It takes a special kind of person to stand over patients all day and crack their spines. Sure, chiropractors do much more than just pop vertebrae all day, but the alternative medical specialty focuses primarily on the structure and function of the spine, as well as the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support the spine. You’ll have to have a thick skin and believe in your trade when other traditional health care practitioners don’t always give you your due. Your work often is considered outside the mainstream, as chiropractors believe that when the spine is properly aligned, a whole lot of health problems disappear.
As a chiropractor, you’ll need various technical and people skills to help you become successful. After receiving a bachelor’s degree, you’ll be required to take four years of chiropractic training during which you’ll be trained to perform manual adjustments to the patient’s spine to correct any alignment problems. Your manual dexterity skills need to be top-notch to manipulate and realign your patients’ spinal columns using a wide range of positions with your hands. To become a licensed chiropractor, you must successfully pass a state examination or one given by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners -- requirements vary by state. Another important skill you’ll need is one of keen observation to spot abnormalities in the ways your patients stand and move. This will help you to properly find and diagnose problems. Having good listening skills is helpful too so you can understand what your patients are telling you about their pain to pinpoint underlying issues.
In your practice, you’ll be dealing with patients who are in pain or don’t feel well. Having empathy toward your patients is a personality trait that will be most helpful. Because you’ve chosen this career path, chances are you’re a compassionate person, but you have to be able to let them know that by not being all clinical all the time. Your desire to help must be genuine or people are going to sense your indifference. After all, they expect a chiropractor to be a little less formal than a medical doctor -- it just goes with the alternative territory.
Chiropractors need a number of talents. Communication is key in the job so you are able to help your patients understand what you’re getting ready to do to them and how it’s expected to help them. You have to be able to explain your methods and reasoning in a way they can understand. Chiropractic care is much more effective when patients are relaxed and on board with the treatment. You’ll need to have a talent for business as well, because you’re more likely to be independently employed than other health care professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that most chiropractors work solo or in a group practice.
A chiropractor needs to be a person who is comfortable dealing with people – talking and touching. It’s good to be detail-oriented, too, because it’s real easy to miss a small abnormality on an X-ray that could make all the difference in how you approach a patient. A detailed mind also helps you to focus on several key factors at one time so you can put all the details together to come up with a diagnosis that was potentially missed by other doctors and could make a huge difference in the comfort and mobility levels of your patients.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."