As a ten year old boy, I asked for and received a Swiss army knife for Christmas. I was so thrilled–it had everything, knife, screwdriver, file, spoon, fork, corkscrew, scissors–this knife had it all. However, I quickly found that the knife’s extensive array of tools actually resulted in it being very ineffective to do much of anything.
You could not cut much with it, hard to eat with, the file did nothing, the scissors were bad, impossible to use the screwdriver, etc, etc. The following year I received a single bladed buck knife and I still have it to this day.
All of those tools are valuable and necessary tools, but when you combine them each loses it individual effectiveness. If this was the knife given to the Swiss Army, its no wonder they are known as neutral peacemakers –they have ineffective weapons!
This reminds me of a LOT of modern Chiropractic practices–Docs add this and that-thinking more services, more products, more variety is better for the patient. I would say that a lot of those services probably do have some benefit, but when you meld them altogether under one heading, they each lose their effectiveness and the primary purpose of the clinic–to adjust the spine–is severely limited by all the other stuff in the same way that all the extra tools on a SA knife makes it awkward and often ineffective to be used as a knife.
The desire for principled Chiropractic is not to deny the proper place of other natural and beneficial procedures-but rather to allow the single bladed edge of Chiropractic to fulfill its primary purpose.
Here is my standard 2 minute ice-breaker/elevator speech that I use several times each day and this is with total strangers. We are around people all day long, waiting in line, coffee shop, etc and I just start small talking and we exchange names, very casually and I then say,
“Bill, what kind of work do you do? And he says “I own an ace hardware store (whatever, does not matter) but he will then ask me, what do you do? and I say ‘I work in an area of health care that is going to revolutionize health and the way we view health, its unbelievable…and then very quickly I change the subject and ask him about his work.
“So do you all sell lawnmowers” and he says sure, ( but I have him very curious about what I just said and even more so since I changed the subject so quickly) and then he says “well, what kind of health care, what in the world are you doing? I look around and sort of lower my voice and say “Bill, I work with doctors that locate and correct subluxations–bill, have you ever heard of a subluxation?
And Bill says, “no, I don’t think so” and I say, “It amazes me that something as destructive to health and the cause of so many health problems is almost unknown in the world today, wow ( and I shake my head in disbelief) and then I change the subject back to the hardware store–So bill, what got you into the hardware business–and he will ignore the question and press me about subluxation and I ask him if he has a couple of minutes and I will explain it to him and rarely if ever do they NOT have time and I just reverse engineer the message, starting with health, then healing, then CNS, then spine, then subluxations and by the time we arrive at Chiropractic, it makes all the sense in the world. I get his email and send him some data/articles and invite he and his family to the next orientation that I am doing.
In ancient pagan cultures, it was common to arrive at the village’s place of worship and see thousands of carved idols. Each year new idols were created and added as the perceived needs of the people changed. Surprisingly, older idols were never discarded; they continued to be part of the worship culture.
There’s a parallel between this and the challenge of educating your patients about the principles of chiropractic. You can’t just add new information on top of what they’ve already been taught about their health. Patient education should really be called “patient re-education.” You have to tear down virtually everything they believe about health and once that’s accomplished, then you can begin rebuilding with the chiropractic story.
It isn’t a good idea to compare chiropractic to medicine or adjustments versus pills. When you make these comparisons, you automatically place chiropractic in the allopathic model and your patients will never see chiropractic as anything more than a natural way of obtaining symptom relief. The dialogue should be about function vs. feeling. Once a patient understands the fundamental principles of health and healing and the necessary role of symptoms, then and only then can you introduce subluxations and chiropractic. Chiropractic adjustments restore proper function, they restore what’s normal. For a patient to understand the devastating effects of subluxations and fully appreciate the adjustment, they have to value what’s being restored.
I had a friend who bought a classic car with the intention of restoring it as a hobby project. After years of tinkering with it, he finally took it to one of the best auto body shops in the state for an estimate. He had purchased the car for $5,000 and was willing to spend another $5,000 if necessary to get it restored. Imagine his surprise when the man quoted him a total restoration fee of $42,000!
The shock of hearing the quote upset my friend, but after the owner of the shop explained that the car was a very rare classic that, once restored, would be worth well over $140,000, he couldn’t write him a check fast enough. The owner could’ve talked until he was blue in face about the car’s condition, the restoration process, his qualifications, etc. but none of that would have made a difference. All he needed to do was describe the value of the car in its restored condition.
What happened in the case of my friend’s classic car illustrates the thought process that should be used in effective patient education. Help your patients to understand the value of their restored condition and of the importance of using a function-based health care model. All of this requires a major change in their paradigm.
When changing a paradigm, it’s easy to slip into a confrontational situation – nobody likes to be told they’re wrong and essentially this is what you’re doing. Even a friendly conversation can still have confrontational undertones, which can inhibit the learning process. This is easy to overcome in a couple of different ways.
First of all, rather than give people pieces of information simply ask a leading question and allow them to respond with the correct information. For example, rather than saying “The cns controls and coordinates every function” in the body, ask them “What system controls all of the functions in the body?” When they respond correctly, acknowledge and reinforce their answer and then continue to ask probing questions. When patients supply the right answer, it’s far more credible coming from them than having you feed it to them. This is also true in group settings and lectures. Your job as the doctor/teacher is to link all of those answers into the chiropractic story
When engaging in patient education in your office, this method is an effective way to tell the story. Yet, people don’t like to be put on the spot by being asked something they can’t answer. The way to overcome this is by pre-framing the purpose of your question. An example of this might be, “Mrs. Smith, we’re very committed to health education in our office, because we know that those who are best informed about their health get the best results – does that sound reasonable to you?” They will always say yes. To which you may respond, “Great, Mrs. Smith, I want to ask you a couple of questions and I want to test whether I and my staff are doing our job in educating you. So if you don’t know the answer, it’s not your fault, it’s our responsibility – fair enough?” You’ve just taken this patient completely off the hook, you’ve reaffirmed your role in the community as an educator, and you can now have an in-depth conversation about health and chiropractic with her, because she’s totally at ease with the dialogue.