As a clinician, I am frequently asked by interns and recent graduates about opening a practice and specializations within the chiropractic profession. Opening a new practice is a tremendous undertaking for a recent graduate. A new doctor experiences a steep learning curve the first couple of years in practice. Regardless of the type of student the doctor may have been, grade point average, and the number of patients seen in clinic, running a new practice is an entirely new experience with a new set of challenges. The challenges of being a doctor combined with running a business can be an all-consuming occupation. The ability to promote a practice and get patients into the practice, to properly diagnose, and to successfully treat and retain patients can be difficult to learn. Managing the business side of an office can be equally challenging. Hiring and supervising staff, managing income, organizing and paying taxes on time and keeping overhead low are skills not taught in chiropractic colleges and universities.
While it is admirable to want to increase a knowledge base above the basic continuing education credits required to maintain your license and learn new therapeutic techniques, recent graduates should carefully weigh how their time and money could most significantly be used to generate maximum return. It seems appropriate for recent graduates to sharpen those skills taught at their alma mater and get comfortable with their new role as chiropractic physicians.
Once practice begins to be developing smoothly and the doctor’s office becomes increasingly visible in their community, the timing may be more appropriate to begin undertaking classes leading to advanced degrees and specialization. As the lure of learning new methods and techniques becomes increasingly attractive, the doctor is better suited to bring a practice to the next level. Once a doctor has experience treating multiple conditions and has numerous patient contacts (and everything that goes along with that), continuing education takes on significance and becomes more practical. After building practical experience educational examples take on a new level of awareness and interest. Without useful experience to reflect upon, the practitioner will have difficulty finding depth in real life clinical situations occurring at the office.
An added advantage to having experience before pursuing advanced training is related to the business concept of “uniqueness.” After a few years in practice, a doctor may enjoy treating a particular segment of the population more than others and develop an affinity to that group. A unique specialty can lead to developing a unique practice environment. A doctor who has a different set of skills from other doctors possesses a unique advantage in business. This unique advantage sets the doctor apart from other practitioners in the community by offering services that are specialized based on specific training and experience. This difference can take the shape of a doctor who specializes in pediatrics, sports, nutrition, or any of the other specialties offered by the chiropractic profession. This could also include unique services offered to the community.
A service as simple as taking blood pressure on request or offering wellness classes might be a way to attract potential patients. A further option might be to offer custom-made, flexible Spinal Pelvic Stabilizers to their patients. This unique service is attractive to patients and their families at many levels. Stabilizers can be promoted to patients in the waiting room and by various displays placed strategically throughout the doctor’s office. They are a useful adjunct to therapy and offer substantial benefit for numerous conditions regularly seen in a chiropractor’s practice
Specializing in rehabilitation and integrating low back stabilization programs into patient care can become a vital part of a patient’s treatment plan and a simple way to introduce patients to the benefits of active care. It is common knowledge that patients who receive therapeutic exercise have fewer exacerbations of pain after being discharged from care. It is my experience that the formula of combining active care and chiropractic adjustments results in a winning situation for both the doctor and patient alike.
It seems appropriate for recent graduates to focus their time and energy on one goal at a time. Initially focusing on building and establishing your practice in the community and becoming recognized as an admired physician is a good place to start. With experience, advanced education and specialization will become more meaningful, and one can emphasize a particular branch of practice to develop a unique and sought-after set of clinical skills. Eventually the doctor will become associated with his or her specialty, leading to an identity of the doctor among his or her patients and peers alike and enabling the doctor to stand apart from other practitioners in the community.