Chiropractors in a conventional practice today often face a number of unexpected obstacles to success and well-being.
More DCs are dealing with long grueling hours at the office, massive patient load (or struggling to attract enough patients), or floundering just to keep the lights on month to month.
These challenges are far too common and creating the perfect recipe for burnout in the profession. In fact, a 2013 study done by Seton Hall University shows at least 1 in 5 chiropractors are now burned out.1
This is becoming an epidemic, leading to more stress, more frustration, and more doctors leaving the profession.
After putting yourself through years of schooling, taking on massive student loan debt, and perhaps tens of thousands of dollars more to build your own practice, you’ve earned the right to a practice you love, on your own terms. Don’t settle for a crushing patient load, an inflexible work schedule, or anything else that doesn’t resonate with your vision of an ideal life.
You’re capable of building and maintaining a successful practice where you decide how many patients you’ll see daily, what types of patients you work with, and how much money you’ll make in doing so. Clarify what’s really important to you and start taking steps now to make it happen before the drudgery of an unsatisfactory practice takes its toll.
But how do you get past burnout or avoid it altogether? The first step is to be on the lookout for common signs of burnout so you can take action before chronic stress kills your motivation, making it that much harder to create the practice and life of your dreams.
Signs of danger
Exhaustion. In a high-volume practice, you may easily see 50 to 100 patients daily. After a while, this can leave you mentally and physically drained to the point where you feel like you’re running on fumes and have nothing left to give.
Detachment. If you crave a quality connection with your patients but feel like your practice has you stuck on a hamster wheel, merely going through the motions, apathy may set in. This will prevent you from fostering the type of relationships you seek.
Procrastination. Do you dream of building a successful practice around your lifestyle but you keep putting off taking any action to make it happen? Fear of the unknown can paralyze you, and this is more likely to occur when you feel burnt out and unmotivated.
Irritability. When you feel stuck in a practice that’s not fulfilling your needs, you may start to lash out (even if subtly) on those around you, including your patients and loved ones, in order to release pent-up frustration. Sadly, this tendency will only further alienate you from hitting your practice goals and keep churning the vicious cycle of burnout.
If you’re dealing with any of these red flags, you’re already burnt out. The good news is you can take action and move past it.
The way out
Take stock of your situation. If you start to feel burnout pulling you down, know it doesn’t have to be this way.
Ask yourself which elements of your current practice aren’t in alignment with your core values and goals.
What drains the energy out of you?
Do you feel a lack of flexibility or control over factors you consider important? Do you feel like you’re building a practice based on someone else’s definition of success? Are there specific professional goals that you haven’t been able to accomplish but you feel at a loss regarding which direction to move?
Clarify what’s working and what’s not in your practice. No one else can do this for you and your happiness depends on it. Maybe what you thought you wanted (or what everyone said you needed to do to be successful) turned out not to be what you expected.
Visualize your ideal practice. This has been shown to be a powerful tool you can use on a regular basis to help bring your dreams to fruition. Kick preconceptions to the curb and let your imagination run wild as you envision what your ideal practice would look like. Think with no fears, boundaries, or questions about how you would do it.
- Where would you practice?
- How many patients would you see in a typical day?
- What could you do to add more value for your patients?
- How flexible would your schedule be?
- How will you feel when you’re finally able to practice on your own terms?
Keep this vision top of mind and reflect on it every day. Doing so will go a long way towards guiding you to take steps in the right direction.
Maintain good self-care. If your health is failing, it’s nearly impossible to muster the energy and clarity of thought needed to create a dream practice. As a chiropractor, you understand that proper nutrition, ample rest, regular exercise, quality time with loved ones, and partaking in spiritual or creative pursuits are pillars of good self-care.
But chiropractors who are chronically stressed and burnt out can become so consumed with helping their patients lead healthy lives that they may end up neglecting their own health, to their detriment.
If you’re having trouble cultivating or maintaining healthy habits on your own, try working with a health coach who can make it easier for you to stick with them. Doing so can make a huge difference in how well you’re able to cope with stress, how much energy you bring to the table for your patients, and ultimately how likely you are to succeed at your goals.
Underestimating the toll burnout can take on your practice and your life can lead to years of stress and unhappiness, resulting in chronic illness, damaged relationships with patients and loved ones, and financial turmoil.
So much of your energy and compassion goes into your patients. The key is to find a balance in caring for them and growing your practice, while remembering to also put yourself and your health first.
Ultimately, overcoming burnout is all about tapping back in to what you want in practice and recognizing you have the power to create it, without any boundaries or limits. If you put yourself first, you can give much more to yourself, your practice, and your patients.
Jen Faber, DC, is the founder of the Freedom Formula and is a coach for chiropractors on how to build a practice that gives them freedom and the lifestyle they want. She went from being a burnt-out associate to building a successful six-figure practice working less than part-time. She can be contacted through drjenfaber.com.
1 Williams S. The Prevalence of Burnout among Chiropractic Practiononers. Seton Hall University Dissertations and Theses. 2013. Paper 1880.