practices are essential to building a thriving pediatric acupuncture practice helping kids and their families!
Best Practice No. 1: Cultivate a love and respect for kids
As you already know from treating adults, Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) is about the exchange of Qi. Because children are so pure and alive, this dynamism is even more profound when you interact with them. Even as infants, kids are highly sensitive and perceptive. Thus, if your heart and mind aren’t fully present, they will sense it immediately and your treatments may not be as effective as you hope. You may connect with your adult patients through conversation, but you can’t rely only on verbal communication with kids. It comes down to your Qi - your touch, your attention, and your intention. Kids will know when you are with them in the moment, lost in thought or speaking only to their parents. If you are unsure of yourself around children, start by getting comfortable in treating your own child or babies and kids of your friends and relatives. Observe, play with them, and attempt gentle, simple tuina techniques to develop a gentle touch. Cultivating a daily practice of qi gong, tai chi, or meditation may assist you in finding the centeredness you need to work with these highly charged, often energetic individuals. Playfulness is at the heart of every child, so become attuned to the play in yourself. Remember: once upon a time, you were a kid too.
Best Practice No. 2: Master non-needle techniques.
Most people have an aversion to needles, and kids are no exception. Some kids are very frightened of needles, often due to traumatic experiences with medical tests and vaccine shots at their pediatrician’s office. Moreover, many young children won’t sit or stand still, even for a minute. Acupuncture can’t be the only tool in your tool kit. It will serve you well to master other child-friendly therapeutics such as tuina, cupping, guasha, massage, moxa, laser* and shonishin. Shonishin is Japanese for “pediatric needle.” The name is a misnomer since there actually are no needles in this technique. In the 17th century, to induce effects similar to those of needling, Japanese acupuncturists devised this system specifically for children. Some good references to learn shonishin are Steve Birch’s book, Shonishin: Japanese Pediatric Acupuncture (comes with a DVD), Thomas Werwicke’s book, Shonishin: The Art of Non-Invasive Paediatric Acupuncture, and the exceptionally talented, American acupuncturist, Soma Glick, currently offers hands-on live shonishin workshops and OM classes (somadevi.com).
Best Practice No. 3: Become skilled in Pediatric Acupuncture.
This sounds obvious, but there’s more to it. Children are not little adults - meaning the TCM you learned in school is not necessarily appropriate or relevant to the treatment of kids. Children possess unique characteristics that distinguish their patterns of illness and development from those of adults. Along with gaining a deep understanding of Pediatric Acupuncture, learning how to engage a child’s amazingly vibrant yang qi, diagnosing through touch, observation, smell, adroitly interviewing the child and his or her parents – together these represent the keys to effective treatment and a successful practice.
There is much to learn, and in addition to the resources listed in Best Practice 2, look for teachings and classes offered by these wonderful pioneers in pediatric acupuncture and TEAM: Efrem Korngold (chinesemedicineworks.com) and Stephen Cowan (stephencowanmd.com), Robin Ray Green (acupuncturepediatrics.com), Bob Flaws and his Pediatrics CE course through Blue Poppy(bluepoppy.com), the late Alex Tiberi’s pediatric CE course through PCOM (pacificcenterforlifelonglearning.com). For your library, add these books: Julian Scott’s Acupuncture in The Treatment of Children, Bob Flaw’s A Handbook of TCM Pediatrics, May Loo’s Pediatric Acupuncture, Elisa Rossi’s Pediatrics in Chinese Medicine, Stephen Cowan’s Fire Child Water Child. (If you know of other individuals/organizations and books that can help further all of us pediatric specialists, please, leave a comment below with your recommendations so that we can all keep learning from our contemporary experts.)
Best Practice No. 4: Market Yourself to Your Target Audience
Pediatric Acupuncture is a specialty getting greater traction with the Traditional East Asian Medicine community here in the United States. The public, on the other hand, is almost completely unaware of the existence of PA, or the mere fact that you can use TEAM to treat children. There is a LOT of education to be done, then, for raising awareness of PA, particularly among parents and grandparents, teachers and even other pediatricians. Even adults who’ve been successfully treated by TEAM do not consider bringing their child---simply because they don’t know children can be treated by us! With PA, acupuncturists have an opportunity to help kids become healthier and support their optimal development---to be a pivot to changing this country’s rising chronic health problems. Let’s bridge that gap with our medicine, our passion and targeted public education! Consider developing a PA-specific brochure and/or update your website to prominently highlight your pediatric focus. Creating an Ideal Patient Profile will also help tremendously to attract kids and their parents that you want to see and work with every day.
These methods helped me tremendously in expanding my own pediatric practice:
- Educate a willing audience: your adult patients. Planting a seed in them about PA helps them become goodwill ambassadors to spread the word.
- Include asking for referrals as part of your patient management once you start getting pediatric patients in the door.
- Schedule public speaking engagements geared for parents regarding PA at your local library, family-friendly festivals, farmers markets, children’s stores, holistic health fares, etc.
- Reach out to preschools, “Mommy and Me” groups, schools and other organizations that serve parents or children. Offer to do parent-education classes on PA, Real Food nutrition, pediatric massage, Five Elements, or how to treat certain conditions using PA.
- Connect with like-minded pediatricians, gastroenterologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, allergists, and ENT doctors. Educate them about what you do and that you’re here to support them and their pediatric patients. A good place to start networking would be with your pediatric patients’ HCPs. This will create a referral pipeline. The same goes with teaming up with other local acupuncturists. Many will happily send their patients’ kids to you. As with all referrals, thank them back with your own referrals to them whenever possible.
- Donate pediatric wellness sessions to your local school’s silent auctions.
- If you’re a parent, become active in your local moms/dads Facebook and Meet Up groups. More and more mommy-only/daddy-only groups are popping up by interest and by location, so become a member and be the friendly voice of holistic medicine. (Or start one if there isn’t one in your area!)
- Advertise in your local children/parenting magazines.
- Send out periodic newsletters or communication from your office educating your readers about all thing pediatrics and TEAM.
- Create a series of articles in your blog to educate the public about a certain pediatric condition, nutrition, or anything you think parents would want to learn about. Then plug in your series to your brochures, during your talks, on social media, in your newsletters, or as part of your Welcome New Patient packet so that you can set yourself as an expert in this field and also to keep driving interest back to your website. (Here are mine for example: http://bit.ly/SADdiet. I am big on nutrition, so I created an 8-part series on Healthy, Happy Eating for the Whole Family To Enjoy. I am also currently writing a 12-part series on Leaky Gut: http://bit.ly/leakygutwhatisit.)
Best Practice No. 5: Welcome Abundance
Finally, to thrive in any practice---adult or pediatrics---depends greatly upon your willingness to accept abundance. If you have any negative beliefs or pessimistic expectations that are inhibiting you from believing in your own success, they must be overcome. Some practical ways to extricate these negative beliefs from your mind may include working with a business/life coach, reading self-improvement books, meditation, talking to other successful business people, getting assistance from your local SBA. Next to Best Practice 1, this is one of the most fundamental ingredients for a thriving pediatric practice. As with any practice, building a pediatric practice takes time. Take advantage of down time to work on Best Practice 1, 2 ,3, and 5, and to lay down your marketing groundwork, i.e. Best Practice 4. If you put in the time now, your practice will grow, and when you get busy, it’ll be difficult to keep up with your studies and marketing later on. Creating an annual marketing calendar booked with activities is invaluable to help you stay at the forefront of people’s minds. Havingone-year and five-year business plans will also help you stay on track with your financial goals. But check in periodically with yourself to see if your timetable, goals and needs continue to makes sense to you. If they don’t, simply adjust accordingly. That way, you can make sure you have a secure pipeline of patients coming throughout the year through all the avenues you create that are in alignment with your true self. Then pretty soon, you’ll be spending very little time marketing because most of your referrals will be word of mouth, and you will spend most of your time doing what you love – helping kids and families get healthier and happier! *Check your state’s regulations on the use of lasers. Laser use is prohibited in the state of California for acupuncturists.
Luriko P. Ozeki, L.Ac., is a board licensed adult and pediatric acupuncturist, physician of Oriental Medicine, educator, public speaker and mom. She the rare acupuncturist who specializes in holistic pediatrics. Her gentle treatments for pediatric conditions emphasize non-needling techniques, Real food nutrition, and natural, herbal medicine to promote calm, resilient, and healthy children for happy families. Fluent in Spanish and Japanese, she practices in Los Angeles, CA.
You can find more information about Loriko and her clinic Iyashi Wellness here: www.iyashiwellness.com or connect with her online at:
Luriko's clinics are located in West Los Angeles & Westchester/near LAX