|8.5 Findings from the Workforce Survey
TCM workforce survey included a number of questions related to the educational background
of TCM practitioners. The findings are summarised below.
8.5.1 Length and type of TCM training
The reported length of undergraduate or first TCM qualification for practitioners
ranged from 50 hours to 8 years, with an average for primary TCM practitioners of 43.6
months, and for non-primary TCM practitioners, 8 months (Table 8.11).
Eleven percent of respondents (118 out of 1074) obtained a primary TCM qualification
overseas. These are summarised in Table 8.12.
Thirty-five percent of primary TCM practitioners hold non-TCM qualifications
predominantly in other health care disciplines. Table 8.13 summarises non-TCM
qualifications (undergraduate or postgraduate) held by primary TCM practitioners.
Table 8.11: Average (mean) length in months of undergraduate (initial) TCM training by
nature of practice (standard deviations in brackets)
|Average (mean) length of undergraduate or
first TCM qualification (months)
||43.6 (SD 22.0)
||8.0 (SD 16.0)
Table 8.12: Country of undergraduate TCM study by nature of practice. Figures are
numbers of practitioners with percentages of respective workforce in brackets.
Table 8.13: Non-TCM qualifications held by primary TCM practitioners (n=433).
Figures are numbers with percentage of primary TCM practitioners in brackets.
||Primary TCM practitioners
|Any health discipline
8.5.2 Views on Australian TCM Programs
Practitioners were asked whether TCM courses offered by universities in their State
were satisfactory. A sizeable proportion of primary (40%) and non-primary (64%) TCM
practitioners were unsure of the standards of the TCM courses taught by universities,
while 35% of primary TCM practitioners believe the current standard is satisfactory and
25% believe it is unsatisfactory.
8.5.3 Apprenticeships in TCM
Among primary TCM practitioners, 66 (15%) received an apprenticeship in TCM. Of these,
43 had not received any more formal TCM education. Hence, almost 10% of primary TCM
practitioners practise on the basis of apprenticeship training alone. Apprenticeship was
in various forms, but in some cases consisted of up to six years full-time work.
Among non-primary TCM practitioners, 52 (9%) received an apprenticeship in TCM. Of
these, 49 had not received any more formal TCM education. Hence, almost 9% of non-primary
TCM practitioners practice on the basis of an apprenticeship training alone. In some cases
this apprenticeship was reported as training at national or international conferences.
8.5.4 Continuing Education
Continuing education in TCM in some form was reported by 45% of the TCM workforce
overall. This could include seminar attendance. Table 8.14 summarises the findings.
Table 8.14: Continuing TCM education by nature of practice. Figures are numbers of
practitioners with percentages of the primary/non-primary workforce component in brackets.
1. Zhang WK. Sum up its experience, develop its characteristic,
cultivate the talented person of trans century in TCM. Education of Traditional Chinese
2. Zhu C. Medical education. In Chen H, Zhu C (eds) Chinese health
care: a comprehensive review of the health services of the People's Republic of China.
1984:301-337 Lancaster: MTP Press.
3. Guangzhou University of TCM Curriculum for Bachelor of Medicine
4. Gao D. Education and structure of traditional Chinese medicine in
China. Paper delivered at TCM seminar. Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine in
Australia (Melbourne) April 1996.
5. Gao S. Vice-director, Postgraduate studies, Academy of TCM,
Beijing. Personal communication, Melbourne, April 1996.
6. Chen MZ. Masters cultured high quality apprentices and the work of
inheriting veteran TCM doctors' experience gained great successes. Education of
Traditional Chinese Medicine 1995;14(5):3-4.
7. Guo ZH. Urgency of putting into effect the examination for TCM
doctors' qualification in China. Education of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Chapter 8: TCM Education
Summary of Findings
- TCM and western medicine: China has dual systems and equivalent recognition of
traditional Chinese and western medical education.
- Courses: The three principal streams of TCM education which lead to formal
qualifications are TCM secondary schools, TCM tertiary institutions, and external courses
(known as the self-study examination system). It is reported there are currently 27
universities and colleges of TCM, and 15 faculties of TCM in medical universities and
colleges in the People's Republic of China.
The Bachelor of Medicine (TCM) program runs over five years full-time, with the fifth
year as internship in a TCM teaching hospital.
- Student numbers: It is estimated that:
- more than 100,000 Chinese students have graduated in TCM since 1962;
- 2,500 postgraduate TCM qualifications have been awarded in China since the
recommencement of tertiary education in 1978 after the Cultural Revolution.
- Graduates: Graduates have full practising rights within all public hospitals and are
fully recognised by the State; that is, they have prescribing rights for medications and
are on a State register.
- The institutions: There is significant variation in the delivery of TCM education in
Australia between private colleges and universities, and award and non-award courses:
- 12 institutions (including three universities) offer a total of 13 major primary
qualifying courses in aspects of TCM (that is, more than 800 contact hours).
- Most institutions report affiliations with Chinese teaching institutions and Chinese
hospitals although in some cases the nature of these affiliations is unclear.
- The programs:
- Primary training qualifications in TCM are offered at both undergraduate level (12
courses) and postgraduate level (one course). Ten of these are accredited by local
education authorities or universities.
- In addition, 10 short programs of study are offered to graduates of other health science
disciplines, usually on a non-award basis and in acupuncture alone. The graduates receive
limited recognition for membership by professional associations representing primary TCM
- Course content: Primary qualifications in TCM in Australia have tended in the past to
focus on acupuncture training. However, an increasing number of institutions, both
universities and private colleges, are offering courses in Chinese herbal medicine and
more courses are planned.
- Course requirements:
- Undergraduate programs involve 3 to 5 years of full-time study. Standard 4 to 5 year
programs are broadly recognised and favoured by professional associations.
- All university-based undergradutate programs are offered on a full-time basis only. In
all private colleges, studies may be undertaken part-time.
- There is one postgraduate program offered as 3 years part-time with 845 contact hours.
- There are no significant differences between private colleges and universities in terms
of reported total course hours.
- Qualifications of workforce:
- The average length of the first TCM qualification for primary TCM practitioners is 44
months, and for non-primary TCM practitioners, 8 months.
- 10% of primary TCM practitioners practise on the basis of apprenticeship training alone.
- Student and graduate numbers:
- Given the number of flexible part-time courses in private colleges, it is difficult to
estimate the number of current effective full-time enrolments in TCM programs.
- It is estimated that approximately 1,123 students will graduate from TCM qualifying
programs and will enter the workforce by the year 2000. This would almost double the
numbers of primary TCM practitioners in the workforce. It excludes migration effects or
withdrawal from the workforce.
- Academic staff qualifications vary considerably both between and within institutions.
This reflects in part the difficulties of establishing a new profession in Australia.
- With the exception of one university, the majority of TCM academic staff with
postgraduate TCM qualifications accredited by an appropriate education authority are
employed in private colleges.
- The academic staff of private colleges have substantially more Chinese hospital
experience than university appointed staff..
- Conventional mechanisms of national advertising and competitive appointments for TCM
academic staff are under-utilised by both private colleges and universities.
- Research: No external research grants have been awarded to TCM teaching institutions for
- Course review:
- External review of TCM programs and mechanisms to ensure broad professional input are
poorly developed in the majority of institutions.
- Representative members of the large professional associations are not sufficiently
involved in course review and approval within either universities or private colleges.
- Continuing education: 45% of the total workforce claimed to be involved in continuing
- Australia compared to China: It is difficult to compare the major teaching programs in
Australia with those in China, because of:
- the different points of entry of under-graduates into TCM courses;
- the importance of Chinese language skills in accessing Chinese medical literature;
- the different outcomes of training, specifically that Chinese students graduate with
medical prescribing rights and employment in public hosptials.
The academic component of TCM training in Australia (with concurrent teaching in
Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture) offered at university or in private colleges
appears similar to that in China. In comparison to China, clinical training in Australia
is poorly provided for.
Chapter 8: TCM Education
- That a comprehensive review be undertaken of TCM educational provision in Australia,
addressing the basic medical sciences, TCM content and clinical education. If occupational
regulation proceeds, the review should be conducted by either the newly established
registration or accreditation board or by other independent, non-partisan means.
- That basic medical and clinical sciences for non-medical TCM practitioners be reviewed
and upgraded where necessary, to ensure adequate safety in practice. Appropriately
qualified medical practitioners should be included in this review process.
- That major TCM professional associations closely examine the course requirements for all
new courses prior to granting recognition to graduates.
- That private colleges and universities review the process of appointment to course
advisory committees in order to ensure broader representation from the profession.
Institutions are encouraged to include representatives from the largest associations
representing TCM practitioners.
- That universities and colleges utilise open and competitive selection procedures
(including national advertising and appropriate selection panels) to recruit academic
staff in TCM.
- That professional associations representing practitioners of registered health
occupations (including medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, chiropractic and osteopathy) who
utilise TCM, review and upgrade the minimum qualifications required of their members for
safe practice, particularly in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
- That the Health Insurance Commission re-examine its provision of Medicare rebates for
acupuncture performed by those medical practitioners without identifiable and adequate
qualifications in the area, and establish a minimum acceptable qualification for Medicare