The view from inside chiropractic school may not match reality as much as you think.
As a chiropractic student, you can get very comfortable in the bubble that is school. The closer you get to graduation, however, the more you realize that outside those protective gates there is a whole different world.
In the real world, patients don’t run in for an adjustment the minute they feel a cold coming on. In the real world, you not only have to spread the word about why patients need to be adjusted but you also have to convince them to stay under care when they feel better and think they no longer need it. Welcome to the real world, doctor.
Remember there is no “yellow brick road” to riches. There are many paths out there that lead to success, and just because a path worked for one chiropractor doesn’t mean it will work for you.
What constitutes a “perfect practice” is not the same for everyone. You may want to have a huge practice seeing 100 people a day yourself (which is possible to do while still delivering excellent care), while your neighbor may want a small family practice seeing 100 people a week, leaving more time for other activities.
What matters most is what works for you. Figure out your personality type, desired stress level, and goals, and plan from there. There is a reason some DCs have been practicing for 50 years and refuse to retire. They have found their passion and have stuck with it. There is no better future than that.
Also, “associate” is not a four-letter word. So many students are led to believe that if you don’t open your own office right out of school, you have failed. The truth is quite opposite. Associating is a great way to get your feet wet in the real world of practice with a successful mentor.
Many excellent doctors start out as associates. Some even remain associates for a long time. There is something to be said for the team mentality. There is always someone there to back you up, whether for sick days, vacation, maternity leave, or a complicated case. There is much to be said for a shared workload, office hours, and camaraderie. The key to any associateship is having the proper arrangement.
Chiropractors are wonderful natural holistic doctors but they can also have a tendency to eat their young. You may have heard story after story of bad associate experiences, and you may even know of a few first hand. A common theme in most such scenarios is that “things did not turn out as expected.”
A good way to avoid such disappoint is to ask the doctors you interview some basic questions: What they are looking for? Why do they want to hire an associate?
If the answer is that they need help, great. If it is because they want to work less, OK. But if it’s because they need more income, run for your life!
As with all things, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is; there is always a catch. In their defense, most doctors are good people, and they don’t want things to turn out badly. They will have high expectations for your employment and will be genuinely disappointed if the reality doesn’t meet the expectations.
Often, the arrangement set up for most associates is based on an outdated model, leading to poor results. Look for a contract that is mutually beneficial.
Of course, no doctor is going to pay you a salary to check your Facebook page, and you’ll need the right tools and direction to grow into the great doctor you will become. This is why tandem doctor contracts are great. They pay a fair wage to start with and as the practice grows, your income does too. Everyone contributes and everyone gains. Because the patients are shared, the workload is too.
Also, look for a practice that is a good fit with your personality and philosophy. If your core values and those of the owner vary greatly, things will usually not end well.
Look for someone who wants you to stay for the long term. That indicates the person wants to offer you a fair contract and integrate you into their practice. If someone wants to hire you for only one or two years, chances are he or she just wants cheap labor and will take as much advantage of you as possible until you tire of it and leave.
These are only a few insights into the real world outside the bubble. Remember that everyone makes mistakes; these are the learning experiences that help to shape people into great doctors. Go out into the world with your head on straight, your hands ready to heal, and your heart full of compassion. You will take the world by storm.