Yesterday I had the pleasure to speaking to Dr. Mark Doerrfeld’s class at Palmer College in Davenport. The evening before, I spent an hour or so with the Masters Circle Club. Having never attended chiropractic college as a student, being on the campus of any chiropractic college is always a thrill for me. Spending time with students genuinely interested, who ask great questions, is among my favorite speaking gigs.
Besides the fact that students appear incredibly young (a sure sign that I must be getting old), I was struck by the fact that many chiropractic college students seem to have lost touch with the original dream that prompted them to begin the journey of becoming a chiropractor. Locked deeply into their left brain, most students have their heads down, intent on learning the neurology and anatomy and getting good grades. And while getting high marks may be a source of pride, good grades have little relationship on one’s ability to successfully practice chiropractic. (Often, just the opposite.) A fact lost on most students.
They have a surprise coming. Because while living one day at a time and being totally focused on passing this trimester’s classes is required, at some point their college experience will end. Answering the question, “Now what?” requires considerably more thought than as a last trimester assignment. If you treat this vital question as if it were just one more assignment to be turned in and graded, you’ll blow it. Because your answer, based on the preparation you do now will determine whether you actually end up practicing chiropractic. And if you do, whether you’ll get over the “hump” of startup, or burn through the money your relatives lend you, merely adding shame to your growing burden of financial indebtedness. Keeping your eye on the end game is something that must be attended to throughout your chiropractic college education.
Here are some ideas that might help.
1. Keep a practice journal. Use a three-ring binder or journal to collect ideas, proposed equipment purchases and practice-related materials you’ll want to have in your eventual office. Helpful as a visualization tool, use your practice journal to bring clarity to your vision of chiropractic practice. Use it to record scripts, procedures, patient questions, staff interview questions and all things related to actually having a practice. Watch your ideas evolve. Create a repository that can inspire you and constantly remind you what your chiropractic college journey is really all about!
2. Tour as many offices as possible. Use any free time to tour as many chiropractic offices as you can. See the incredible variety. Notice what appears to work and what doesn’t. Show up to learn, not judge. Attempt to discern what makes the practice work (or not work). Take pictures for your practice journal. Ask questions. Try to capture at least one good idea from every practice you tour. Even if it’s merely a confirmation of something you want to avoid when you set up yours.
3. Practice speaking in public. Join a Toastmasters group and use the safety of these organized gatherings to hone your ability to string sentences together in a cogent manner in front of others. Even if you have a secret strategy to grow your new practice without sharing chiropractic through lectures and seminars, acquiring public speaking skills will enhance your one-on-one communications as well. Now is the time to perfect these skills. They are learnable. But like anything done well, it requires practice. There are no shortcuts. This vital communication skill, along with your chiropractic education, will be among the best investments you can make in yourself. If you wait until you’ve graduated or you have more free time, you jeopardize your career.
4. Practice being aggressively friendly. Most practices are a barometer of the doctor’s social skills. Generally chiropractors who are more outgoing, approachable and communicative help more people. If you’re an introvert you’ll need to be an extraordinary healer with a unique technique, or start now to develop your social “muscle.” (Having both gives you a huge advantage.) Take the initiative of introducing yourself to strangers, strike up conversations with those you don’t know, enhance your ability to build a connection and handle small talk with ease. And if just the thought of doing this makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s a major clue you really need to work on this. The success of your future practice depends on it.
Most of us get so busy fighting crocodiles that we forget that the original purpose was to drain the swamp. Same thing here. I thank both Palmer audiences for leaving their left-brain world for an hour or two to spend it with me. I hope I was able to inspire them as much as I was inspired by them.