The Women Chiropractors group (WDC) ReEntry Program is filling the gap for women DCs facing challenges
Do you remember when you first graduated from chiropractic college? Did you think, “OK, now what?” If not, you were lucky. Many of us in the women chiropractors group lacked a clear idea of what to do next in order to get started.
If we were smart and lucky, we found a mentor or a group of like-minded people to help us begin in practice in whatever form that took. With a combination of hard work, luck, blood, sweat and tears, many of us went on to build successful careers. But what about the ones who did not have that same combination of grit and good fortune, or for other reasons in life, ended up needing to start over?
Women Chiropractors group ReEntry: Help starting over
Sometimes this “life stuff” comes at a time long removed from that first blush of post-graduation excitement and confidence. Divorce, kids, practice failure, death of a spouse or family member, change in the economic landscape, moving, and so many other reasons, just to name a few.
Life happens and sometimes it knocks you around a bit. Getting back into practice after being out for five, 10 or more years can be daunting. Asking for help is scary. Resources for this type of situation are few, especially if you are on a tight budget or without a budget altogether.
Women in chiropractic, as in many other traditionally male-dominated professions, have fought a long uphill battle to begin to near equality. Slowly, women have begun to even the scales in numbers of students enrolled in chiropractic colleges, but this number still lags in practicing chiropractors.
In general, more women leave practice proportionally than do men post-graduation. The balance of home, practice, kids, family, aging parents and a host of other factors are the most common reasons for this and are not unusual or unique to chiropractic. This exodus of women from the workforce has never been so acute and noticeable as during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I suspect now that more women have left chiropractic than ever before. This article is a spotlight on one thing that can be done about it: The Women Chiropractors group (WDC) ReEntry Program.
The WDC ReEntry Program
WDC is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support and empower all women chiropractors in technique, business, philosophy and life skills, as well as to help women find their purpose, find balance, and create a sisterhood that supports one another during school/graduation and throughout their careers. The Women Chiropractors group ReEntry program is one of the ways in which WDC helps to lift up all women by giving a hand to those who may need it. ReEntry is the brainchild and passion project of Cyndy Shaft-Toll, DC.
The ReEntry Program was designed by Shaft-Toll for women starting over and returning to practice after “life happens” — a significant life event that took them out of practice for a period of time. She has personal experience in this; she started over after a divorce from her husband, who was also a chiropractor. Alone with seven children and in a practice that was struggling, she turned to fellow women chiropractors to mentor, coach and assist her in finding success. She comes from a chiropractic family and realized how fortunate she was to have others to turn to, and that many other women do not. She co-founded WDC with ReEntry as a core program, knowing firsthand the struggles women face in chiropractic.
Offering a foundation to start again
The program is offered free of charge to applicants who have left the profession and are looking to re-enter, start fresh, or are just struggling in practice or life and need help. The goal is to help give women the building blocks and confidence to re-enter practice.
Classes take place weekly via Zoom, beginning every January with graduation set yearly on International Women Chiropractors Day, June 5. As of 2021, four cohorts have graduated, and the program has grown and helped more than 50 women re-enter practice.
A 2020 graduate of the program and now a WDC board member, Cristina Padilla, DC, writes this about her experience in ReEntry: “I joined ReEntry at the beginning of 2020. I had been looking to connect with women chiropractors in practice to share ideas and mastermind, since I’m a solo practitioner. When the program began, I was having some of the best months in practice but was struggling with systems and managing it all. Two months into the ReEntry program, the pandemic forced businesses to shut down and I lost about 60% of my business in less than a month. This was not only unexpected, but also concerning because I wasn’t sure if my practice would survive months of loss and stay-at-home orders.
“Fortunately, having the guidance, accountability, support, and mentorship of the Women Chiropractors group and the mentors in the ReEntry program, I was able to shift my focus and mindset and better plan for the future. Our motto in the group became ‘pivot, don’t panic,’ and having the weekly check-ins with the group helped us all to continue to grow through a pandemic. I am happy to say I was able to double my business revenue in 2020 and hire my first employee. I was also the recipient of the Linda Atkinson award, a grant offered by WDC to a woman in practice. This award allowed me to continue my personal development to complete some education and certifications that would help me grow my business even further. I cannot thank Women Chiropractors enough for their mission and dedication to create opportunities for women to get back into the profession, but also to advocate and connect new female doctors with other females in practice.”
When life suddenly shifts
We all have a story. For me, well, I was in the first class. After 17 years and some career success, after graduation I found my situation suddenly shifting. While I had a part-time practice, I had never placed all of my focus on patient care, instead doing third-party medical examinations primarily with insurance companies and lawyers. I was never fully satisfied by this work and suddenly I saw a shift coming on the horizon.
The landscape was changing, and I feared I would suddenly have no work. This is a terrifying prospect for anyone, and for years I had been the main breadwinner for my family. I knew it was finally time to shift to patient care full-time. This is what I had always wanted anyway, and yet … I was terrified. Not about the care, as I knew I was able to provide for patients, but at the time I was seeing four patients per week.
That is not a typo: four.
I had tried in the past to make a practice viable, and I had failed. I was suffering from anxiety and depression, and some days I had so much fear that it seemed to me that was all I was. I didn’t know where to start. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.
Fortunately, I was smart enough to know I needed help, and through a crazy combination of good fortune and the universe intervening, I found the help I needed.
At the time, WDC was just getting ready to launch the first ReEntry program, and my old roommate, friend, and co-founder of WDC, Rosemary Batanjski, DC, suggested I contact Dr. Shaft-Toll immediately and apply to the ReEntry program. I applied and was accepted, and it changed my life. These women changed my life. I think they may have saved my life.
Weekly programming and mentorship
The weekly program in ReEntry offers topics that are broad and varied, as are the doctors enrolled. There is camaraderie and kinship and a sense of helping lift one another up. The mentorship provided is invaluable and exactly what I had been looking for since graduation.
Four years later I am in practice full-time, during a pandemic that has been difficult to navigate with rolling closures in my area. Many of the patients and doctors I know have fallen into states of anxiety and depression, and yet for me, for the first time in my career, I feel better overall than I ever have. I am not saying I don’t have days — we all have our days — but finally, 20 years into practice I got the help I needed to find and keep success.
The Women Chiropractors group and ReEntry made such a difference in my life personally that I am now honored to serve on their board. We are a nonprofit organization aimed at supporting and empowering women chiropractors and changing the landscape of our great profession. We continue to offer the ReEntry program yearly, as well as free regional one-day pop-up seminars, speaking opportunities for women chiropractors, support of female-led research, a scholarship program and a bi-annual convention.
Our Facebook group is the largest and most active in the profession, and offers non-judgmental clinical, practice-related and personal support. While the board members are volunteers, there are always costs to supporting these programs. If you want to support women taking their rightful place toward equality in chiropractic, then I encourage you to join our journey. All we ask for is $17/month, a fraction of just one adjustment, so we can continue this mission. Visit our website for more information.
KAREN HUDES, DC, is a Canadian chiropractor, WDC board member and past ReEntry candidate. For more information or to support the WDC ReEntry program, go to womenchiropractors.org.