An acupuncturist


An Acupuncturist is a healthcare professional who practices acupuncture, a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate energy flow, promote healing, and alleviate various health conditions. Acupuncturists consider the body’s energy pathways, or meridians, and aim to restore balance for overall well-being.

Includes doctors of medicine or other healthcare professionals who perform acupuncture.

Acupuncturists typically do the following:

  • Conduct thorough assessments of patients’ health, considering physical, emotional, and lifestyle factors.
  • Develop individualized treatment plans based on Traditional Chinese Medicine principles and acupuncture techniques.
  • Insert thin, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points on the body to stimulate energy flow.
  • Evaluate patients’ responses to treatment and adjust plans accordingly.
  • Offer guidance on lifestyle changes, including diet, exercise, and stress management.
  • Educate patients about the principles of acupuncture and its potential benefits.
  • Collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as Western medical doctors, when necessary.
  • Stay updated on advancements in acupuncture research and techniques.
  • Adhere to ethical standards and legal regulations in the practice of acupuncture.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to acupuncturist:

acupuncture specialist
acupuncture practitioner
expert in acupuncture
advanced acupuncturist
expert acupuncturist
specialist in acupuncture
practitioner of acupuncture
acupuncture therapist

Working conditions

Acupuncturists may work in private practices, holistic health clinics, or integrative healthcare settings. The working conditions can vary, and practitioners may need to adapt to the preferences and needs of their clients. The role may involve flexible hours, including evenings and weekends, to accommodate patients’ schedules.

Minimum qualifications

To become an Acupuncturist, individuals typically need formal education and training in acupuncture. This may include completing a degree program in acupuncture from an accredited institution. Additionally, practitioners often undergo clinical training and gain hands-on experience under the guidance of experienced acupuncturists. Licensing or certification requirements may vary by location, and practitioners should adhere to the regulations in their region. Continuous learning, attending workshops, and staying connected with the acupuncture community contribute to the ongoing success of Acupuncturists in providing holistic and effective healthcare.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Acupuncturist is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Acupuncturist career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to acupuncturist.

Traditional Chinese medicine therapist
specialist biomedical scientist

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of acupuncturist.

  • Pathologies treated by acupuncture: The types and range of conditions, such as physical pain, headaches, back pain, allergies, addictions, digestive problems or colds, are treated by acupuncture.
  • Complementary and alternative medicine: Medical practices which are not part of the standard care in healthcare.
  • Biomedicine: The study of the human body in relation to medicine and the environment. This includes the applications and practices involved in biological and natural sciences.
  • Health care legislation: The patients` rights and responsibilities of health practitioners and the possible repercussions and prosecutions in relation to medical treatment negligence or malpractice.
  • Traditional Chinese medicine: Theories of traditional Chinese medical practices that put emphasis on various mind and body practices, as well as herbal medicine to treat or prevent various health problems.
  • Human physiology: The science that studies the human organs and its interactions and mechanisms.
  • Sterilization techniques: The methods and techniques used to destroy or remove microorganisms such as viruses and bacteria that can contaminate medical instruments or any type of material in a health care setting.
  • Human anatomy: The dynamic relationship of human structure and function and the muscosceletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, urinary, reproductive, integumentary and nervous systems; normal and altered anatomy and physiology throughout the human lifespan.
  • Acupuncture methods: Techniques and methods used to normalise the flow of Qi energy in the body for relieving pain and related symptoms by applying various specific types of needles into different acupuncture points.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of acupuncturist.

  • Select acupuncture points: Based on the examination of the patient and his/her symptoms, decide on which acupuncture points to be stimulated and with what technique.
  • Empathise with the healthcare user: Understand the background of clients` and patients’ symptoms, difficulties and behaviour. Be empathetic about their issues; showing respect and reinforcing their autonomy, self-esteem and independence. Demonstrate a concern for their welfare and handle according to the personal boundaries, sensitivities, cultural differences and preferences of the client and patient in mind.
  • Obtain healthcare user’s medical status information: Gather healthcare user information through various sources such as questioning the healthcare user, caregiver, or healthcare professional to obtain information on the patient`s health and social status, and interpreting records made by other health care professionals when appropriate.
  • Manage healthcare users’ data: Keep accurate client records that also satisfy legal and professional standards and ethical obligations in order to facilitate client management, ensuring that all clients’ data (including verbal, written and electronic) are treated confidentially.
  • Maintain work area cleanliness: Keep the working area and equipment clean and orderly.
  • Apply acupuncture: Use procedures involving the stimulation of anatomical points on the body by various techniques, such as penetrating the skin with thin, metallic needles manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation to relieve pain or achieve other therapeutic benefits.
  • Provide health education: Provide evidence-based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
  • Identify customer’s needs: Use appropriate questions and active listening in order to identify customer expectations, desires and requirements according to products and services.
  • Undertake healthcare examination: Assess the healthcare user’s physical state, taking detailed information on previous injuries, surgery, general health, resources and lifestyle into account.
  • Develop therapeutic relationships: Maintain the individual therapeutic relationship to engage the individual’s innate healing capacities, to achieve active collaboration in the health education and healing process and to maximise the potential of healthy change.
  • Follow clinical guidelines: Follow agreed protocols and guidelines in support of healthcare practice, which are provided by healthcare institutions, professional associations, or authorities and also scientific organisations.
  • Advise on healthcare users’ informed consent: Ensure patients/clients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of proposed treatments so they can give informed consent, engaging patients/clients in their care and treatment process.
  • Follow-up on healthcare users’ treatment: Review and evaluate the progress of the prescribed treatment, taking further decisions with the healthcare users and their carers.
  • Advise on mental health: Advise persons of all ages and groups in terms of the health-promoting aspects of individual behaviour and institutions with regard to the personal, social and structural factors on physical and mental health.
  • Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
  • Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
  • Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
  • Observe healthcare users: Observe healthcare users and record significant conditions and reactions to drugs, treatments, and significant incidents, notifying a supervisor or physician when required.
  • Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carers, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguard confidentiality.
  • Ensure safety of healthcare users: Ensure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
  • Develop a collaborative therapeutic relationship: Develop a mutually collaborative therapeutic relationship during treatment, fostering and gaining healthcare users’ trust and cooperation.
  • Apply context-specific clinical competences: Apply professional and evidence-based assessment, goal setting, delivery of intervention and evaluation of clients, taking into account the developmental and contextual history of the clients, within one`s own scope of practice.
  • Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare-related professions.
  • Accept own accountability: Accept accountability for one`s own professional activities and recognise the limits of one`s own scope of practice and competencies.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of acupuncturist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Electrical stimulation in acupuncture: The technique used in acupuncture where electric conducting pads are placed on a skin area and a low-frequency electric current is passed through it to stimulate the acupuncture points.
  • Phytotherapy: The characteristics, the effects and the use of herbal medicines.
  • Administrative tasks in a medical environment: The medical administrative tasks such as registration of patients, appointment systems, record keeping of patients’ information and repeated precribing.
  • General medicine: General medicine is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
  • Multi-professional cooperation in health care: How to behave during team meetings, visits and meetings in multi-professional cooperation especially with other health professionals.
  • Therapeutic massage: Massage techniques used to relieve pain and alleviate other symptoms associated with a number of different medical conditions.
  • Tai chi: The traditional medicine practice, originally conceived as a martial art based on Chinese philosophical principles and known for its defense training and health benefits.
  • Auriculotherapy: Alternative medicine therapy which has as its basis the idea that the ear is a microsystem that represents the entire body. Thus the physical, mental or emotional health conditions can be treated from the ear surface by means of reflexology and acupuncture.
  • Dietetics: The human nutrition and dietary modification for optimising health in clinical or other environments. The role of nutrition in promoting health and preventing illness across the life spectrum.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of acupuncturist. However, mastering these skills and competences gives you more opportunities for career development.

  • Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
  • Ensure proper appointment administration: Set up a proper procedure to manage appointments, including policies related to cancellation and non-appearance.
  • Conduct cupping therapy: Perform cupping therapy by means of a local suction on a skin area with the aid of a glass, therapy which increases the flow of blood to the area being treated, allowing treatment for several conditions.
  • Process medical insurance claims: Contact the patient`s health insurance company and submit the appropriate forms with information on the patient and treatment.
  • Record healthcare users’ billing information: Record the healthcare user`s information for the billing of provided medical services.
  • Work in a multicultural environment in health care: Interact, relate and communicate with individuals from various cultures, when working in a healthcare environment.
  • Promote inclusion: Promote inclusion in health care and social services and respect diversity of beliefs, culture, values and preferences, considering the importance of equality and diversity issues.
  • Offer advice on diet-related concerns: Offer advice on dietary concerns such as overweight or elevated cholesterol levels.
  • Employ foreign languages in care: Communicate in foreign languages with healthcare users, their carers, or service providers. Use foreign languages to facilitate patient care according to the patient’s needs.
  • Refer healthcare users: Make referrals to other professionals, based on the healthcare user’s requirements and needs, especially when recognising that additional healthcare diagnostics or interventions are required.
  • Apply massage therapy: Apply massage therapy to relieve a patient’s pain by using various specialised techniques.

ISCO group and title

2230 – Traditional and complementary medicine professionals

  1. Acupuncturist – ESCO
  2. Acupuncture – Johns Hopkins Medicine
  3. Featured image: By Official Navy Page from United States of America – Dominique Pineiro/U.S. Navy – Cmdr. Yevsey Goldberg conducts an acupuncture procedure., Public Domain
Last updated on April 15, 2024

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