Institutional Effectiveness

“I loved my experience at AOMA. I felt confident to start my practice directly out of school. The demanding course load and wonderfully patient, knowledgeable, staff, were excellent preparation to begin my private practice which focuses on populations with little to no financial access to health care.” ~ AOMA Alumni (2017 REEGS Survey)

The Department of Institutional Effectiveness provides leadership and assistance in ongoing, institution-wide assessment for the purpose of continuous improvement of AOMA’s academic programs and administrative services. 

AOMA uses several measures to assess student achievement including the following:

  • enrollment and graduation by various demographics, as well as retention to graduation.
  • performance on the NCCAOM national board exams
  • licensure achievement rates
  • alumni success

AOMA started enrolling MAc students in 1993 with the first graduating class in 1995. The DAOM began in 2013 and the DAc completion program began in 2016.

Graduation Measurements

NCCAOM Performance and Licensure Rates

Data is received annually from NCCAOM. 

Alumni Success

AOMA uses several measures for alumni success, in addition to becoming licensed. Data are collected from a survey of all program graduates: 

  • Percent working in the field, full-time vs part-time, hours in practice
  • Practice location and characteristics, private versus employment
  • Earnings data in the field
  • Research activities and scholarly publications
  • Professional and academic leadership and teaching assignments

Since the profession first set initial roots in the US, the only viable option upon graduation for nearly three decades was to setup a private practice, which is not easy and may be a reason that some graduates move on to other fields. In recent years, the profession of acupuncture and Oriental medicine has seen an unprecedented surge in career opportunities as well as advocacy and regulation.  In recent years:

  • In 2018, acupuncturists were assigned a number by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (29-1199.01) as a distinct subset of “Health diagnosing and treating practitioners, all other,” thus providing a federal validation of the profession.
  • From the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM)’s frequently asked questions webpage: “How much do license AOM practitioners earn? Like all professions, salaries vary based on experience, education, specialization, location and many other factors. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2018 salary updates, the average annual wages for health diagnosing and treating practitioners is $73,960. Average salaries for AOM practitioners are typically higher than those of some other professionals in the complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) field. There are approximately 33,000 AOM practitioners in the U.S. and growth in the next 10 years is estimated to be 10 – 14%.”
  • The Joint Commission for Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) declared that acupuncture, and other alternative interventions, must be sought early as a nonpharmacological, non-opioid approach to pain management. Similar recommendation was made by the American College of Physicians in 2017.
  • The Veterans Administration rolled out an initiative and has created an integrative clinical model that incorporates acupuncture in treatment options for veterans. The VA also identified licensed acupuncturists as the primary practitioners for providing acupuncture services and expanded its hiring of acupuncturists nationwide.
  • While some hospitals and allopathic clinics have employed acupuncturists over the years, there is growth of employment opportunities nationwide in this sector of health care settings as easily seen in an internet search.
  • Although NCCAOM’s primary function is to certify that individuals are competent to safely practice in the AOM field through administration of board exams, it is also a powerful advocate for the AOM profession. It is currently advocating on several bills and for more research on the efficacy of acupuncture as a nonpharmacological, non-opioid approach to treating chronic pain.
  • January 2020, it was announced that Medicare would cover acupuncture for chronic low-back pain.

With the doctoral degrees, other opportunities are unfolding, such as research, teaching, and professional and academic leadership roles. As a result of this changing environment, AOMA is looking beyond collecting data on private clinical practice, and adjusting surveys to look at employment, scholarly work, and leadership.

Practice in the field, full-time vs part-time, hours in practice

Over time, AOMA hopes to see growing trends with more graduates staying in the field on a full-time basis and, if as a practitioner, spending more hours each week in practice.

 

Practice location and characteristics

Over time, AOMA hopes to see the spread of acupuncture throughout the state and the nation, as well as throughout the health care community. While private practice is still valued, integration with other professions is also valuable to graduates as well as the profession.

Earnings data in the field

While many practitioners do not seek a career in health care to become wealthy, making a decent living is a necessity. As this profession gains in recognition, livable wages should rise and patients seeking care should also rise. On the 2019 alumni survey, there were nine doctoral responses (4 DAOM and 5 DAc). Three reported increased patient volume, one has a new collaboration, and four have integrative practice opportunities. The figures below represent alumni from all programs, which includes the doctoral responses as well as 68 MAc respondents.

 

Research activities and scholarly publications

With the focus of the DAOM on research, and both the DAOM and DAc requiring scholarly work, AOMA hopes to engender a culture of scholarly work, research, and life-long learning for its graduates.

From the DAOM 2018 survey of learners and graduates the response-rate was 11 of 27 (41%). Of those, five were alumni, three were near graduation and three were near completion of the didactic and clinical portion of the program. Five of ten respondents (50%) stated that they participated in research more than once in the last two years; three (30%) reported publishing in the peer-reviewed literature; and three (30%) reported publishing in the non-peer-reviewed literature. On the 2019 alumni survey, only one doctoral respondent reported research opportunities (11%), and two reported publishing scholarly work (22%).

Professional and academic leadership and teaching assignments

Both doctoral programs at AOMA focus on leadership and professional development. Tracking how its graduates become leaders in the profession and at academic institutions, and if faculty assignments are growing, are important metrics to measure the success of these aims.  On the 2019 alumni survey, three doctoral respondents report teaching (33%) and three have professional and academic leadership roles (33%).

Notes on Student Success and Retention to Graduation

Trends and causative issues regarding student success are identified, analyzed and addressed to provide meaningful assistance to at-risk students, thereby maximizing the number of students graduating from the institution.

However, the quest for prognostic factors for academic success is ongoing in higher education.  While some predictive measures are valuable in assessing the potential academic success of a prospective student, certain factors may adversely affect a student’s ability to complete the program which cannot be measured.  AOMA’s admissions requirements and processes have been effective at selecting applicants who seem to have the aptitude for coursework and degree completion, yet AOMA has identified indeterminate factors that may interfere with program completion, based on historical and current socio-economic factors that may inhibit a potential adult student from successfully completing a program that cannot be determined at time of acceptance.

Schools of higher education, AOM or otherwise, graduate or otherwise, face this issue. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to:

  • marriage, divorce, transfer/moving of family to out-of-area
  • health issues of self or family
  • trauma, death, loss of family member(s)
  • pregnancy, childrearing or parent-caring
  • financial strains, loss of financial funding
  • deciding the profession is not what he/she wanted
  • human and natural disasters, acts of God, and so forth

It should be noted that while the age range of AOMA’s student population is diverse, the majority of students are women in their mid-twenties and thirties and may be more prone to some of these life challenges than a younger population.

Contact

Diane Stanley
Coordinator, Student Services and Institutional Effectiveness
Email: ie@aoma.edu
Phone: 512-492-3003