TCM Practitioner

A practitioner of Chinese medicine is an individual licensed to provide health care by using techniques of Oriental medicine. These practitioners perform acupuncture and massage, prescribe Chinese herbs, teach Qi Gong, and provide dietary and lifestyle advice.

Who May Practice Traditional Chinese Medicine?

While acupuncture is a highly regulated and licensed activity in most states, many of the other modalities that encompass Oriental Medicine such as herbal medicine and Qi Gong may be practiced without a license in some jurisdictions. In many states, medical doctors, osteopathic physicians, and chiropractors may practice acupuncture and other Oriental medicine techniques with little or no training.

TCM Education

There are about 50 schools of acupuncture and Oriental medicine in the United States, some of which teach acupuncture only. The Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM) requires that accredited professional programs in Oriental Medicine be 4 academic years in length and be at least 2175 hours. Students entering these programs must have completed at least 2 years of study at the college level.

Programs must train students sufficiently in the history of Oriental Medicine, Basic Oriental Medicine Theory, Diagnostic Skills, Acupuncture Techniques, Herbal Medicine, Treatment Planning, Ethics and Safety, Biomedical Clinical Sciences, Nutrition, Qi Gong, Basic Counseling and Communication Skills, and Clinical Training.

Clinical internship is also required. Students graduating from approved programs are awarded a diploma, certificate, or degree according to the laws of the state. At this point, the highest level of training is the master's degree, though the profession is designing a doctoral level program. The Accreditation Commission's preferred designation for graduates of Oriental Medicine programs is Master of Oriental Medicine.

TCM Certification and Licensure

Most states recognize and regulate the practice of Oriental Medicine (in particular its most popular component, acupuncture.). While some states have their own licensing examinations, most license practitioners after successful completion of the national certification examination in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. The National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine's (NCCAOM) administers the exam. Graduates of training programs may also elect to take the NCCAOM's Herbal Medicine certification examination. The licensure title in most states is L.Ac. (Licensed Acupuncturist), although other states have adopted titles such as Certified Acupuncturist (C.Ac.) or Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM.)

TCM Scope of Practice

The scope of practice for Chinese medicine varies from state to state. Some states, such as California and New Mexico, regulate the practice of Oriental Medicine as a primary care profession, while other states require that patients seeking the services of a Chinese medicine provider see a medical doctor first.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 08 Oct 2015