New grads and grads-to-be: The world awaits, as does a rewarding career in one of the world’s finest professions.
While it’s an exciting time, no doubt you’re full of questions, many of which have to do with setting up your first practice.
After all, your training was in the art and science of healthcare, not how to build and market a business.
First things first: picture your perfect practice; see it in your mind. What does it look like? What would be a comfortable income for you? What technology are you using? Who are your patients? Are you passionate about sports and fitness and, if so, can you see yourself working with athletes?
Maybe you enjoy being around children, or moms-to-be, or the elderly, or a diverse array of people so you face new and complex challenges every day.
Ask yourself these questions, answer them, and revisit them frequently.
Whatever your ideal practice might be, have it in your mind and carefully weigh every career decision against your vision. Chances are you won’t immediately fall into this dream practice; you will have to build it.
For example: If you’re dreaming of a multimillion-dollar practice with patients streaming in from far and wide, program yourself with an abundance mentality. The saying, “there is enough for everyone, including me” will help you acclimate to any area you want to locate your practice. Be an asset to your new community.
Getting the word out
Now that you’ve zeroed in on your ideal practice, it’s time to get folks in the door. Make sure your community is aware of you (even if joining an existing practice, this will help the business). Meet and talk to as many people as possible; your local chamber of commerce, Rotary club, neighbor- hood associations, book clubs, health clubs, and schools are just a few places to start.
Consider partnering with like- minded individuals or organizations to hold health events, or participate in one they are holding. Offer free services like postural assessments or digital foot scans to get people excited about you. Social media can be an invaluable (and free) way of getting the word out.
Building your toolkit
Just as in life, a good rule of thumb in practice is to live within your means. Keep a tight rein on your finances. After you grow more, you’ll be able to spend more.
Fortunately, the tools to get started are not that expensive.
Adjusting tables. Unless you are getting a killer deal, you don’t need to buy a fancy table right away. Many of the profession’s greatest doctors started out with only a portable adjusting table. A good table doesn’t have to be terribly expensive.
Make sure the table does what you need it to do. If you are a Diversified practitioner, make sure the table is the appropriate height. If you are an instrument-adjustingÂ Â chiropractor, then a reasonably priced hi-lo table may be just what the doctor ordered. You can always upgrade to a fancier table once you are in a more favorable financial situation.
Instruments. Adjusting instruments can be invaluable. Not only are they effective at adjusting all areas of the body but they also give you versatility when working with patients who may have reservations about traditional chiropractic adjustments. Patients love to see these types of tools, and they will make you a more diverse, multiskilled professional.
Traditional ultrasound, electric muscle stimulation, and TENS units are tried-and-true methods that yield good results. Cold laser and infrared laser are taking our profession to new levels. They promote faster healing times than many other therapies and the results are often quite dramatic for the patient.
Technology. Patients notice if you are up on current technology. Digital foot scanners, digital X-ray machines, and other types of high-tech equipment make your job as a doctor easier.
These tools can also save you time in patient communication and education.Â For example: By using a digital foot scanner, you can show a patient pictures of how flat their arches are. The pictures and graphics help you educate and report on findings in ways that patients understand. By talking patients through their results on- screen, they learn the concept of body imbalances and how the feet are involved. Reports that patients can bring home, look over, and share with family and friends, help reinforce their education, keeps their care top of mind, and may also act as powerful referral tools.
Build your team
Eventually you will be ready to hire and train staff who understand your philosophy and the importance of chiropractic. Your staff are the face of your practice and can help (or harm) that powerful first impression for patients. They should reinforce your
practice philosophy and values with every interaction.
You don’t need to have staff when you first open. You, your spouse, a family member, or a friend can fill this role until you get busier. It will be valuable for you to learn how to answer phones, schedule patients, call insurance companies for verifications, and perform billing and other clerical tasks. This teaches you how to run your office and will also give you the knowledge to eventually train and mentor your future staff.
The power of products
Products help patients while boosting your bottom line. Orthotics, pillows, nutritional supplements, analgesic creams, back braces, TENS units, rehab equipment (like elastic tubing, therapy bands, exercise balls, foam rollers, wobble boards, and weights), elastic sports tape, and muscle sticks are just a few options to consider. You are the expert and the products you choose to carry will be trusted by your patients.
In the beginning, you may not want to have a lot of inventory stockpiled because it ties up money. A happy medium is offering custom-molded foot orthotics. They don’t take up shelf space and you only order them after a patient agrees to pay for them.
Keep things simple until you can afford to make them more complex. You’ve worked hard and have the basics down. But now that school is behind you, the real learning begins. Here’s wishing you much success.
Kevin Wong, DC, is an expert on foot analysis, walking and standing postures, and orthotics. He discusses spinal and extremity adjusting at speaking engagements. He can be contacted through orindachiropractic.com.