Read an Excerpt
Becoming a Chiropractor
Is Chiropractic Really the Career For You?
By Christina Cunliffe, Jane Cooke
BPP Learning MediaCopyright © 2015 Christina Cunliffe
All rights reserved.
The journey begins!
If the title of this chapter gives you a thrill of excitement then you are ready to put your foot on the path to what all chiropractors consider to be the best career in the world!
Becoming a chiropractor is a very personal journey. Perhaps youhave been helped by a chiropractor, or maybe a friend or a memberof your family has told you about their experiences, and this has got you thinking about whether or not chiropractic is the career for you. It may be that you are interested in health generally and are exploringa number of different options. The fact that you are reading this book though means that you are seriously considering either embarking on a new career, or a change in career, and want to know how to go about it and what the implications might be.
My own journey began when I was helped by a chiropractor. The GP told me that the tingling in my leg could be the start of multiple sclerosis but he wouldn't do any tests until it became worse. A friend suggested I went to a local chiropractor who examined me and said the problem was with my lumbar spine. She was right; she adjusted me, the tingling cleared up and never returned. That day a seed was planted in my mind and over the next few years it grew until I knew that this was something that I really wanted to do.
That's when I started to question myself: do I really want to leave a very good job? What will I be able to earn as a chiropractor? WillI be able to maintain the same lifestyle? What will my friends and family think? How can I fit in my studies? Can I even learn to do this amazing thing that my chiropractor does? I soon realised though that self-doubt was the only thing that was holding me back, and I appliedto chiropractic college the very next day. Looking back I can say that the journey has always been interesting, full of variety, challenging and rewarding. Becoming a chiropractor was the best decision I ever made in my life. I hope it will be for you too.
'Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.' (Steve Jobs, 2005)
The purpose of this book is to provide you with more information about chiropractic, but it also aims to offer you different perspectives that might help you as you make your decision. It starts off by telling you a little bit about chiropractic and what chiropractors do. The art of manipulation can be traced back to early cave drawings and was used extensively by the Greeks, but chiropractic itself was founded in 1895 in Davenport, Iowa, USA. Named from the Greek 'chiropractikos' meaning done by hand, chiropractic has grown and developed intoa well-recognised profession around the world. There are many chiropractic colleges around the world, including the UK, and new colleges are springing up all the time.
It is a primary care profession regulated by an Act of Parliament inthe UK and is quickly establishing itself as a mainstream healthcare provider. Because of this status, chiropractors are respected members of the community in which they work, and if you choose to join the profession you will find that this brings with it certain responsibilities in your personal as well as your professional life. This is the price, if you like, of being a 'professional', and as a health professional the safety and care of your patients is paramount.
It would be very easy to just talk about chiropractic and chiropractors, but the patient's perspective is the most valuable of all. Thousands of patients seek chiropractic care every day and they do so knowing that they will have to pay for the services provided. Working with patients is what makes this career so varied and interesting. The majority of chiropractors work in general practice seeing a wide range of people from all walks of life. The people who walk through your clinic door may be young or old, sporty or sedentary, in pain or with a disability, or making a lifestyle choice for health and wellbeing. They may come alone, with their carers, or as part of a family group. Whoever they are, they will trust you, not only to give their body the very best of care, but often with personal and private details of their lives.
You will not be able to help everyone, of course, and knowing when to refer to others is an important element of working within a multidisciplinary team of fellow health professionals who also have the patient's best interests at heart. This team may work in the same clinic as you or they may be located in your vicinity, but either way you will be part of a network of individuals who will each bring their own unique skills and experience into the mix and work together for the best clinical outcome.
As you will have full responsibility for the people under your care, the training is necessarily rigorous. In many ways the training is equivalent to that of a medical doctor, as chiropractors have to be able to recognise any underlying problems that might indicate referral for further tests or evaluations. Although chiropractors do not prescribe drugs, you will learn about pharmacology, as many of your patients will be taking over-the-counter or prescribed medications and you will need to know about side-effects and how the drugs may affect the patient.
The practice of chiropractic and medicine are very different, however. You will learn more anatomy and biomechanics on a chiropractic programme, for example, because this essential knowledge will inform how you adjust the spine. Obviously, you will also learn a variety of chiropractic techniques and patient management skills. Because chiropractors mostly work in private practice, unlike medical doctors, you will be taught how to establish and grow your own business as well.
You will earn a good living as a chiropractor, but many chiropractors do not regard this as their main reason for working. The profession's primary motivation is to help patients manage their lifestyle and health, and if you do that well then your business will grow as a result. In fact, your motivation is probably one of the most important factors overall — why is it that you are thinking about becoming a chiropractor? It will certainly be something your interviewers will want to explore when you attend an interview.
Even though you are just considering embarking on your chiropractic journey, it won't be long before you realise that this is just the start of your lifelong learning! All chiropractors undertake annual continuing professional development courses that stimulate their thinking and enhance their skills base, but many enrol on postgraduate programmes that give them additional qualifications in specialist areas like sports, paediatrics or animal care. There is no career structure as such within the profession, but you can decide to focus on a particular area of practice, go into teaching or research, get involved in the development of the profession, or any combination of the above. It is entirely up to you to determine how you direct your future.
You are the only one who can decide what kind of chiropractor you want to become, and you will probably find that the idea you have now of your perfect practice will evolve as you progress through your training. The more knowledge you gain and the different perspectives you absorb will all inform your development as an individual, and therefore as a student chiropractor. It may not surprise you to know that this process will continue even when you have been practising for many years because, just as the profession is growing and changing, so will you.
You will not be alone on your journey. In your class you will find people just like you who are excited about becoming a chiropractor, and you will be taught by staff who are chiropractors and who have been trained themselves in similar circumstances. A chiropractic programme is a lot tougher than many other degrees you can enrol on, but the sense of community that you will find, and the friendships that you will make, will last a lifetime.
Everything you learn during your chiropractic programme, from your first lecture on how the body works to your final day in the student clinic putting it all into practice, will prepare you to start on your chosen career and become the chiropractor you want to be. From your very first day, consider yourself as a 'professional in training' rather than a student, because that's when you start to become a chiropractor.
Your future is in your hands!CHAPTER 2
What do chiropractors do?
Chiropractic is primarily concerned with the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and rehabilitation of common neuro-musculoskeletal complaints ('neuro' referring to the nervous system and 'musculoskeletal' to the framework of bones and muscles that support the body). There is an emphasis on non-invasive manual treatments and the restoration of optimum function to the body. Chiropractors take a holistic and patient-centred approach to their practices, usinga variety of manual techniques plus other modalities, such as soft tissue therapy and exercise regimes. The profession recognises and is involved in the development of an increasing body of evidence-based research supporting chiropractic.
More than just 'cracking backs'
Chiropractors provide care for patients of all ages who present with a range of acute (short-term) and chronic (longer-term) conditions. As well helping with pain management, injuries and rehabilitation, chiropractors will look at a patient's clinical picture in the long term: offering advice, for example, on self-help, exercise, diet and lifestyle. Practitioners take an integrated approach to the health needs of their patients, considering not only their presenting physical condition, but also their medical history, lifestyle (sleep, diet, stress levels and so on), and social factors, for example, how much support they have at home. Chiropractors provide care and continuing support by reducing pain and disability, restoring best possible function to patients and by preventing future episodes of pain.
Chiropractors place an emphasis on manual treatments, involving the precise handling or moving of parts of the body into optimal position (this is generally known as 'adjustment' or 'manipulation'). The treatment options available to a qualified chiropractor, however, are wide and not limited solely to adjustment. A variety of techniques are used to help patients, many of which do not involve the 'cracking' so often associated with chiropractic (and which has been known to put off some prospective patients). See Chapter 11.
Significantly, chiropractors do not just treat backs; they can often help manage neck pain and headache stemming from the neck, migraine, dizziness, a variety problems in the extremities and many other conditions — some of which have been researched more extensively than others.
The best way of finding out what a chiropractor does is probably to experience or observe one in action (bearing in mind that chiropractors' clinics and techniques can vary). You may consider attending a clinicas a patient. You do not need to be in pain to see a chiropractor as the treatment can rectify subtle problems that you might notice only after the minor niggles have abated post-treatment. Remember too that chiropractic can help prevent pain occurring in the first place because, in many cases, pain will only arise after your body has struggled to correct itself for some time already. Pain is simply the body's signal telling you that something is wrong, and it will shout louder and louder until you hear it.
Most chiropractors should be willing to allow you to observe if you show a keen interest in pursuing this career, although this may be harder for sole practitioners to accommodate. Ideally, you will visit a large, multipractitioner clinic and, perhaps, someone working from a home clinic — then you can fill in the gaps with your vision of the perfect practice for you. You will be in the happy position, once qualified, of deciding for yourself how you wish to practise as long as you adhere to the General Chiropractic Council (GCC) Code of Practice and Standard of Proficiency.
To find a practitioner in your area, you can use the search facilitieson the various chiropractic association websites. Another good wayof finding a chiropractor is via a word-of-mouth recommendation, as chiropractic is a very personal approach to healthcare. Many experienced chiropractors continue to rely on word-of-mouth referrals to maintain or expand their practices.
What happens at a chiropractic consultation?
The types of chiropractic intervention will be dictated, to a largeextent, by the presenting complaint, and one of your first tasks as a chiropractor in clinic will be to take a full clinical case history. Some problems of the musculoskeletal system, for example, are caused by accidents, lack of exercise and / or poor posture, illness or everyday wear and tear. You will look for vital clues in your history taking, a bit like a private detective, including the location, duration and nature of pain, any aggravating or alleviating factors, past history of trauma, previous or current illnesses or medical interventions, medication and family history. You can then start to piece together both the obvious and less obvious causes behind a patient's symptoms.
Following the history taking, you will carry out a physical examination — using sight and touch (or 'palpation'). This examination will include neurological and orthopaedic tests if needed and you may require an image of the patient's spine or other joints or further diagnostic tests. Your first concern will be to find out what is causing the problem and whether it falls within the remit of chiropractic care. So, you will routinely check for signs and symptoms of any serious conditions that require referral to the patient's GP or to hospital for emergency care. In this way you will provide a valuable 'screening' service for your patients while reassuring doctors that chiropractors understand their obligations to refer when necessary. All this must take place before you discuss your findings with the patient and gain their consent to your proposed treatment.
First things first
To work as a chiropractor in the UK you must register with the GCC, and to register you must have completed a university degree programme recognised by the Council. Students in the UK typically study for four years to gain their chiropractic qualification. For detailed information about the accredited degree programmes, see Chapter 6. The GCC promotes equality of opportunity but all graduates must be able to show that they have met all the learning outcomes of the programme of study and can meet the standard for chiropractic practice. There is a guide published by the GCC for those with a disability or health condition, which provides useful examples to help you with your decision-making: A Guide for Disabled People (2010) — see Useful resources.
The GCC continues to assess and assure the quality of education at the three chiropractic colleges that have attained suitable accreditation: the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic; the McTimoney College of Chiropractic; and the Welsh Institute of Chiropractic.
Freedom in practice
You will read much about the rigorous undergraduate training and stringent requirements for chiropractic registration, but never lose sight of the freedom that a chiropractic career can bring you. Most chiropractic graduates will enter into private practice because thereis limited scope for chiropractors to operate within the National Health Service (NHS) — a situation that may well change as the NHS authorities review their contracts with private health providers. This paucity of free care exists despite the fact that chiropractic care is included in the Musculoskeletal Services Framework published by the Department of Health and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) Guidelines — see Useful resources.
Time is on your side
General Practitioners (GPs) have relatively limited resources at their disposal with regard to treating musculoskeletal pain. Yet around a quarter of all patients attend a GP's surgery with this type of problem. Drugs, physiotherapy or, as a last resort, surgery, may be all the doctor can offer to a patient with persistent musculoskeletal pain. GPs will routinely refer chronic back pain patients for physiotherapy, for example, partly because GPs can easily refer to physiotherapists on the NHS and because the two professions have worked alongside one another for many years. The physiotherapist though may only have a ten-minute appointment available for the patient in six weeks' time, after which point manual intervention can become less effective, according to the NICE guidelines.
The causes of neuro-musculoskeletal pain are often complicated and cannot be fully addressed in ten-minute windows. Conditions, suchas severe lower back pain, unremitting headache and degenerative arthritis can be debilitating, depressing and, in the long term, they undermine an individual's lifestyle and ambitions. This is where you can step in as a caring and highly motivated new chiropractor!
Excerpted from Becoming a Chiropractor by Christina Cunliffe, Jane Cooke. Copyright © 2015 Christina Cunliffe. Excerpted by permission of BPP Learning Media.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsFree companion material,
About the publisher,
About the editors / contributors,
About the contributors,
Shining a light on your future career path,
1 Introduction — The journey begins!,
2 What do chiropractors do?,
3 Chiropractic from the patients' perspective,
4 How to ensure that chiropractic is the right career for you,
5 What is involved in the application process?,
6 How do I choose which programme to apply for?,
7 Student and early career finances,
8 Chiropractic as a second career — is it too late for me to train?,
9 What is life like as a student chiropractor?,
10 Chiropractic study — what will I learn?,
11 Chiropractic study — practical and clinical training,
12 Career progression after graduation,
13 Entering practice — what can you expect?,
14 Insights into specialist practice — animals,
15 Insights into specialist practice — sports,
16 Research — developing the profession,