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There are numerous courses available, both in China and in other cities across the globe, for people to undertake formal studies and receive recognised qualifications in Traditional Chinese Medicine. People can opt to study various disciplines within the broader area, or study towards each area. Courses may be full time, part time, or even by distance learning, allowing everyone who is interested and dedicated to have the opportunity to pursue their desire and undertake a course of study in this ancient medicine system and learn how to become a TCM practicioner.
TCM Studies Worldwide
Some countries require that TCM practitioners are licensed by a regulatory body; there are numerous courses available that fulfil the licensing requirements upon successful completion.
Some training institutions and providers offer taster and sample courses, to allow people to understand the basics and what they will be expected to do, before committing to a full course of study. This helps people to make sure that studying towards a qualification as a TCM practitioner is indeed the right step for them.
Many courses are offered in the English language, making communication easier than if they were taught only in Chinese. This opens the doors to interested parties from all over the world. The bachelors degree in TCM available for foreign students is taught entirely in Chinese, which would make it incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for most foreign learners.
Courses in TCM are popular with licensed Western doctors and medical staff who are interested in expanding their practice and providing a wider range of healthcare services for patients. They use the two medical systems side by side, to give a completely balanced and holistic approach.
TCM Study Areas
There are a wide range of books devoted to the subject of TCM to facilitate learning.
Typical areas cover the basics of TCM, how to make diagnoses, herbal therapy, acupuncture, dietary advice, massage, moxibustion, prescription, internal medicine, dermatology, and treating different age groups.
Educational courses of study that lead to recognised qualifications set a benchmark for the standards of TCM practitioners. They ensure a good system of training, including practical training and supervised practice, examination and testing, and licensing.
Due to the wide range of courses available, when considering benchmarking and deciding whether or not to license an individual, several things must be considered. These include the quality and duration of the training, the methods used in the learning process, practical experience, the proposed role of the would-be future TCM practitioner, the training institution, experience and qualifications of trainers, other education.
TCM experts categorise training into three different groups, dependent upon previous experience and training. These groups are:
Type One – People who have completed High School but have no other medical or health care experience or education. These people must complete a full program in TCM, which lasts for three or four years, full time. The expectation is that those who complete the course can become primary health care workers.
Type Two – People who already have some medical or health care training. It is akin to a conversion course. Courses may be full time or part time, with a full time courses typically lasting between two to three years.
Type Three – People already practising as TCM health workers who have no prior medical or health care training or experience, or those who do not have adequate training. They upgrade existing skills, ensure safe practices, and allow practitioners to gain formal qualifications.
TCM Practitioner Duties
A TCM practitioner, after training, should be able to describe the human makeup and the functions of different parts of the body along with the relevance of TCM, identity medical conditions, refer to other health care workers where applicable, apply eight principles of TCM to disease diagnoses, decide on a suitable TCM program, design appropriate treatment plans, be able to interpret laboratory reports, give advice based on TCM principles in a range of areas, for example dietary, nutritional, and exercise, modify TCM treatments with consideration of Western treatments being used alongside, review progress of patients, prepare prescriptions, dispense prescriptions, keep up with training and continued professional development.
In addition to medical aspects, TCM practitioners should also have excellent communication and interpersonal skills. They should be able to communicate effectively with a range of people, including patients, other health care professionals, and regulatory bodies. They should be ethical and be able to work within guidelines, frameworks, and regulatory requirements.
Anyone planning to visit a TCM practitioner should enquire about their training, areas of expertise, length of practice, qualifications, and similar, before making a final choice. It is wise to contact a few practitioners before making a decision, to ensure that the best practitioner for your needs is selected. A genuine and skilled TCM practitioner will not take offence at prospective patients querying credentials and experience.