For the last few years now, you have been dutifully sitting in classrooms, going to your labs, and learning how to use your hands to make a career for yourself. For many of you, chiropractic school has been a continuation of college, and it has been one class and one test after another, for quarters or semesters on end. Well, guess what? The biggest test of all is coming, and you won’t be graded on it. It is the test of practice, and you need to pass it.
Thus far, your mind has been well tuned to the rigors of school. You go to class, take notes, study, and pass exams. What is so important about your school experience is to learn the many ways you and your classmates are able to learn. As human beings, we all learn through sight, sound, and touch. In fact, everything you’ve learned at school has been through these three methods. And most people are dominant in one form of learning over the other two.
Being a successful chiropractor requires mastering many skills, but chief among them is your ability to educate your patients. If you use visual, auditory, and kinesthetic styles of teaching when you talk to your patients, they will better understand and learn from you.
Many of your patients have been to other types of healthcare providers and have not found the answers to their particular health issues. Patients are often made to feel like healthcare providers will not take the time or effort to explain what is happening.
Now is your time – it is your turn to be the teacher! Being the teacher means effectively communicating information and having a good “bedside manner.” You can develop this with a little practice.
Listening: If there is one skill lacking in a healthcare provider that patients complain most about, it is listening. It seems like a simple concept, but it is not. Can you tell when someone is not listening to you? Of course you can, and so can your patients. Maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, using facial expressions, and even making noises that show you are hearing patients’ words are all effective ways of listening.
All of your patients have a story to tell, and they want someone to listen to them. Let them talk without interrupting. Let there be short pauses of silence. Allow them to get all of their thoughts out. Occasionally, you can redirect their thought processes with a few words, but avoid giving your opinions and conclusions until they are done speaking.
Patience: Give your patients enough time to not only get their thoughts out during the history taking but also during the rest of the exam and treatment. Remember, many of these patients have never been to a doctor who actually puts his or her hands on them. They are used to waiting a long time to see a doctor and then spending only five to 10 minutes with them once they get into the examining room.
Be efficient with your time, but allow the patient to experience the chiropractic way of healthcare. The more relaxed they are with you, the easier your treatment (including the adjustments) will be.
Compassion: You would be surprised at how many of our patients are treated coldly and without empathy by other healthcare providers. Caring and compassion are quintessential components of a great doctor. After all, how do you feel after you have shared a story or a description of something important to you, only to have your listener appear bored?
It’s a terrible feeling when another person doesn’t feel the level of emotion that you do on a subject. Now, you don’t have to make baby faces and say “poor you” to everyone; however, offering some words of empathy and understanding will do you well in establishing a solid relationship with your patients.
Teaching: The power of chiropractic comes from what it is not. It is unlike any other healthcare discipline in the world. Using our hands, we realign subluxated or misaligned bones anywhere in the body, remove nerve interference, and let the body heal itself.
We also explain how we utilize ancillary therapies like physiotherapy, exercise, and orthotics to help the adjustments hold longer. It has been successful since 1885, and you will help it continue to be so.
When you teach your patients about the wonders we do, keep in mind the three ways of learning: use your listening skills, exhibit compassion and empathy, and give your patients time to understand. We don’t expect to heal our patients in one visit, but it is the caring way we conduct ourselves that makes our profession so awesome.
Use your knowledge and abilities to help people. Make us practicing field chiropractors proud to call you one of our brothers and sisters!