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Continuing Education

Little Hover Commission 2004

Regulation of Acupuncture: A Complementary Therapy Framework

In AB 1943, the Legislature asked the Commission to:
"Review the competence of licensed acupuncturists who are not subject to the 3,000-hour minimum curriculum requirement, and training, testing or continuing education that would be required for these individuals to meet the standards for continued licensure."

Finding 3: The steadily increasing educational requirements for new entrants into the acupuncture profession potentially creates different levels of competency, and could confuse or mislead the public regarding the knowledge, skills and ability of those previously licensed.

In 1985 and again in 2002, the minimum educational requirements imposed on applicants for licensure were increased substantially.

When the first California licenses were issued in 1976, acupuncturists who could document five years of practice were "grandfathered" into licensure with no education or examination requirements. Acupuncturists who had practiced three years at an approved medical school program were similarly "grandfathered." Professionals who had practiced for two years or who had completed an acupuncture course were allowed to take an examination and be licensed.

Between 1976 and 1985, new licensees were required to have 1,350 hours of training. Since 1985, new licensees have been required to take 2,350 hours of training. And as of January 1, 2005, new entrants into acupuncture schools will be required to take 3,000 hours of schooling.

It is estimated that from 1976-1979, some 900 acupuncturists were licensed under the initial provisions.96 The Acupuncture Board estimates that 320 "grandfathered" licensees are still practicing in California. Overall, 6,428 acupuncturists are currently licensed and living in California, but the Acupuncture Board does not know how many were licensed with 1,350 hours versus 2,350 hours of training.97

The hours distinction is a surrogate for a substantial variation in the formalized training that professionals have received. Most of that additional education has been justified by expansions in the scope of practice. When the new standard goes into effect, many practitioners will have been licensed with only 1,350 hours of training, and were licensed prior to the time that acupuncturists could practice independently of MDs and were allowed to make diagnoses. Those 320 practitioners who were licensed from 1976-1979 will be practicing under the same scope of practice, and presumably some of them have even less formalized training.

Many of the professional organizations assert that existing practitioners have gained, through experience and continuing education, the knowledge that will now be required before licensure. As a result, they assert that existing practitioners should not be required to complete additional training or pass additional exams.

Acupuncture Board regulations require practitioners to take 30 hours of continuing education every two years.98 Acupuncturists must provide "certificates of completion" of approved course work as a condition of renewing their licenses every two years. Similarly, the board issues two-year approvals to continuing education providers who meet the board's requirements and pay a $150 fee. As of August 2004, the board estimates that there are 180 approved providers in California teaching some 450 approved continuing education courses meeting the following criteria:

The content of CE courses must be relevant to the practice of acupuncture and be related to the knowledge and/or technical skills required to practice acupuncture, or be related to direct and/or indirect patient care. Courses in acupuncture-practice management or medical ethics are also acceptable.99



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