5 things they don’t teach you in school

Lessons you need to know that they may have missed in chiropractic college

Suppose I’m speaking to a state association and a recent graduate returns from the lunch break early: “Do you have a minute?” she asks.

A frustrated associate arranges an hour telephone consult with me: “Here’s my problem…” he confesses.

From such conversations, I’ve learned the following five essentials that aren’t getting adequate coverage in chiropractic colleges.

1. It’s a business

It’s called a practice and customers are called patients. But make no mistake, it’s a business nonetheless. This doesn’t make it dirty or dishonorable. It means that you must make a profit.

However, chiropractic colleges rarely teach business skills, and those that do only provide superficial, last-minute overviews. That’s because the mandate of most chiropractic colleges is to equip you to get a license—not to run a successful business. There’s no need to blame anyone for that. Instead, fall in love with the business of chiropractic. Know your numbers: overhead, profit, case average, lifetime value, patient visit average, and other helpful statistics.

2. How to get new patients

Because you’re a small business, you face the same problem as other small businesses: getting new customers.

Master this and your practice will be stable and predictable—even fun.

Getting new patients is a four-step process:

  1. Get out of your
  2. Meet as many strangers as
  3. Tell the simple truth about how chiropractic
  4. Rinse and

Whether you give talks, lectures, seminars, or screenings, or have a robust website and social media presence, the key is to tell the story to anyone who will listen. If you see that as unprofessional, pandering, or simply terrifying, get over it. You have the all- natural, drugless, side-effect-free solution for better health. They just don’t know it.

3. Sell your time not your talent

This is a classic rookie mistake. Imagining that the quality of your care is based on the amount of time you spend with patients or is a factor of the number of subluxations you adjust for each. With few exceptions, time spent and clinical outcomes are unrelated.

If you’ve chosen a time-consuming adjusting technique, you’ve put a cap on the number of people you can help. If you’ve been misled into believing patients are buying face time with you, starting with your next new patient, get in and out smartly and confidently. Do so even if you’re only seeing 10 people a day—and especially if you’re only seeing 10 a day.

4. The danger of caring too much

This is an occupational hazard faced by all professional caregivers. Yes, do care about your patients; show them compassion and genuine interest. But recognize that their symptom is merely the body’s intelligent strategy for getting the attention of its owner.

Chiropractors who care too much are often exhibiting poor boundaries, are afraid that their patients will abandon them, or both. They keep their practices comfortably small so that they can indulge in the luxury of micromanaging each patient.

What patients do or don’t do does not reflect on you. People have sufficient free will and agency to treat their bodies as they see fit. Don’t take it personally when patients make different choices than you would.

5. Not trusting the principles

The above-down, inside-out principles that restored Harvey Lillard’s hearing more than a century ago still hold true today. Properly applied, they can help patients suffering from virtually every symptom known to humankind.

Only the body heals, not doctors, drugs, surgery, or radiation. It heals if there isn’t any interference. Your mission is to find and reduce vertebral subluxation so that the innate healing ability of each patient can manifest. It’s that simple.


William D. Esteb is the creative director of Patient Media inc., and since 1999 has published his weekly email, “Monday Morning Motivation,” with practice tips and headspace ideas to grow your practice. You can contact him and subscribe at patientmedia.com.