Acupuncture Private Practices: Careers in a Small Town
Graduates of NWHSU pursue diverse acupuncture careers: from opening solo acupuncture private practices across the country, to practicing in interdisciplinary clinics, to working in major health systems. Lanna Schwab LAc, ‘16 moved to Two Harbors, Minnesota after graduating, and is now the only practicing acupuncturist in town. We talked with her about what it’s like to practice in a small town.
Starting a Practice in a New Place
Before coming to NWHSU, Schwab worked as an x-ray tech. After graduation, she knew she wanted to move to the North Shore. When her plans to work with another provider in Duluth fell through, she took an x-ray tech job at the hospital in Two Harbors.
“I moved here not really knowing anyone. I just wanted to get out of the city and be closer to nature,” shared Schwab. Working in the hospital ended up being a great way to build connections, and she was able to launch her acupuncture business: Agate Acupuncture.
The hospital offered her space, and she rents a room in a quiet hallway at a low cost, giving her business low overhead. Being in the hospital has its benefits. “I’ve actually gotten a lot of referrals and patients from PT clients who walked up and down the hall for rehab,” she explained. “And when I first started, I gave a couple talks to the doctors. Most of them were open and receptive to acupuncture, which was awesome.”
Schwab also made connections in the arts and culture community, and word started to get around. For four years she also worked at a wellness collective with other healers of all sorts in Duluth, which recently closed due to a lease change. Looking forward, she hopes to move into another space with multiple treatment rooms and more street visibility.
Bringing Acupuncture to Two Harbors
Schwab wasn’t sure how acupuncture would go over in Two Harbors, where people generally have less exposure to integrative care. “I’ve been doing a lot more basic education work, which is something that I enjoy,” she explained. “I really like connecting with people on that level.”
When Schwab first opened, she focused on pain, treating mostly older patients or people already exposed to natural healthcare. Now, she sees more chronic and complex issues. “I’m being challenged more, which is great,” she shared. In typical small-town fashion, word has spread. For example, after she helped a woman manage hot flashes, that woman made an appointment for her husband to help him sleep. “He came in, and he runs a construction business. I helped him with shoulder pain, which he never expected. So now he’s telling all his construction friends about it.”
Of course, like anywhere, there are skeptics. “One of my greatest joys in life is when a skeptic will walk in my door and leave feeling way better,” she laughed. “I really enjoy exposing people to different ways of healing and health. And since COVID, it seems like people are taking a lot more initiative in their own health.”
Building Confidence on Her Own
“I never intended to start my own business,” admitted Schwab, who had hoped to work with other practitioners and learn from them as she got started. “The isolation is super real.” As the only acupuncturist not only in her business, but in the entire town, she’s had to make it work.
She stays in touch with practitioners in other parts of the state and is in text threads where people can ask questions and ‘talk shop.’ She also limits who she follows or interacts with. “It’s just so easy to get into comparison mode,” she explained. “At the end of the day, acupuncture is amazing. I think it’s just getting out of your head and not trying to compare yourself.”
Ultimately, Schwab has found that leaning into her own style is the best way to serve her patients and grow as a practitioner. “My strength comes from personal connection and relationships,” she explained. “Sometimes just going through a simple explanation is enough to build rapport.”
Lanna also takes advantage of living somewhere with a slower pace and ample access to nature. “The rewarding part for me is that I can shut my computer at the end of the day, go home, and go into the woods with my dog.”