What is a Chiropractor?
One of the fastest growing professions in the private healthcare industry is that of chiropractor. There are now thousands of qualified practitioners treating thousands of clients and offering advice on work, diet and exercise programs. Globally, it is now the third largest healthcare profession after medicine and dentistry, being a recognised part of the health system of many countries
Chiropractic as a medical approach was developed over 100 years ago and is based on the concept that most ill health or disease is due to problems with the central and peripheral nervous systems. Practitioners use manipulation and adjustments of the musculoskeletal system, and primarily the spine, to address this dysfunction and address issues caused by ill health and disease. This is seen as an alternative to drugs and surgery, neither of which are part of the approach.
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What is Involved in the Job?
Working primarily alone, the chiropractor spends most of their time undertaking individual consultations. The diagnosis aspect of these consultations involves:
- Taking medical histories of the client, compiling a record based on previous surgery and injuries, as well as current lifestyle and general health conditions.
- Undertaking physical examinations of the posture and spine, as well as the range of movement.
- Taking x-rays and assessing previous or existing x-rays.
- Checking blood pressure and performing medical tests, such as taking blood samples.
When a full assessment has been undertaken, the chiropractor treats the conditions on an individual basis. Treatments may include:
- Adjusting the vertebrae of the spine as well as other joints, using either their hands or specialist equipment.
- Addressing the soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc) through approaches such as massage.
- Working with the patient to establish a treatment or management programme.
- Compiling a rehabilitation exercise plan.
- Providing information aimed at helping the patient to develop a healthier lifestyle, in the interests of preventing further problems.
Other work relates to administration and liaison within the healthcare system. The chiropractor's time may be spent completing duties, including:
- Maintaining confidential patient records.
- Making referrals for individual clients to other medical professionals.
- Undertaking further professional training by attending courses, seminars or conferences.
- Marketing the practice.
Would This Job Suit You?
Hours and Conditions
Most chiropractors work either alone or in small practices. This means that there is a greater amount of flexibility in the hours than for many other healthcare professionals. However, if setting up and developing a practice, a chiropractor may find that they are completing long hours in order to cater for new clients. Running a new practice may be extremely hard work, particularly if overheads, such as rental of treatment rooms are high. If you are attracted by the prospect of working for yourself, linked to the healthcare system but without being a part of it, then the greater freedom offered by being a sole practitioner might suit you.
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Type of Person Required
People who are interested in medicine but who do not wish to undertake the intensive training and subsequently long probationer periods required of doctors may be attracted to working as a chiropractor. This may also be true for people who want to work in medicine, but without entertaining the demands of working in general practice or surgery. It also suits people who are interested in medicine without drugs, but who do not wish to enter the fields of complementary health, preferring a more mainstream practice. This is not to say that this is an easy profession to enter - much study and practice is required, as we see below.
Personal attributes required for becoming a chiropractor include:
- An interest in the anatomy and physiology of the human body and its systems.
- A problem-solving mentality and the ability to think independently of others.
- A perceptive approach and the ability to observe detail.
- Ability to work with the hands.
- Good interpersonal skills, with the ability to listen empathetically
- A genuine motivation and commitment to helping people.
- A respect for the healthcare system and willingness to liaise formally with its representatives.
- Entrepreneurial skills required to set up and promote a practice.
How to become a Chiropractor
Although training as a chiropractor is not as demanding as entering the medical profession as a doctor, qualification still requires around five years of study. A subsequent year is spent working under supervision with an experienced professional.
Training standards are overseen by the General Chiropractic Council (GCC). There are internationally set standards that are overseen on a regional, country by country basis. The advantage is that your qualification will be internationally recognised. Upon completion of training in the UK, chiropractors can become registered under the Chiropractors Act 1994.
Studies require you to study academically while undertaking a placement (or placements) putting what you are learning into practice. Subject areas are:
- Anatomy and physiology.
- Human structure and function.
- Infectious diseases.
- General medicine.
- Pathology and histology.
- Blood chemistry
The study is broken down into two parts: four years of study to achieve a BSc in Chiropractic Science, followed by a fifth year that leads to an MSc in Chiropractic. This is the point at which you can register with the GCC and start a year of supervised practice.
Salaries and Prospects
Chiropractors are recognised as being well rewarded financially. Soon after qualification, a chiropractor can earn between £15,000 and £20,000 a year. Being self-employed, hourly rates range from £25 to £50 an hour, so early income depends on the speed with which a client base is established.
Some chiropractors do provide services via the NHS but the majority are self-employed, so it is important that you are willing to take on the highs and lows of this way of working. There are opportunities to work in mixed practices alongside other modalities, or work in a chiropractic-only clinic. Locum work may be available and you may be able to work from more than one clinic.
Job Sites for Chiropractor Jobs
Jobs are usually advertised by independent clinics and many chiropractic jobs can be found on Healthcare websites or the medical section of general employment agencies:
The General Chiropractic Council's website gives more detail and guidelines: