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Little Hover Commission 2004

Regulation of Acupuncture: A Complementary Therapy Framework

In SB 1951, the Legislature asked the Commission to:
"Review and make recommendations on the education requirements for acupuncturists."

In AB 1943, the Legislature asked the Commission to:
"Review increasing curriculum hours for the licensure of acupuncturists in excess of 3,000 hours up to 4,000 hours to fully and effectively provide health services under their scope of practice."

Finding 2: The new 3,000-hour educational requirement is adequate to prepare entry-level practitioners and to protect the public safety.

Requiring specific education and other training is one way that government regulators can establish minimum competencies among entry-level professionals. A primary goal of educational requirements is to provide some assurance that new entrants to a profession have the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary to safely practice.

According to the Center for the Health Professions at the University of California, education and training hours should be based on the "legitimate length of time necessary to learn the respective knowledge bases and skills."59 And the standard for professional licensing is to ensure that incoming licensees can perform the legally authorized scope of practice as entry-level practitioners.60

In this way, educational requirements link the legal scope of practice and the licensure examination. These three regulatory tools need to be aligned to prepare practitioners so a minimum threshold of public safety is satisfied.

Given this baseline, policy-makers should increase educational requirements if existing standards are inadequate to support minimum competencies for the existing scope of practice, or if the scope of practice is expanded or changed.

An overarching guidepost for this and other regulatory decisions is fairness.61 That standard is grounded in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and has been applied by the courts to the regulation ofprofessionals. Specifically:

In the context of professional licensure, the due process clause imposes three essential requirements: specificity, rationality, and fairness. Specificity means that the standards used by a licensing board in its decision to grant, deny, suspend, renew, or revoke a license must be clear and intelligible in order to be constitutionally acceptable. In order to be rational, the standards must be reasonably related to the professional practice, and the ultimate goal of protecting the public welfare. Fairness, although more difficult to define, concerns the composition of the licensing board, the procedures it uses, and how and when a decision by the board can be appealed to a higher authority.62

Finally, as it relates to the education of acupuncturists, the primary goal of competency in acupuncture needs to be augmented by the ability to communicate and coordinate care with the fundamentally different Western health care system. Just as this nexus is contentious in discussions regarding the scope of practice, this intersection is contentious in policies regarding educational standards.



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