Dr. Deborah Rinehart, RN, DACM is the owner of Willow Tree Acupuncture & Wellness in Seminole, FL. She is a Board-Certified & Licensed Acupuncture Physician providing her community with safe and effective alternative & integrative medicine. She is a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine with NCCAOM, carries a Florida license, and is Nationally Board Certified in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Dr. Rinehart received her Master of Science degree from East West College of Natural Medicine in Sarasota, Florida and a Doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine from Pacific College of Health and Science in San Diego, California. She has spent over 20 years as a registered nurse in the Tampa Bay area specializing in pediatrics, transplant, and critical care.
Welcome, Dr.Deborah Rinehart, RN, DACM! Thank you for joining us for Acupuncturist of the Month!
So, how long have you been practicing acupuncture for, and what are your specialties?
Thank you for your questions and allowing me to be a part of this. I am starting my fourth year in business, and I am the owner of Willow Tree Acupuncture & Wellness in Seminole, FL.
I treat a lot of pain, allergies, sleep issues, and women’s health and I specialize in cosmetic facial acupuncture with micro-needling, and light therapy. I also educate my community on healthy aging and disease prevention with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
I enjoy the variety of patients that come in for treatment and even though I specialize in cosmetic facial rejuvenation, I love the challenge of assisting patients in their healing regardless of the chief compliant.
What inspired you to become an acupuncturist?
I spent 23 years as a registered nurse and was becoming increasingly frustrated with patient care, and had a strong desire to know more and sought out a holistic way to heal the body and mind.
I had a knee injury in 2014 and went to an acupuncturist for treatment and loved it. I was on a health and wellness kick, and continued treatment for years. Then I decided to take a leap, and went back to school in 2015 receiving my degree in acupuncture and leaving my nursing career in 2019.
Tell us more about Acupuncture Injection Therapy, and why you decided to implement it in your practice?
I took the injection therapy course while in school, and with my background in nursing it was an easy decision to add this treatment to my practice. APIT or bio puncture is the injection of sterile biological substances such as herbal extracts, homeopathic medicines, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients with a hypodermic needle into specific acu points or trigger points on the body to treat pain, inflammation, energy, and even illness. I do a lot of B12 injections to assist my patients with fatigue and it can be beneficial for weight loss, sleep, nerve issues, and immunity. The injection therapy can speed healing time especially for injuries and decrease inflammation. It is a 60-hour education course, and is now required in the state of Florida for licensure.
On your journey to become an acupuncturist, what obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
I was intimidated to start a business and had my share of fear for sure. I was going to leave a secure 23-year career with benefits, insurance, and a steady paycheck. I remember many times wondering what was I doing, but I think this is how we grow and create a better life. For me, I wanted a change in career, and to participate in health care in a different way. It is difficult leaving what you know to start a new adventure, but it has been worth it. I was 48 when I went back to school and had doubt about the sacrifice of time that studying would require. I wasn’t sure I was up for it, but I took it one day at a time and here I am. Along the way my nurse peers would ask me “how much money will you make?”, and “what about health insurance?”. I admit I did not have the answers to those questions, but was determined to figure it out and press on because I wanted to love what I did for a living, and I lost that along the way with nursing.
Share a recent success story you had with a patient. What acupuncture points, herbs, or other interventions (meditation, yoga, nutrition, etc.) did you use to help them achieve results?
I have been doing more cosmetic facial acupuncture for rejuvenation and acne.
This patient had acne on her cheek area bilaterally and I started her on an herbal formula. I also reviewed her nutritional intake to eliminate foods that could be the cause for the acne.
I did gua sha on the face where there was no active acne and body acupuncture to treat the underlying pattern and added an herbal wash to treat it topically.
After 6-8 treatments there was a dramatic difference and the acne then started to scar, so I added nano-needling to the scarred area which improved her skin in a couple of treatments.
It was nice to see a smile on her face as the acne was decreasing and she was feeling better and not as self-conscious about her skin.
If you could share with the world your top five pieces of advice to obtain (and maintain) optimal health, wellness, and longevity, what would they be?
Have boundaries in your life to keep stress at a minimum, eat organically (as much as possible) and drink water, get regular acupuncture treatments, move your body – stretch, walk, yoga, anything that keeps you moving.
I know for me I had to do one thing at a time to improve my health. My yoga instructor would say a millimeter is a mile and I think that is true when improving health and making better food choices. I gave up soda years ago and I was literally down to a 16oz a week then I just finally stopped.
What makes you feel inspired about acupuncture?
Watching patients on their wellness journeys have their eyes open to a holistic way to heal. I had a veteran who served in Vietnam and had several aliments like anxiety, neuropathy, and sleep issues. One day he came in and said, “I slept thru the night for the first time in decades.” A good night’s sleep is invaluable. I was so happy for him in that moment, a piece of progress for him.
Also, seeking out more evidence for different aliments. It is important to educate ourselves on the research and pass that on to our patients.
Looking back, what advice would you have given to the younger version of yourself, who was just getting started in this profession?
Trust yourself. I am still working on this but trusting that I will make good decisions, treat people well, and do not harm. Also, to have fun and let go of worry.
What keeps an acupuncture practice going?
Word of mouth and networking are the top ways to keep your practice full. I do as much as I can with email, google posts, social media, and my website. I have done health fairs and spent some money on advertising but not a lot.
Faithful patients that keep coming in 1-2 times a month greatly support the business. People come for all kinds of reasons and some stay while others are her for a treatment or two. I had to understand that not everyone is ready for healing, to not take things personally, and have a vision of who you want to serve.
What are specific roadblocks to watch out for as a new acupuncturist?
Forgive yourself. If you make a mistake of any kind or a treatment does not go as planned, just forgive yourself or even the patient. If there are a lot of reschedules or cancelations, forgive, otherwise you could build resentment with the patient or yourself.
Set boundaries. Whether it is money, payment, appointments, days you work etc. set boundaries that will keep you healthy and in an abundant state of mind.
Check out local business advice like a chamber of commerce or a SCORE program. Find a mentor (typically free) who has business experience to vent questions about being in business. I have used the SCORE.org program more than once and it is a great resource for starting out in small business or even if you want to expand or hire employees.
We have all occasionally had a patient come into our practice who is upset, frustrated, and a little angry. Maybe it is from work, being stuck in traffic, or life in general – we have all been there! What advice would you give to fellow acupuncture students and/or colleagues on how to deal with situations like these?
Listening. Sometimes I read the patient and realize they may need a little time or space. I had a patient I would spend several minutes with talking about anything and it would allow her time to calm herself and then start her treatment. Everyone is an individual and human so yes, I see patients come in that look tired or they are upset so the biggest thing we can do is listen. Sometimes that is more important that the needles. Being flexible and holding space is what makes this profession unique.
What are your favorite acupuncture points, and why?
I do a lot of DU20. There is so much stress and fatigue that I use this point often. It is highly effective and is also part of a back pain protocol when I treat a patient face up.
I use auricular acupuncture with almost every treatment and if someone is really stressed or anxious, I will start with shen men and the heart point on the ears as these points calm the mind quickly then I continue with the treatment.
Tell us about some herbal formulas and foods you find yourself consistently recommending to your patients, friends, and colleagues. What makes these herbs/foods so helpful?
One of the best formulas these days is xiao yao san or jia wei xiao yao san. I use this formula for PMS, anxiety, stress (in men and women).
This is a classic formula that gets evidenced based results. I use this formula more than any other and patients love it.
With ongoing treatments, I always include nutrition in my evaluations. I typically look to food or a supplement to start with then move on to a formula. If patients are on a lot of prescription medications, I turn to food first to correct the chief complaint or patten they present with.
Simple foods/herbs like ginger for digestion, goji berry for eyesight or yin deficiency, protein for healing, etc.
Also, educating patients about label reading and finding hidden sugars or which foods are the most important to eat organically.
I treat some patients recovering from cancer and find that there is a lack of nutritional education to help them recover their bodies form illness. So, we play a big part in their nutritional education and healing.
Sometimes, the best resource for improving our skills is by learning from the other acupuncturists we meet along our professional journey. What is one thing you learned from a fellow acupuncturist or holistic practitioner that has helped you in your professional growth, or in your care for patients?
I recently finished my Doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. It was wonderful meeting and learning from so may professionals. I am doing a lot of continuing education about cosmetic facial acupuncture from experts in this field and desire to learn more.
When I was in school, I had a professor who required us to read Miriam Lee’s book, Insights of a Senior Acupuncturist. We studied her method of 5 points/10 needles. He told us if you do not know what else to do in the clinic, do a Miriam Lee treatment. It works and patients get better.
When I first started, I carried her book with me in my bag and referred to it often. I still think about that and use her as inspiration in the clinic when I do a treatment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt had a significant impact on the acupuncture practice community and small businesses alike. How have you been handling the COVID-19 situation as an acupuncture practice owner and individual? What advice or wisdom would you like to share with other acupuncturists who are also navigating through these precarious times?
I am thankful for my nursing career, and I drew on it during the pandemic. I was used to the PPE protocols and wearing masks so for me, it was not a big adjustment.
Thankfully, I received the PPP loan program and had access to grants/funds to offset loss and pay bills.
I was closed form March until the middle of May and I reopened with caution. I had a few patients who could not wait to come back. I feel like I did benefit from people being home and not traveling so much. Also, people were looking for stress relief and disease prevention.
My advice to myself, patients, family, and acupuncturists is staying the course. We are requiring masks in the office, taking temperatures, and maintaining social distancing. We are still in a pandemicand being vigilant may be mundane, but I think it is the most prudent thing to do to protect your health and business.
Do you have any daily habits or rituals that keep you at your “best-self”, both as an acupuncture practitioner and person?
Yes, self-care is imperative and setting boundaries. As a nurse I did not have good boundaries with patients, doctors, or my peers. I was burnt out and depleted and I am determined to enjoy my life and career and learn from my past.
Prayer/meditation, positive affirmations, sleep, and taking time for myself are especially important to keep me at my best and nourished as a person and healer.
The kindest thing a patient said to you recently:
“I appreciate you and how you help us”
The funniest thing a patient said to you recently:
I had a patient under light therapy and when it was over, she said “I feel like I was on an LSD trip” I laughed out loud. She recently said that when she gets upset, she now thinks of the light therapy and uses this memory to calm her in her busy life.
As an acupuncturist, what are you most proud of thus far in your professional journey?
That I am still here! I am so grateful to be in a practice that effects so many lives in different ways. I see people transform, become calmer, sleep better, and have their outlook on life change. I love being a part of a patient discovering for themselves that there is another way to heal, and they choose acupuncture as part of their wellness journey.
If you could have a billboard with anything on it, what would it be and why?
Now more than ever we are asking to be well. I think more people are aware that their health and what they put in their bodies matter. I believe alternative and integrative medicine will be in higher demand along with other healing modalities like massage, PT, meditation, and yoga.
What is your definition of success?
Finding joy in all I do, loving what I do and the decisions I make. Having balanced time personally and professionally. Spending time with loved ones and my animals with the financial freedom to live in comfort, joy, and to create the life I want. Also, having a healthy and happy family. If my daughter is ok, then I am ok.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
Finding balance in my professional and personal life leads to health mentally and physically. Additionally, balance for my community and the world. I would love to see balance restored for every being on the planet so we can all live in harmony.
*Rapid fire questions! *:
Morning or night? night
Tea or coffee? coffee
Sun or moon? moon
Cupping or Tui na? Cupping
Yin or Yang? Yin
Meditation or exercise? Meditation
Instagram or Facebook? Instagram
Where can other licensed acupuncturists, students, and patients go to learn more about your work?