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TCM and Acupuncture Education

Essential Competencies & Standards

Professional TCM practitioners and acupuncturists should meet the following criteria on completion of their training, incorporating all learning outcomes, in order to achieve the agreed professional standard of SZKMA for membership and practice. 

They should have an integrated knowledge, understanding and a systematic approach to care within the domain of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.


They should be able:

1. To demonstrate

  • An expertise in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine skills, competencies, holistic treatments, ethics and best practice in the treatment of their patients

  • An ability to assess, diagnosis and determine a treatment plan in carrying out Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine treatments, recording and evaluating such treatments.

  • An expertise in the holistic treatment of their patients, interpersonal communication, clinical management according to best practice guidelines

  • An ability to analyse sources of information critically, evaluate values, assumptions, statements of evidence in their own work and that of others.

2. To identify

  • How skills and self study can support individual practice and the practice of others by working collaboratively

  • Personal and professional development needs and address these needs

3. To recognise the limitations to current competence and to seek guidance in situations beyond experience or competence

4. To seek and understand sources of evidence to underpin complementary therapy interventions

5. To act professionally in a range of practice settings

6. To analyse existing research and conduct research in the complementary therapy field.

7. To take direction, accept criticism and use feedback to enhance own practice


WHO benchmarks for the training of acupuncture

In 1999, WHO published the Guidelines on basic training and safety in acupuncture. However, various backgrounds of acupuncture service providers were addressed inadequately in this document, and there is a lack of a defined career pathway for acupuncture providers. This updated benchmark document aims to reduce the gaps by setting up required leaning modules for each category of acupuncture service providers at different levels, so that individual practices and practitioners can be compared, evaluated and accredited.

This document offers a useful reference point to evaluate acupuncture service providers, which will benefit policymakers, health workers, education providers and the public in general. It forms an integral part of the updated benchmark series, targeting key modalities of traditional medicine intervention and contributing to the establishment of a reference toolkit for countries.

The minimum entry requirements for an individual to gain membership of the SZKMA are as follows:

  • 1200 Learning contact hours are the minimum professional standard of training to permit professional practice from 2009. (Previously this was 1000 learning contact hours).

  • These must be verifiable contact hours, which can be lecture or supervised clinical hours, with an allocation of 800 hours lecture / demonstration / practical and 400 hours verifiable supervised clinical.

  • The course should run over 3 calendar years with an assessment to be completed by the student before he/she is eligible to progress and commence in the next year.

Core TCM Theory (300 hours)

History of traditional chinese medicine Philosophy of tcm Theories of yin and yang Theories of the 5 elements Vital substances Theory of the channels and collaterals Theory of the eight principles Pathogenic factors in tcm Theory of the viscera and bowels (zang fu organs) Organ patterns syndrome differentiation Treatment principle Tcm diagnostics Internal medicine according to tcm patterns Management of all common pathologies according to tcm

Point Location / Moxibustion / Cupping Methods / (165-200 hours)

To cover 14 meridians, 361 classical points and 48 extraordinary points Location and anatomical description of points selected for the core curriculum Alphanumeric codes and/or pinyin name classification of points Direction, depth of insertion of needles actions and indications of the points Needling – single use disposable needles sterile conditions, clean hands sterilisation and environment safe needling technique Selection of needles, proper insertion, depth, duration manipulation / contraindications / needling with / without guide tubes Safety in needle practice Moxibustion direct/ indirect methods, and contraindications Cupping methods

Bio-Medical Clinical Sciences (250 hours)

Lectures /study in anatomy, physiology and biochemistry Basic mechanisms of diseases Identify signs and symptoms which may suggest serious underlying pathology Western pharmacology / analysis of lab reports / patient medication Clinical features of diseases as understood by biomedicine Knowledge of musclo skeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, endocrine and genitourinary, digestive, ent and gynaecological systems Nutrition CPR and first aid emergencies

Practitioner Development & Ethics (50 – 85 hours)

Lectures, study time for practitioner self development – effective communication skills – (listening, counselling and empathetic) to ensure therapeutic practice and professional liaisons with g.p.’s and other healthcare service professionals To support the development of reflective practice: the practitioner as a life long learner, understanding of personal and psychological foundations of good practice, and applying these principles appropriately. Practitioner must have cpr / first aid training Ability to decide whether to treat a patient or to refer to health professional or facility Ethics, reflection and professional development Research methodology and evidence based practice

Supervised and Clinical Training (400 hours)

Training and experience in case history taking and physical examination. Training in a broad range of clinical conditions reflecting what has been taught on the educational programme. Training to enable students to develop an understanding of the limits of their own medical capabilities and thereby enhance the skills of appropriate referral. Continuous practical and clinical training to achieve the required competencies necessary to meet professional standards. To provide students with a foundation from which to compare and contrast their knowledge already acquired with their own approach to medicine and to communicate effectively with practitioners of conventional medicine. An attendance of 100% is expected for the clinical training and must be strictly adhered to for the student patient contact hours.

Criteria for clinical hours done outside college clinics and hospitals:

This supervision must take place in a proper clinical environment as per the code of ethics and practice. The monitoring practitioner must have practised for a minimum of 3000 hours – full time or part time. The monitoring practitioner must treat a wide range of conditions including musculo-skeletal and internal medicine. The monitoring practitioner must have 6 patients per day in his/her clinic. Elective modules that may be included as extra hours to the core: Electro acupuncture Auricular acupuncture TDP lamp instruction Introduction to tuina techniques Medical qi gong

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