Are you a person who likes to care for and support others? Are you contemplating a career in one of the health care professions but can’t make up your mind which? Chiropractic could be just the job!
Chiropractic is a profession that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of conditions which are due to mechanical dysfunction of the joints and their effects on the nervous system. Chiropractors use their hands to adjust the joints of the spine and extremities to improve mobility and relieve pain. This treatment is known as ‘adjustment’ or ‘manipulation’, and allows the body’s own healing powers to improve health and well-being.
Chiropractors do not prescribe drugs or use surgical procedures and treatment is suitable for everybody – from new-born babies to the elderly – without a referral from a GP. However, with the ever-increasing amount of clinical evidence of chiropractic effectiveness in the treatment of a range of conditions such as back pain, headaches, sports injuries, arthritis and many others, more and more GPs are sending their patients to chiropractors for treatment.
The chiropractic profession is regulated by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC), which was established in 1999. All chiropractors must be registered with the GCC in order to practice legally in the UK.
Why be a chiropractor?
There is now an increased awareness of chiropractic and the benefits it can provide amongst the general public and healthcare professionals. Patients who have experienced a huge improvement in their quality of life are asking for chiropractic care – and telling their friends and relatives. As a result, the demand for qualified, registered practitioners is high and continuing to grow.
How to train to be a chiropractor
The GCC has set the standards of education in chiropractic and all chiropractors must have graduated from an accredited institution before being accepted onto the Register.
There are four accredited Chiropractic Schools in the UK; two are independent colleges, whose courses are validated by UK universities, and two are university-based courses (see below). The GCC has set a minimum standard of 3600 taught hours for its accredited chiropractic courses, and the British Chiropractic Association, the largest and longest-established of the professional associations for UK chiropractors, only accepts graduates who have gone through a minimum four-year full-time internationally-accredited course at one of these Chiropractic Schools.
The BCA-accepted four-year BSc covers in depth training in a variety of subjects including life sciences, biomechanics, clinical medicine and differential diagnosis. Practitioners also undergo practical training in adjustment and supervised clinical training, where they have hands-on practice in treating patients. Graduates who are members of the British Chiropractic Association and the McTimoney Chiropractic Association undertake an additional year of supervised training as a requirement of membership.
What kind of person becomes a chiropractor?
Tim Hutchful, chiropractor and member of the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) gives an insight into chiropractic and how he came to choose it as his profession:
“Chiropractic appealed to me from my teens onwards as I used to struggle with something called “hemiplegic migraines”. My GP and local hospital couldn’t offer me any ease for my headaches even when one was so bad that I fell unconscious, waking up in hospital. I visited a family friend who was a chiropractor and after treatment my headaches eased as problems with my neck were solved. I found this fascinating as I had not heard about chiropractic before.
“I went on to “sit in” with the chiropractor for a couple of weeks to explore it further and then went down to AECC (Anglo European College of Chiropractic, the 1st Chiropractic Collage in Europe) for a look around. On arrival at the College I was given the guided tour by a 4th year student and got the student’s eye view of the course, the staff, the campus and the town, I was sold!!
“I particularly enjoy chiropractic through being able to help with so many different problems from backs to headaches to babies’ colic. This certainly gives you a varied day of appointments and allows you to work with all types of people – young, old, male, female, babies and children.
“I also love being part of a growing caring profession. The most ardent supporters of chiropractic are it’s patients, as chiropractic gives you the ability to help others, and take full responsibility for the direction of that person’s treatment. Being part of the BCA (British Chiropractic Association) gives me further support and encouragement.
- I personally think that communication is paramount, if you can’t talk to a patient, and more importantly listen, you are not going to be able to do your job
- You should enjoy doing things with your hands (I won the school prize for woodwork!)
- Patience is part of communication but never the less you may have to explain some thing to a patient numerous times before they understand it
- Physical strength doesn’t come into it, but you do need to be flexible and dextrous
- The profession is split 50/50 between the sexes and you have to be practically minded, have problem solving skills and keep clam under pressure
- You need to have an ability to adapt, treatment is not prescriptive so you may get 10 patients with the same condition but treat them in 10 different ways as they respond in their own individual way
- You might need to be able to eventually run your own small business too, if you don’t go into an existing practice as chiropractic offers you the opportunity to work for yourself
“The undergraduate program gives you all the basics and then you can look forward to putting it into practice. That is where your fellow colleagues and being part of a good industry organisation comes in to give you guidance. I find valuable ongoing support from the BCA which is the oldest and largest chiropractic association in this country. One thing that is for certain – when you graduate you are just starting to learn. You continue to develop through the years and that’s what makes this profession so exciting, interesting and rewarding.”