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Considering a chiropractic career? Here’s how to get started

The Life West crew worked from a huge tent set up at the Sant Nirankari mission.

Options for a career in health care are abundant. With so many possible career paths on the table, it can be challenging to find the one that fits with the goals held by a student in a health care program.

Have you considered delivering chiropractic care? About 35 million Americans undergo chiropractic care on an annual basis, representing an uptick in interest from the public in health care fields that offer a more vitalistic approach to wellness.

But what exactly does vitalistic chiropractic deliver? How does an aspiring chiropractor pursue that career path?

Vitalistic philosophy

Vitalistic chiropractors say that the power which makes the body also heals the body. They seek to remove misalignments within the neck and spine, called vertebral subluxations, which compromise the nervous system’s ability to adapt to internal and external stressors.

“The vitalistic philosophy is at the very heart of chiropractic care,” writes Don Harte, DC, a chiropractor for nearly 40 years who practices in Northern California’s Bay Area, on his website. “It says that the body is always trying the best it can to express life, and if there is interference, things do not work and break down. Chiropractic corrects such interference and works with life. The body needs no help, just no interference.”

Dr. Harte’s views describe Life Chiropractic College West’s approach to chiropractic philosophy. Vitalism is not a “pain-focused” model. Instead, it focuses on the overall wellness of a patient, and the trend of patients flocking to chiropractic offices shows it’s a model that appeals to the public.

“We are not just about pain and aches,” Life West admissions recruiter Lina Guillen said. “Chiropractic is more than that. It’s about working with the nervous system, which is the most important system in the body.”

Pursuing a career 

A doctoral degree is required in order for one to practice chiropractic professionally. Life West offers a year-round program that can be completed in either 12 or 14 quarters and features extensive instruction in basic sciences, clinical sciences, technique and philosophy.

Life West students gain hands-on experience in the health center.

“The people who are generally good candidates for chiropractic school use the words ‘hands-on,’ ” Life West recruiter Aaron Sanchez said. “They want to help people. They want to get into the thick of things while looking at health more holistically.”

Sanchez said chiropractic is often an attractive option for students studying health and human performance. This includes majors such as kinesiology, exercise science and neurology.

The field has also drawn interest from soon-to-be graduates studying other areas. Chiropractor and Life West recruiter David Scheiner, DC, added that chiropractic could also be a strong career choice for some sales-minded individuals as well.

“I’ll speak to classes on business and entrepreneurship, people who are looking to become entrepreneurs but haven’t necessarily thought about chiropractic,” he said. “Most of the time, chiropractors will end up owning their own businesses.”

This mindset fits with Life West’s Clinically Inspired Learning curriculum, which also includes classes on managing a business. The prospect of being one’s own boss, Guillen said, can be very attractive.

“The business side of the equation gets some students very excited,” Guillen added. “I can relate because I managed chiropractic offices for almost 18 years. I can share with them the advantage of finding the school that’s going to give you all the tools to be successful from Day One.”

The next steps

If you’re interested in becoming a vitalistic chiropractor, shadowing a chiropractor near you is a great first step. It provides an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of a chiropractic office and see how vitalistic principles are put into action by doctors and patients alike.

“A lot of students are interested in finding a nearby chiropractor to observe,” Dr. Scheiner said. “They want to find out more about it, and that’s one of the questions I get a lot.”

“If you don’t allow yourself the opportunity to shadow, you may never know what you truly enjoy,” Sanchez added. “You may be meant to be a chiropractor, given your passions and skills, and you can make that connection by getting to a local office and seeing if it’s right for you.”

Paul Reed, DC, third from right, poses for a picture with prospective students during a Life West Career Night at his practice in January 2020.

Other chiropractors host Life West Career Nights. During these events, local professionals open their office doors and answer questions from those interested in pursuing a chiropractic education. Representatives from the Life West admissions department are also on hand to answer questions about what one can expect during Life West’s 3 1/2-year program.

Life West also holds Champions Discovery Weekend events throughout the year. Prospective students and their families can visit the college’s campus in Hayward, California, and hear from faculty, staff and chiropractic professionals in a setting designed to help attendees decide if a career as a chiropractor is the right decision.

Visit the Champions Discovery Weekend website for more information on the program, including a schedule of upcoming events and how to sign up.

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