You probably gen an uneasy feeling in your gut when you see the word “jail” associated with a position you might hold someday – or currently hold now (i.e., “associate”).
You have undoubtedly heard stories about the pioneers of your profession who were wrongly thrown in the slammer as they fought for their principles and right to practice the chiropractic philosophy and art. It is almost frightening to ask yourself if you would do that today. Every chiropractor is thankful that these men and women saved the profession early on with their boldness.
Then, of course, there are those who rightly do end up behind bars for practicing unethically, billing illegally, etc. Both of these are instances of chiropractors being physically jailed. This article, however, discusses a different kind of imprisonment: the state of being mentally or financially “jailed.”
Many new DCs end up captive to their circumstances, stuck in a place that is difficult to get out of. Like any physical jailing, this situation can be tough to endure and cause significant stress, frustration, financial challenges, and – worst of all – significant delays in your professional growth and achievements. The “jail” in this case is an unhealthy and poorly orchestrated associate chiropractor position.
You probably speak with students and recent grads daily. So you know one thing for sure: Most chiropractic students and new graduates intend to open their own practice someday.
However, most do not do that right out of school. Why not? Largely because they are trained to believe they can’t. While this may be true for some, there are dozens of instances to prove that it is not true for all. Nevertheless, most new grads by default seek out an associate-DC position.Â Make no mistake, associate positions can be a beneficial option for some graduates. But, it’s no secret that a high percentage of associate experiences turn out poorly. It’s worth thinking about why that happens so often.
It starts with a lack of clarity and agreement surrounding the “why” of the working relationship. In many cases, the owner doctor’s “why” is that he or she is tired or burned out and wants someone to do the less-desirable work. Or, the owner doctor hopes an associate can work hard and take the practice to levels they were unable to reach alone, and improve their income as a result.
On the other hand, the associate’s “why” is usually about “learn and earn.” This involves the need to get some real-world experience, to earn money to start paying some bills off, to buy a few nice things, to start a family, etc. The problem with this is that the typical associate position doesn’t pay enough base salary and any possible bonus will be difficult to attain.
Most practices have few established systems. Those they have are more than likely unwritten and can’t be taught in an orderly way. Most practices, after all, are driven by a doctor’s personality, technique, and subjective decisions.
As a result, an associate will have a hard time getting quality training. The owner doctor assumes the associate will just “get it” and won’t understand why that doesn’t happen.
The lack of a training protocol can result in an associate feeling (and looking) inexperienced. This leads to patients lacking confidence in the associate. Also, the office staff may not respect the associate as they should and not schedule many patients with him or her.
The associate had hoped to “learn and earn,” but that isn’t happening.Â Worse, the owner doctor may conclude that the associate should do more marketing to increase patient volume. But most chiropractic clinics have no marketing system and run a continuous roller coaster of ups and downs with new patients. When this doesn’t pan out, no new patient bonus is earned.
See the problem? The owner doctor and the associate both begin to harbor resentment and frustration when their expectations fail to materialize. And because the associate can’t save any money in this situation, he or she can’t afford to leave and feels stuck. This is “associate jail.”
This doesn’t always happen, but it occurs often enough to be a concern. The good news is that knowing about this helps you to avoid it. It’s easier to find a successful associate position once you know what a bad one looks like.