5 lessons from 5 years in practice

As most doctors of chiropractic know, the fifth year in practice is a big one.

It is the year you either start to see yourself as part of the profession or you prepare to move on to another.

As I reflect on my first five years in practice, I’ve thought of several lessons I wish I had learned earlier. Here are five key practices that a new doc should know right out of school.

1. Technique.

There was a quote I heard in my first year in practice, “The weakest part of chiropractic is the adjustment.” When I left school I thought I knew enough that I could correct any malposition. I believed the techniques I learned were the only ones to use and could be used on everyone. I was too arrogant to listen to older docs who said, “Adjusting is the hardest thing to learn.”

The art of chiropractic is a sacred part of this profession. And at this point I am just becoming “fair” at adjusting (and only after delivering over 40,000 adjustments). Lucky for me, I was able to learn from the best docs in the state, who see more patients in a week than most practices see in months. Because of this, I am just now finding my touch and getting better results.

2. Communication.

One of the most important lessons to learn is the daily table talk. I communicate my findings and analysis to my patients and explain the discomforts or other symptoms that could arise from their condition.

When coming out of school, these conversations were difficult for me because I faced so much rejection, as I am sure most DCs do. It was easier for me to talk about the weather or than risk the chance of someone questioning my analysis or technique.

Years later, I realize that patients want to know what is going on and want to be actively involved in their treatment. They want help preventing their dis-ease, and they learn to trust the doctor to give it to them. As I spoke with my patients, I found I did not have to constantly use medical or chiropractic terminology. Yes, speak like a doctor, but then explain things to patients in their own terms, so they can understand.

3. Personal patience.

I have never suffered from a chronic condition, which was an obstacle during my first years in practice. It made it difficult to conceptualize an appropriate timeline when treating a chronic case. Because it is tough to be patient and let the body repair, you might prescribe treatment plans that are unrealistic for a chronic condition. It took me years to discover that some conditions may never be corrected but only controlled through care.

Learning this lesson has helped drastically. Now when I see a patient who is severely degenerated, I can construct a more appropriate treatment plan. This leads to a lasting doctor-patient relationship, which in turn garners more trust and referrals.

4. Networking.

The fourth lesson was learning how small the world of chiropractic is. I attended seminars and noticed the great doctors knew one another. I networked with them, asked them for mentorship and listened to what they had to say. Most of these doctors were willing to help me because they had mentors themselves. They have been my greatest resources in learning patient care analogies, specific adjustments, and chiropractic philosophy. They saved me years of struggle and sleepless nights by mentoring me.

5. Education.

In my fifth year of practice, I have rediscovered my passion for the art, philosophy, and science of chiropractic. We are in an era where we can get lectures and books from many of the great chiropractors. We can learn analysis, technique and marketing from those who are making an impact on the profession. The more I make strides the more I realize I am just scratching the surface.

Derek Legg, DC, CICE, is a 2013 graduate of Logan University practicing at Goodyear Chiropractic in Avondale, Arizona. He is also working on outreach for personal injury victims at drwhiplash.com. He can be reached at drleggdc@gmail.com or through goodyearwellness.com.