I have had the opportunity to visit quite a few of the chiropractic colleges throughout the United States. I have seen large campuses and small campuses. I have seen colleges in the South, North, East, and West; in cold climates and in warm climates; campuses that are straight and some that are more medically oriented. Quite a variety. There is one thing that I find that they all have in common. By the time students graduate, they are usually not very happy with the quality of their education and they are not happy with the professors. In fact, they are not happy at all! Why, you ask? Well, if you are a chiropractic graduate, you know why.
When you first enter an undergraduate college as a freshman, you are the lowest form of animal life on the face of the earth. You look forward to the day when you will be a “BMOC,” big man on campus—a senior. (I am probably dating myself with that last statement!)
When students consider becoming chiropractors, it is a different ballgame. They are told that they will be doctors and that everyone will look up to them. They should not concern themselves with financial matters concerning tuition. They will get student loans, which will cover everything. They enter chiropractic college, not as lowly freshmen, but touted as future savers-of-lives!
About half way through their education, suggestions are made that maybe they should consider reducing the amount of their student loans. Sometimes they are told that they may never be able to make enough to pay off their loans. Now the pressure is on. The cost of their education has probably increased on a regular basis and the amount of their loans has not. What is a student supposed to do?
To make things even worse, they enter the clinics and, in the beginning, they just sign in and leave or just sit around and twiddle their thumbs. No, that isn’t a new technique that is being taught! There just isn’t room for the new interns and the ones already there need to finish up so they can pass their patients off to the new interns. Are they being charged for this downtime? Yes, and they are not happy about that. They were told they will never be able to pay off their loans and now they are paying for this experience to count the holes in the ceiling tiles in the clinics!
They enter their chiropractic education on top of the world and, by the time they leave, they feel like they are the lowest form of animal life on the face of the earth. They also suffer from a sublaxation located at L-5, right where their wallet is located, due to the burden of the student loans. Do they have a warm spot in their hearts for their alma mater? The only warmth there is from heartburn!
Is that the way it should be? No way! Chiropractic students deserve more and should receive more. It’s tough enough once they graduate and go out into the world to set up their practices. Their education experience should be a positive one. There is one basic need that I hear at every campus that I visit. The students need more education in the practical aspects of running a practice. They spend 99% of their time on the science, art and philosophy of chiropractic. Once they receive that piece of paper at graduation, (Not a diploma, but a total of their student loans!!), they must now spend 99% of their time learning how to manage a practice. For most, this is a task for which they are not prepared.
I know that there is a lot for them to learn and so little time to cram it all into them, but they also need to understand the business aspects of practice as well. Because of this void in their education, many turn to so-called “experts” for direction. Usually, all they end up with is another bill. Many students graduate with a chip nailed on their shoulder by the schools. This needs to change for the betterment of the students and for the survival of the profession.
What can be done to help correct some of these problems?
I do have a few observations. I think that the schools should incorporate more in the area of managing a professional practice. I know that they do teach how to fill out an insurance form, but more is needed, such as what to look for in a lease; how to interview and hire CA’s; how to manage personal and office finances; how to evaluate a practice for sale; how to deal with student loans and other debt; how to market; and, most importantly, how to communicate with patients. These things could be added as course-intensives offered over a few weekends or maybe during their downtime when they are in the clinics. Yes, it adds to the overall workload; but it is essential for long-term survival.
I know that I make it sound so simple; but it isn’t. It requires the colleges to change their attitudes toward their students. They need to remember that their students are the future of this profession and, from a selfish point of view, they are future alumni! The colleges need them, and need to treat them as if they were patients that they want to keep for life! The colleges need their support and the future students they can refer, and they also need their donations to survive. That should be the goal of every college.
When students reach graduation, they should feel good about their education and that every penny they borrowed was worth it. Students should want to become active members of their alumni associations and refer future chiropractors to their alma maters.
This is the 21st century and it is time for the colleges to step up and join the times.
They need to get real about how they educate the students and treat them as the professionals that they will be. The key word here is respect.
Stanley B. Greenfield has been engaged in the fields of Financial Management and Insurance since 1962. He is a Registered Financial Consultant, and was awarded the designation of RHU, Registered Professional Disability and Health Insurance Underwriter, in 1979, as one of its Charter Members.
Mr. Greenfield has authored thousands of articles concerning tax, financial, and practice management, and has spoken throughout the world on these subjects to both business and professional associations. He is a regular contributor to numerous other professional journals.
Mr. Greenfield also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Florida Chiropractic Foundation for Education and Research. You may reach him at [email protected], call 800-585-1555 or 904-513-2229 or visit his website www.stanleygreenfield.com.