Many patients seek acupuncture to help manage their chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) and pain. How can nurses help patients find a qualified practitioner who understands the needs of oncology patients? —Name withheld on request
The National Cancer Institute recommends patients seek treatment from a qualified acupuncture practitioner who uses a new set of disposable (single-use) needles for each patient. AcuFinder.com is an online acupuncture referral service. The search page lists several criteria for refining your search, such as location, style of acupuncture, and technique. Its Area of Expertise menu includes “Oncology Support.” Search results include contact information, profile of the practitioner, link to practitioner’s web site, and directions.
Acupuncturists may be licensed (L.Ac.) or certified, and patients should understand the difference when considering a practitioner. Although requirements to be a licensed acupuncturist in the United States are regulated by individual state law, general requirements include completion of an accredited acupuncture and Oriental medicine program that includes didactic instruction and clinical hours (a master’s level program) at a nationally recognized college of acupuncture, pass the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) exam, and complete continuing education courses to maintain their license.
Certified acupuncturists may be chiropractors and physicians who completed additional training. They are required to complete a certificate program, which can be completed in home study. They are not required to pass the NCCAOM certification exam, nor are they required to complete continuing education to maintain their certification.
Lastly, patients should ask their health insurance provider whether their plan covers complimentary and alternative medicines. Most insurance plans do not at this time; however, portions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may lead to changes in some states. —The Editors