Most students have perceived fears about the eventuality of practice. Like most fears, they are often irrational, based on myth, or are the result of illusions that prevent many new graduates from being as resourceful or effective as they might otherwise be.
Here’s what new and student doctors should be worrying about:
PAYING BACK THEIR LOANS
It’s difficult to serve two masters and debt is a harsh taskmaster. Today’s six-figure student loans can distort reality, or worse, cloud the debtor’s vision and result in decisions that will sabotage one’s ultimate success and influence.
Ironically, many with huge debts forget that the ability to pay back their loan is a symptom. And like most symptom treating, focusing on symptoms instead of the cause, rarely solves the problem.
Those whose vision extends no further than paying back their loans and making a decent living will find their lives are nothing more than a long, strenuous juggling act of bill-paying. There is little joy, and what they find is that they have traded their signatures at the bottom of the loan application for a job. Escaping this arrangement starts from the inside out.
Instead of worrying about paying your loan back, worry about how you can serve more patients, giving them what they want, so you’ll have more than enough financial resources to fulfill your financial obligations. Then you’ll be rewarded with a lifestyle befitting someone with your talent and willingness to take risk.
TO ASSOCIATE OR NOT TO ASSOCIATE
Most chiropractic colleges don’t do a good job of acquainting their students with the realities of actual practice, which is why internships, externships, and associate relationships are so important. These can be especially helpful for the vast majority of student doctors who enter practice lacking the hands-on skills of running a small business. Working in a busy office beside an experienced chiropractor, and seeing the rhythm, the paperwork systems, and the other day-to-day realities of a profitable exchange between doctor and patient can be invaluable.
There are several major motives for an established doctor to hire an associate. A common motive is to make money off the new doctor in exchange for teaching him or her the ropes. These relationships are often heavy-handed and rarely last. Many new doctors respond by taking a healthy chunk of patient files with them and opening a competing practice down the street. Another motive is to hire an associate to allow the main doctor to take the time off for vacations, extended weekends, or to spend more time with a growing family. As long as the associate doctor is fairly compensated and motivated to carry the patient load, this can be a long-lasting win/win relationship.
PICKING THE RIGHT PRACTICE LOCATION
This worries a lot of student doctors who spend hours analyzing data about the concentration of chiropractors per population. This mentality assumes that there are only a finite number of chiropractic patients in the world, and to get your fair share, you need to locate as far away as possible from other chiropractors.
Check out the density of chiropractors per population within a 10-mile shadow of virtually any chiropractic college! A high concentration of chiropractors merely tells the general public that there is a huge demand for chiropractic.
Determine the best place on the planet for you to raise a family and a place you’d be willing to dig deep roots into the community. Worry about finding a location with a likable climate that is either close to or far from your parents, depending upon your relationship. In short, recognize that there is a boundless supply of patients, so pick a location that would make serving them convenient and enjoyable.
GETTING NEW PATIENTS
This is a common worry, and well founded, based upon the stories I hear from new graduates who thought that the act of installing their office sign would produce a stream of new patients!
Interestingly, for many practices this constant need for new patients never goes away. New patient acquisition attempts go in spurts from offers of free care, tangos with personal injury lawyers, or pathetic little ads in the newspaper television program guide. While these overtures produce spines, promotions rarely produce true patients. The attitudes and motives of those who show up often sour the doctor and staff, tainting their outlook on the practice and the profession.
Action step: Instead of worrying about new patients, find ways to bridge the “knowledge gap,” the “perception gap,” and the “personality gap” by getting out of your office and into your community. Become aggressively friendly, introducing yourself and your profession everywhere you go. If you don’t have a personality, go get one! Great technical skills alone will rarely fill your office to capacity. Equip the patients that you do get with the information and pride to explain, defend, and promote your “brand” of chiropractic.
FEAR OF THE UNKNOWN
After years of book-learning and seeing chiropractic work firsthand in the school clinic, you’d think that would be enough to kill the weed of fear. Yet, with all that they know, many doctors fall victim to the fear of what they don’t know! Since there’s always something more that can be learned, overcoming the paralysis this one can produce is serious business!
This is the cruel payment administered to those student doctors who studied hard, did well on tests, and were most interested in third party, scientific validation of chiropractic tenets. How were they to know that they were setting themselves up for fear and self-doubts? It comes down to this: until we can use the five senses to measure and control the spirit (innate intelligence) then we must have faith in the healing process. Everything else is window dressing. It is one of the fundamental differences between mere doctors and true healers.
The fear of making a mistake, the fear of the unknown, and the fear of letting others down provide ample fodder for those worried about themselves. Fear is an indulgent and selfish behavior that doesn’t wear well on someone who professes to advance health and healing.
William D. Esteb is the founder and creative director of Patient Media Inc. and the co-director of Perfect Patients, an interactice Web site service for the chiropractic profession. He can be reached through patientmedia.com.