The impact of a supportive environment by Jo Rochford

This year I started a role as Learning Support Co-ordinator at CICM.  My responsibility is to support students with any learning needs they have.  I work virtually and run one to one sessions on areas such as study skills, essay planning and Chinese medicine theory support.  Students bring any issues they are having to sessions and we discuss, brainstorm and plan.  I love this role because I am getting to meet and support people who are going to make great practitioners in the future. I am lucky enough to have been an acupuncturist for most of my career having qualified aged 25. To be able to share some of my career experiences to help others establish a career in Chinese medicine is incredibly fulfilling. 

Photo by Aamir Suhail on Unsplash

I admit to always having had a long list of requirements and high expectations for any career I chose, I think it is why I never really settled into the brief graduate jobs I had after completing my first degree. I wanted my career to:

  • challenge me to grow and learn
  • continuously pique my interest
  • take me down new paths
  • give me the ability to be my own boss and influence the directions I moved in
  • be full of new things to learn and interesting occurrences 
  • be different each day and not become repetitive
  • be flexible and allow me to have and raise a family at the same time

There were plenty of people who told me at age 22, that this wasn’t possible and to settle in a job and make the best of it.  The decision (or possibly stubbornness) to hold fast to my career requirements bought me to acupuncture and I will always feel grateful that this career has given me the capacity and time to develop, explore and grow in multiple directions at a speed I choose.

Photo by processingly on Unsplash

In my 21 years as an acupuncturist, I have been able to become involved in so many different areas.  I have been privileged to treat all age ranges from 3 days old to 90 years.  I have been honoured to assist at over 20 births. I have set up a multidisciplinary clinic and run a private practice from it and worked in an NHS pain clinic. I have been part of various programmes and initiatives run by local councils from occupational health days, to working in programmes run in schools for children with learning and behavioural support needs. 

On top of this, I have been lucky enough to study herbal medicine, study for an MSc in advanced oriental medicine, partake in numerous CPD courses with amazing teachers and spend two weeks in a TCM hospital in China.  I can honestly say that a career in Chinese medicine has never ever been boring and instead has been full of richness, variety and multiple experiences that have caught my interest.

I know that it can be a struggle to make that big decision and return to education.  I started studying my MSc after nearly 20 years out of an academic setting.  Absolutely everything had changed, including how technology is used in studying now. I didn’t know how to use a referencing manager or how to write and structure assignments.  I didn’t even know if my brain would still work anymore!  I received so much support from teaching staff and my peers though, that it made the whole process easier. Knowing the impact a supportive environment can have as a mature student, makes my part of providing this for CICM students feel even more rewarding.

From the college

A lot of our students at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine are mature and are returning to education after some time. For some, this is their first degree. This contributes to why the level of learning support we provide is of such a great standard. Studying can be challenging at any age, but even more so alongside work, family and general life responsibilities.

What does our learning support look like? 

  • Each student is allocated a personal tutor, who is on hand to help with any struggles or questions regarding coursework, lectures and exams
  • All of the lecture and course resources are on CICM’s VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) meaning students can access them anytime they can get online
  • All theory lessons which take place on zoom are recorded. In-person theory lectures are now recorded too. Students can refer back to lectures at any time!
  • Our teachers run extra point location classes on Fridays and Sunday evenings
  • Students are split into smaller groups during practical skills sessions, so that teachers can offer greater attention, feedback and support
  • In the third year of studies, the clinical year, students are assigned a clinical supervisor. Each clinical supervisor supports just four students
  • At the beginning of the course, we offer study skills sessions to help all, but especially those that have not studied for many years, providing tips and tricks for learning more effectively.  

November is Career Development Month. If you’ve reached this page because you’re thinking of developing your career within the health industry, or changing careers all together by becoming an acupuncturist get in touch if you have any questions by contacting

Jo Rochford
Jo Rochford

Jo graduated from CICM with a Licentiate in Acupuncture in 2000.  She practices in Knowle, Solihull in a multidisciplinary clinic. She is in the third year of studying her MSc and is the Learning Support Co-ordinator at CICM.

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