This subject is so vitally important to the success of your practice that I am going to be long winded and do this in several parts. But I can tell you the benefit of following the words in this and the subsequent newsletters. You will understand why teaching is a major role you play and how it will help you thrive in your practice. You will also learn practical techniques in learning how to educate your patients. So, let´s begin!
I would be willing to bet that when you entered into the field of chiropractic that you never considered the fact that you would be called a teacher’ or an educator’. I even bet that some of you even thought of becoming a teacher, but then later felt that it was not for you. Imagine that! You didn´t want to be a teacher and you became a chiropractor.
Your Dual Role
Well, the good news is, you made it! You are a chiropractic doctor! The other news is that you are a teacher too! By the mere fact that you are a chiropractic doctor you have just become a professional educator, better known as a teacher. By definition, a teacher is one who attempts to cause someone to understand or accept a precept or philosophy ’ Now isn´t that interesting! Do we not as doctors of chiropractic have a philosophy to share with the world?
Students of all ages, grades and intelligence sit in classrooms all around the world to be educated in subjects of which they are not learned. They attend academic or technical studies because they want to learn something they have not yet experienced. Whether people go to schools or adult education classes to learn new subjects or to make it applicable to their careers is not important for the moment. What is important is that they, the students, have less knowledge on the subject than those who teach them. At least that is the way it is suppose to be.
Your chiropractic patients are in a similar situation. They are less knowledgeable on the subject of true health and more specifically on the subject of the alternative method of health care called chiropractic. When they come to your office for care, they expect to walk out a little more educated pertaining to their problem, the cause, the symptoms, the treatment, the prognosis, the risks, the cost and chiropractic in general.
The Student Patient
Going back to the classroom, not all classes are exciting for a student. Some hate the course but take it because it is a prerequisite to something of a higher interest. Some hate it because they can´t stand the method of teaching. Some just can´t stand the teacher. Some just hate being in the school but the world they live in demands education for a better job and higher standard of living. The fact remains that people will still attend the class.
These same attitudes can exist with your patients as they come to your office for treatment. Some just have to come because they have tried everything else and nothing else has worked. Some just will listen to you because it is part of your office policy. Just as some students feel negatively about their teachers a few of your patients will not like you no matter what you do or how well you do it. The important thing to remember is that they came to you because you know something they don´t know and you do something about their problems that no other health care professionals can do.
The majority of our patients are oblivious to anatomy, physiology, neurology, pathology and most all the other sciences of the body. When they come into the office they want understanding. They need to know why they have pain. They want to know what brings it on and what will make it better and if it will come back. They have many questions in their mind about their health and not knowing the answers make them nervous. They are frightened that it might mean surgery or that maybe they have cancer. That lack of knowledge breeds fear and because they don´t have your knowledge they have serious concerns.
The Academic Teachers
What about the real teachers that teach in schools? They picked their career. They went to school to become teachers. They are in the role that they prepared for in their life. It was a chosen field of work and it was not dumped on them. Their satisfaction level is high because their decision was very conscientious. Their understanding of subjects is at a high level due to majoring in the subjects they liked and are now teaching the classes they like.
They not only took classes of specialty for the courses they would teach, but they also may have taken a year´s worth of classes that taught them how to be good teachers. However, that does not mean that they will become great teachers. There are other factors to consider. But the fact is, they have been taught the essentials of teaching. Now whether or not they can put those things into practice is another question.
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The Chiropractic Teacher
Just as teachers chose their profession we chose ours and we planned, prepared and studied to become chiropractors. Ah, but wait! We have been given a dual role. Since we are in a field in which we come in contact with people multiple times a day who know nothing about their own health, yet alone chiropractic, we also have the role and responsibility to be a teacher. We may not have known this before we stepped into practice, but if you want to succeed in your practice you need to accept it and learn how to be a good one. Failure to become a good teacher will mean absolute failure in your practice.
But, we did not take any classes on how to teach like the professionals. What are we suppose to do? Fortunately, teaching is among the many things that we can learn to do. There are basic things that we can develop to be master teachers. Let me explain for a minute why it is so important to learn.
As a doctor you went all these years to school and you know an incredible amount about health care. You don´t have time to stand there in front of your patients and teach them all that you learned over the years of your education. How are you going to do it? Can you simplify a complicated subject? Can you speak on the level of each person no matter what their age? Have you been in the business so long that everything you say to a patient has a medical term in each sentence? Have you become desensitized to your speech? I can go on and on with these questions but the point is, you have to learn how to teach and communicate complexity in simplicity.
You Have More Experience than You Think
For the sake of a confidence booster consider what you have done in your life with your family and others. If you have children you may have taught them how to ride a bike, clean their room, make their bed or make pancakes. You teach your staff how to do tasks, communicate with lawyers and insurance adjusters and even explain things in depositions. These and many more things you have done in your life are examples of teaching. We actually do some kind of instructing, explaining, coaching, informing, directing, lecturing and educating everyday which is all the same as teaching. So at least have confidence that this is not all new to you