Given the increasing cost of tuition at chiropractic schools, launching a solo practice straight after graduation can be a financial burden for the new DC.
Instead, getting an associateship can be a viable option. The new grad can gain valuable experience while still managing to earn a small income.
New DCs often have an unrealistic opinion of what they can offer an employer. Enter any associateship with an open mind and remember that your employer has valuable experience that you can learn from.
A little humility at the beginning of your career will go a long way. Here are some suggestions for new the DC looking for an associate position.
Be willing to learn
An associateship is similar to a residency in the medical profession. Most medical doctors must complete a residency after they are licensed, and the chiropractic profession lacks this type of residency program (although some schools have or are forming preceptorships).
The new DC who needs private practice experience and possesses only limited clinical skills can find it difficult to get a job. Therefore, consider an associateship as an opportunity to learn and build on your skills that you learned in school. Medical residencies are three years long for a reason: It takes one year for a new doctor to learn to practice, two years to be good at it and three years to be great.
Go into your associateship with an open mind and don’t expect to be paid an unrealistic amount. Remember to think of an associateship as a residency—a time to learn. As a new graduate without a residency, you have zero private practice experience, and you are not worth much in the marketplace.
In chiropractic, the only way to earn large amounts of money is to own your own practice (as opposed to working as an associate, where you are unlikely to own the practice you are building). High-paying associateships are not commonplace in the chiropractic profession. But with time, hard work, and a little luck you could one day have a high-paying private practice (if that is your goal). Just don’t forget that the first step is gaining experience and building on it.
Go into your associateship with a humble attitude and know that you will have little or no influence over the operation of the clinic. Although you are a licensed DC, you will still be an employee with no private practice experience. That’s why your suggestions for the practice will rarely be implemented.
Your employer is paying you to implement their advice, not for you to give them yours. Respect the extensive experience your employer has, because after all, he or she has achieved enough success to bring you aboard.
The Chinese have a saying: “When the student is ready, the master will appear.” This saying can be paraphrased to: “When the associate is ready, the employer will appear.” Don’t worry about impressing employers with your experience and clinical skills. Impress your employer with your willingness to learn, and your career will bloom.
Steven Brown, DC, Dipl Ac, has a private practice in Tempe, Arizona. He has been practicing chiropractic for 22 years and is also an acupuncturist. Visit his website at brownchiro.com.