Acupuncture education standards in Australia: A critical review

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Journal Article
Australian Journal of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, 2011, 6 (1), pp. 3 - 15
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The implementation of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for the Health Professions incorporates the registration of acupuncturists under the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia from 1 July 2012. Other registered health professionals will still be able to use the title acupuncturist if their board determines that they are suitably qualified to have their registration endorsed for acupuncture. This paper aims to identify the various education and training standards underpinning the practice of acupuncture among the health professions in Australia and create a reference point to determine the impact of registration on future acupuncture education standards. A literature search was conducted to identify scholarly works on acupuncture education standards as well as a search of standard setting bodies and course providers. Results were tabulated for comparison. There is very little literature on acupuncture education standards in Australia despite its practice by a diverse range of health professions. Acupuncture practitioners can be categorised into four groups: Chinese medicine practitioners, medical practitioners, registered allied health practitioners and non-registered health practitioners. The highest education standards are demonstrated by Chinese medicine practitioners who typically complete at least a four year undergraduate degree, whereas the latter two groups appear to favour two or three day continuing professional development courses despite the availability of post-graduate programs. The standards for medical practitioners are obscured by a non-transparent accreditation process. Restriction of title registration in Victoria has coincided with a trend for these short courses to be described as 'dry needling' rather than acupuncture, thus circumventing the education standards, regulatory processes and protection of public health and safety which underpins occupational regulation. National boards will need to collaborate and carefully consider their acupuncture accreditation standards if they are to fulfil the objectives of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme.
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