Chiropractors are known to be alternative practitioners looking to heal and restore balance to the human body, being grounded on the belief that the body heals and restores itself through certain practices that are perfected by chiropractors.
In this podcast, join us as we go through a day in the life of a chiropractor, uncovering the fascinating moments, challenges, and triumphs they encounter in their pursuit of the client's overall well-being. From cracking adjustments to compassionate patient interactions, gain an insider's perspective on this profession that aims to unlock the body's innate healing potential.
In this episode, the following were discussed:
Dr. Dan Wilhelmus has a home-based private practice in Norfolk County together with his wife, a psychotherapist. Dr. Dan has been working in chiropractic care for 28 years. He graduated in 1995 from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in Toronto.
Having had some physical injuries in his second year of Chiropractic college, it necessitated the need for hip replacement surgery that eventually ended up in amputation. Nonetheless, Dr. Dan still got the opportunity to work by modifying his hours to be more hands-on with both his old and new patients, becoming friends with patients of all shapes and sizes and seeing them through the course of care.
During his time, Dr. Dan claimed that the requirements were different from how the system goes now. But the current trend is that you'll be needing four years of university in a science-oriented degree, which could be kinesiology or physical therapy - as long as it's a science-related degree. After finishing four years at university, you'll be enrolling at a chiropractic college, which is typically also a four-year chiropractic program. Upon completion, you'll need to be certified first before you put up your own practice.
The education for chiropractic and medicine could be very similar for the first two years. However, the focus on the spine and the neuromusculoskeletal system is emphasized after. Chiropractic is focused primarily on making sure that the body moves better. Chiropractors have a lot of hands-on experience, and technique is a significant component of the class structure. The training in chiropractic college makes sure that when students graduate, they're fully confident in delivering adjustments and experienced enough to jump right into practice.
From high school on, both fields require a minimum of eight years. For chiropractors, the amount of material that needs to be known is to ensure they don't make errors and omissions. The full scale of all the conditions that the body might go through is studied, as well as the places where we might not be treating said conditions.
If the chiropractor sees that the condition is beyond the scope of chiropractic, then it needs a referral to the appropriate health care practitioner. It was emphasized that chiropractors are still doctors because they diagnose and send patients out for the appropriate investigations.
Professional school is interesting for Dr. Dan because he believes that information at university could seem a little arbitrary at times, and not all of it applies to your line of work. Dr. Dan shares that his degree was honours in biology, which included subjects like botany that Dr. Dan had to take that he didn't think were going to help him in his future profession. But the beauty of getting into professional school is that students learn things that they're going to be using in real life, like the human anatomy or techniques in massage therapy, and it keeps them motivated.
However, Dr. Dan also says that it's a very intensive program, so students really don't have the luxury of taking a break. There are a lot of gruelling and tough courses and exams every half year, so students must stay motivated to keep at it. Students must be focused on just getting through to the end and doing the best they can scholastically.
Dr. Dan then shared that he got married after his second year at chiropractic college. They were living in Toronto at that time, so school was vital for them to get through. They tried their best to manage their schedule reasonably closely, and it worked out fine. He encourages others in the same situation to do the same - manage their time well and find a healthy work-life balance.
Dr. Dan believes that chiropractic is a great profession. He adds that even if the body is an incredible structure and is full of potential, there are still lots of things that can decrease the opportunity for us to reach our potential. What chiropractors do every day in the practice is tweak and fine-tune the neuromuscular skeletal system and ultimately get the body working better.
As much as medicine and surgery are necessary and already established, chiropractors help a body get better without cutting it open or having medication prescribed for most types of back pain or neck pain. Chiropractic students must enjoy the learning process and the successes that come to them in practice. He adds that it's a gratifying profession, especially after watching patients get better after the diagnostic testing and the adjustment, being able to bend over and touch their toes, whereas before, they couldn't even bend.
Dr. Dan describes these as minor miracles, which, when viewed as a whole, is the amazing ability of the body to heal, as he believes the body itself wants to be well. So despite what we can do to make it unwell, it still wants to be well.
Dr. Dan thinks another part of the reward is to meet different people in the clinic, to come to understand what challenges they have in their life, how you, as their local chiropractor, can find a way to offer suggestions about exercise or nutritional information or adjunctive therapies like orthotics and things that can help them get better in a way that they never thought could be.
There's a huge reward for the person who practices these health-related professions like chiropractic, optometry, physiotherapy, and massage; they're all great professions that give the ability to provide and make a difference in a life.
The number of patients is different for every clinic, as Dr. Dan narrates. Many clinics are set up and structured in more of a rehab fashion, while some are more family-based clinics. To address different health issues, plenty of modalities are also used, such as physiotherapy, ultrasound, interferential current, soft tissue, and laser, among all the things that can happen in practice.
For the typical setup in chiropractor clinics, the extra modalities add on time per visit. Chiropractors who are using those particular modalities might just have a different type of flow than somebody who is strictly hands-based, predominantly working just with the back and working on getting things moving better. But note that neither approach is better or worse - they're just different approaches.
This is another benefit of chiropractic: the scope of practice is dynamic, ranging from people just doing concussion protocol versus people who are just adjusting to family-based chiropractic and anything in between.
Meanwhile, COVID has certainly brought about interesting changes for many of the practices in the clinic. We became very structured with our office hours, and they maintain that to this day. Dr. Dan shares that he works from 1:30 until 6. It'll be steady with patients the whole time, and they capitalize on the number of hours, taking phone calls for consultations and appointments in between too.
Dr. Dan also shares that he works a bit more part-time than before his amputation, so he has less room and capacity for patients in turn. Their clinic now has a different type of structure, and they manage the patient numbers so that they "don't come out of the clinic sore."
Exercise was said to be essential for the business as the practice is physical. It would be in their best interest for chiropractors to stay on top of their health to ensure that they can continue to help others and become role models in the place of health care. Apart from exercise, maintain a healthy regime with a balanced diet and take the proper amount of time off.
When chiropractors first get into practice, it could seem easy to work all the time because being there for everybody all the time is the common kind of mentality in the healthcare field. However, as Dr. Dan emphasizes, nobody expects the doctor to be there always. Healthcare practitioners are recommended to get used to a mental switch to make sure that they take care of themselves and prevent any type of burnout from happening.
Dr. Dan thinks that it's very easy to take on the responsibility of making people get better, going to a seminar about patient management and trying to understand that you can't "parent" the patient. He further shares that burnout and frustration in practice come when you want a person to get well more than they do. People have many reasons why they can't follow through with exercise programs, nutrition changes, or getting better sleep to combat the issues that might be impeding their wellness.
Dr. Dan explains that they still have to remember that their expectations for care can't be greater than the person in front of them. Once this frustration is gone, they now have the freedom to come in, practice, and focus on the workarounds so that they don't go through burnout or anxiety regarding the patient not getting better fast enough. In many situations, Dr. Dan believes that it's not the clinician's fault; rather, it's the person that they're seeing that's just not doing what's best for them, especially on other levels, that might be impacting the success of the therapy.
Being married to a psychotherapist, Dr. Dan recognizes the advantage of having a third party that he's able to talk to in order to deal with some of the stresses and frustrations that come with all types of professions, but specifically health care. It's important for Dr. Dan to avoid negating the importance of getting his own mental wellness looked after if things are starting to get a little bit challenging, as much as it's great to maintain physical wellness.
Admitting that seeing patients takes a lot out of healthcare professionals mentally, Dr. Dan makes sure that he has a great time in the practice by laughing, joking, and maintaining a relaxed atmosphere. Dr. Dan shares that he has come to a really nice balance now, but in the initial years of practice, he has taken on a lot of stress that he didn't need to, and then that factors into his own wellness to a significant degree.
He recommends that chiropractors, along with other professionals like massage therapists or nurses, must take holidays regularly, indulging in pure calmness and relaxation without thinking about work and just making sure that they're taking time for both themselves and their relationship with their family.
Dr. Dan thinks it's great to have these opportunities to give a talk about his profession. He's very excited to still be practicing, given his life circumstances. Dr. Dan was grateful that Caring Support reached out, going on to encourage the listeners to go visit a chiropractor not just for the sake of getting an adjustment, but also to shadow the chiropractor.
Many chiropractors are open to the idea of having people come in and walk around with them when they do their adjustments, as Dr. Dan shares, as it's usually very informative for a person who's looking down the road at getting involved professionally. Dr. Dan encourages people to scout out and talk to the people in the profession who have been doing it for a long time, taking charge of it and getting a feel for what this job looks like.
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