Acupunct Med 28:12-15 doi:10.1136/aim.2009.001602
  • Original paper

Medical students and acupuncture: a short sharp placement experience!

  1. Irene Tobin3
  1. 1Complementary Therapy Service, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK
  2. 2University of Derby, Derby, UK
  3. 3Acupuncture Clinic, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Mr Graeme K Donald, Nurse Researcher/Therapist, Complementary Therapy Service, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust, Wilmslow Road, Manchester M20 4BX, UK; graeme.donald{at}
  • Accepted 25 November 2009


Background Acupuncture and other complementary therapies (CTs) have become increasingly popular, with patients calling for more integrated care. It is questionable whether doctors know enough about these therapies to provide balanced and informed advice to patients and, given that most will come across patients accessing CTs, this is an area of concern.

Method This was an exploratory study of 40 students attending a placement at a CT service within an acute hospital trust in the UK. A questionnaire was given at the start of placement to record their scepticism towards CTs on a 0–10 scale and again, on placement completion.

Result Of the students attending, 73% (n=29) completed the questionnaire. There was a statistically significant reduction in scepticism scores assessed before and after placement (p<0.001). Of the respondents, 90% (n=26) were shown or attempted acupuncture. 76% of students reported that the placement would definitely influence the rate of CT referrals in their future practice.

Conclusion The placement experience provided students an opportunity to reconsider their attitudes towards CTs. The study was limited to one site and students independently elected to participate in the experience. Similar exposure could be of value to the wider medical student population, ultimately leading to more informed advice available to patients. Future research should include greater numbers, which could include a multi-site study.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Detail has been removed from this case description/these case descriptions to ensure anonymity. The editors and reviewers have seen the detailed information available and are satisfied that the information backs up the case the authors are making.