Acupuncture is an ancient part of Chinese medicine that uses sterile needles and pressure points to heal the body of back pain, nausea, headaches and more, while promoting total body wellness, according to Education Portal. Though this type of non-traditional medicine is considered controversial in Western countries, many doctors and nurse practitioners are choosing to become certified as acupuncturists.
Acupuncture first reached the United States when Chinese doctors began immigrating to the U.S. in the early 1800s, but it still remained unknown for decades. In 1972, according to Insights-for-Acupuncturists.com, a journalist who had traveled to China with President Nixon’s secretary of state, Henry A. Kissinger, wrote an article about acupuncture in the New York Times. Since then, acupuncture's popularity has surged. According to Education Portal, almost half of company health insurance plans covered acupuncture by 2004, and the number of acupuncture practitioners in the U.S. grew 32 percent between 2002 and 2007.
A growing number of nurse practitioners are obtaining acupuncture certification for numerous reasons. With a certification, they widen their scope of knowledge in an increasingly popular area of medicine, and they add a unique attribute to their resume. They look better to a larger number of prospective professionals, including physical therapists, chiropractors, dentists, psychiatrists, osteopaths, rheumatologists and more, all of which are beginning to incorporate acupuncture into their practices, states Education-Portal.
To obtain a general certification in acupuncture, you first need to complete courses and clinical practice from the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which oversees the curriculum for learning acupuncture at schools across the country, and then you must complete the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine exam. This National Certification Commission oversees certification of acupuncturists and makes sure the same guidelines are followed by all. It is possible to take the exam without taking courses from the accreditation commission if you participate in other learning or apprenticeship programs in the area of Oriental medicine or acupuncture.
If you have already obtained a master's degree in medicine or health care, you can waive numerous credits that you would otherwise have to obtain from the accreditation commission. This will significantly decrease the number of hours of coursework you are required to complete for the certification program. Or, you can obtain certification through a separate agency. For example, the American Manual Medicine Association awards certification as a Diplomat in Acupuncture to current nurses and other health professionals after they pass the National Board Certification Agency-AMMA exam.
Some states have their own guidelines and acupuncture licensing procedures. Therefore, each state’s department of health is responsible for overseeing state authorities, to make sure the licenses of acupuncturists are thorough and credible throughout the United States. Also, state requirements differ per state. Some require 300 hours of coursework and clinical practice in acupuncture, some require passing an examination, and some require both. To find out the educational requirements for acupuncture certification in your state, check with the department of health.