Each month, ACE has decided to feature an acupuncturist to share his or her experiences, expertise, and knowledge of practicing Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine. Sometimes, the best way to grow within a profession is to learn from your fellow colleagues, and hear how they help to achieve results for their patients. Stay tuned for additional interviews with acupuncturists across the United States & Canada.
Interview with Ann McKinney, L.Ac
Welcome, Ann McKinney! Thanks for joining us for the Acupuncturist of the Month Interview.
Thank you for this opportunity!
So, how long have you been practicing acupuncture for?
What inspired you to become an acupuncturist?
I initially wanted to go to Vet school but after working with a few Veterinarians, decided I couldn’t euthanize an animal, so looked to acupuncture to work specifically on horses. The irony is that I’m so busy with people, that the only horses I work on are my own!
We noticed you are also certified in reflexology! Tell us a little bit about your certification in this area.
I decided to learn reflexology when I was in acupuncture school as I thought it was be a good combination. It’s a fascinating modality and I’ve found the knowledge so helpful. To become certified involves 4 weeks of training as well as working on clients in the school clinic to get feedback. It was amazing to discover what the foot can tell you – sciatic pain, digestive issues etc.
Do you typically integrate both treatment modalities (acupuncture & reflexology) into your patient care, or typically stick with one or the other? Why or why not?
I used to integrate both modalities until my practice became so busy that doing the reflexology on each patient after an acupuncture treatment was beginning to hurt my hands, so now I just do acupuncture unless a patient has plantar fasciitis or foot/heel pain and then I’ll do some reflexology at the end of their treatment.
In addition to practicing acupuncture and being a certified reflexologist, you are also a Certified NEAT Practitioner. Can you tell us a little bit about this certification, and how you use it to help patients?
NAET is an amazing protocol that was designed by Dr. Devi Nambudripad and I use it often to help patients with various allergies – mostly food allergies but also great for pet allergies. It’s a very specific protocol with specific points but I’ve had great success in treating patients. It does take some compliance on the part of the patient but I have found most people will do anything to not be allergic to something. I recently had a young patient come in who was allergic to the new dog in their family – thanks to NAET she no longer gets hives when her dog licks her! One of the benefits of NAET is that you can do this protocol on young patients as there is a non-needle alternative.
What is one thing about acupuncture & oriental medicine, that to this day, still amazes you?
Wow, this is a tough question to answer as there’s so many things that amaze me about TCM but I think the biggest thing is how powerful it can be – I’m in awe every day and am so grateful to continue to learn about acupuncture and oriental medicine and be able to help people reach their wellness potential.
On your journey to become an acupuncturist, what obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
I had a hard time getting my head around the language of TCM in school – such as wind/cold, dampness, Liver fire etc., but of course now it’s second nature! While in school I worked for an acupuncturist as her receptionist and found that to be very helpful – she was able to shed light on many questions I had!
Looking back, what advice would you have given to the younger version of yourself, who was just getting started in this profession?
Starting a business takes a lot of time, effort and patience – make sure you have a strong business plan and take a course in marketing as that’s the biggest obstacle to overcome.
Running a practice is not a simple or easy task – what do you feel was the biggest challenge in getting your practice up and running?
Trying to set a regular schedule – when you’re enthusiastic in the beginning, you see people any day of the week so for the first many years I worked 6 days a week and then realized I was burning out. I then changed my schedule so that I didn’t have to work weekends but could accommodate all patients by working some evenings.
What has been the most rewarding moment so far in your career as an acupuncturist & oriental medicine provider?
I think there are many moments – from converting patients who didn’t believe in acupuncture (but tried it anyway) and changing people’s lives from being in such pain on a daily basis to being out of pain and able to function – very rewarding. When people are in pain it shows on their faces and they are very unhappy so to see the light come back in to their faces and hear them laugh is amazing.
We have all occasionally had a patient come into our practice who is upset, frustrated, and a little angry. Maybe it’s from work, being stuck in traffic, or life in general – we have all been there! What advice would you give to fellow acupuncture students and/or colleagues on how to deal with a situation like this?
Let them vent and show compassion – they’ll feel so much better and their mindset will be ready for their treatment.
What condition or illness have you had good success in treating with acupuncture, and why?
I love treating musculoskeletal conditions – I took a sports medicine program which uses motor points to help with various problems – tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, sciatica etc., and have found those points to be very effective.
What are your favorite acupuncture points, and why?
One of my favorite points is Sp-9 – such a great point for draining dampness and I also use it when I’m doing knee points. I really love ear points as well as I find them very powerful – I treat many Veterans who suffer with PTSD and find the ear so good for treating that.
Sometimes, the best resource for improving our skills is by learning from the other acupuncturists we meet along our professional journey. What is one thing you learned from a fellow acupuncturist that has helped you in your professional growth, or in your care for patients?
I was lucky enough to be able to intern with an acupuncturist when I moved to the US from Canada. I have to say this was the best thing I did as I learned the business side – simple things as where to buy supplies and she also introduced me to Business Networking International, which is how I grew my practice.
Do you have any daily habits or rituals that keep you at your “best-self”, both as an acupuncture practitioner and person?
I have two horses that I ride and compete with and I find that they keep me grounded and balanced – having to be at the barn every day really helps as it’s almost like meditation for me. I also do yoga which is good for my back – standing over patients all day can be taxing on our bodies!
The kindest thing a patient said to you recently:
‘Thank you for giving me my life back’ – from a patient who had been in extreme pain for 3 years before trying acupuncture.
The funniest thing a patient said to you recently:
I give my patients buzzers and one day the buzzer went off – when I went in to ask if the patient was ok, he asked me if I could bring him a Mai Tai! I laughed my head off. All he wanted in fact was to know how long he had left as he had to be at a meeting.
If you had to choose a spirit animal, what would it be and why?
The horse – because it symbolizes personal drive and I feel I wouldn’t be where I am today without that drive 🙂