There are some excellent, positive events which have occurred in the past year, and I attempt to use this column to bring about an awareness of those items. Many leave an indelible impression on the general public and carry with them the potential to improve (if they are positive) or tarnish (if they are negative) the collective image of the profession.
One recent publication, if you haven't already seen a copy, is the 1998 Occupational Outlook Handbook from the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, bulletin 2500. I believe every DC will be very pleased with the publication. I got my copy with a nice note attached indicating the copy was sent because of the information and input they received in the updating of this document. For more than a decade, I have been writing to the U.S. Department of Labor attempting to upgrade the information on chiropractic in their publication dealing with occupations. The most current 1998-1999 issue is without a doubt the most comprehensive overview of a doctor of chiropractic ever published by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Under the title "health diagnosing occupations," chiropractors, as well as all other professions, are listed. Under the designation "chiropractor," the following appears:
"Chiropractors, also known as doctors of chiropractic or chiropractic physicians, diagnose and treat patients whose health problems are associated with the body's muscular, nervous, and skeletal systems, especially the spine." The information goes on to state: "Chiropractors believe interference with these systems impairs normal function and lowers resistance to disease. They also hold that spinal or vertebral dysfunctions alter many important body functions by affecting the nervous system, and that skeletal imbalance through joint or articular dysfunction, especially in the spine, can cause pain."
Who wouldn't be pleased with that as an introduction? To my excitement, the excellent commentary continues:
"The chiropractic approach to health care is holistic, stressing the patient's overall well-being. It recognizes that many factors affect health, including exercise, diet, rest, environment and heredity. Chiropractic uses natural, drugless, nonsurgical health treatments, and relies on the body's inherent recuperative abilities. They also recommend lifestyle changes -- in eating, exercise, and sleeping habits, to their patients. When appropriate, chiropractors consult with and refer patients to other health practitioners." The text continues with a very comprehensive evaluation of the procedures employed in the DC's office and the standard examination and specialized postural and skeletal analysis employed by the doctor of chiropractic:
"The procedures utilized by today's contemporary doctor of chiropractic appropriately emphasize the adjustment of the spine, as well as the myriad of other modalities such as heat, light, physiological therapeutics and braces employed by the DC. Overall the explanation includes such additional comprehensive management as: counseling about wellness, nutrition, exercise, lifestyle changes and stress management."
From here the publication underscores some of the specialization undertaken by DCs: sports, neurology, orthopedics, nutrition, and diagnostic imaging. Other categories in the document, such as working conditions, employment, training, qualifications and advancement, job outlook and earnings, all focus and emphasize a very positive outlook for chiropractic.
The component of chiropractic education is discussed in a very positive manner, and would serve to encourage individuals seeking chiropractic as a career to be very enthusiastic about finding out more about this drugless, natural health care profession. This edition did not carry with it any of the subtle, negative, critical and disparaging commentary as in the past, the kind that always seems to be included to give "balance" to an article on chiropractic.
The "consumer demand," according to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, is optimistic:
"Employment for chiropractors is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through the year 2006 as consumer demand for alternative medicine grows. Chiropractic care is appealing to many health-conscious Americans. Chiropractic treatment of back, neck, extremities, and other joint damage has become more accepted as a result of recent research and changing attitudes. The rapidly expanding older population, with their increased likelihood of mechanical and structural problems, will also increase demand."
After reading the new text for 1998 1999, I could not have been more delighted. Each year, for the past 12 years, efforts to provide credible data to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook have resulted in a very positive outlook definition for doctors of chiropractic. This year's publication provided the chiropractic profession with a very significant, positive and comprehensive overview of contemporary chiropractic. It is worth reading and worth recognizing that the incredible advancements of the profession are being recognized by outside agencies and the impact this is having on the collective elevation of the image of the profession.
This publication is used by thousands of guidance counselors and students interested in searching for information on career opportunities. The powerful commentary on chiropractic is also indicative of the many changes which have occurred in the profession over the past decade. There has been meaningful change in the overall, positive attitude toward the alternative health care movement, and specifically toward chiropractic.
Every DC should be encouraged to purchase a copy of this U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, perhaps more than one, and give a copy to your local public library, college library or high-school library. Perhaps a copy of the chiropractic section should be sent to your local newspaper with a short cover letter from you to indicate that "career choices" in health care have now caused an emphasis to be placed on alternative health. Chiropractic is the number-one licensed, organized and fully developed alternative health care profession in the world.
Not that any one publication can change or resolve every injustice chiropractic has experienced, but publications with the imprimatur of the U.S. Department of Labor carry with them significant positive information and credibility.
I am certain that in future editions of the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the chiropractic profession will continue to maintain a positive and very optimistic outlook. Now that this publication has been written in a positive fashion, perhaps we can turn our attention to some of the antiquated definitions of chiropractic in the various dictionaries and begin to alter their archaic definitions to more modern, appropriate terminology.
The old saying, "When you're up to your hips in alligators, it's often difficult to remember your mission was to drain the swamp," seems to be an appropriate metaphor for how many DCs feel every day. For today, however, let's take a few moments to savor this excellent chiropractic write-up; let's take a few steps back from the day-to-day (often negative) grind and just enjoy.
Louis Sportelli, DC
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