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Dynamic Chiropractic – September 9, 2008, Vol. 26, Issue 19

The Lessons of Continuing Education

By Arlan Fuhr, DC

When I arrived in Arizona more than two decades ago, the state did not require continuing education for its chiropractors. At the time, it was a very controversial subject between the two state associations, with one in favor of requiring continuing education and the other opposed.

The issue became a hot topic in the Arizona state legislature. Because of my political experience, I was quickly drafted to the legislative committee reviewing the issue.

As an advocate of education, I believed we would easily reach a recommendation in support of continuing education. What better way to serve our patients and our profession than to commit to constant improvement through learning? However, I underestimated the views of many chiropractors, including one who was an elected official who did not believe in the necessity of this practice and did not endorse continuing education as a method for improving patient care. Thankfully, during one of many discussions on the topic at the legislature, the chairwoman of the committee was quick to point out to the dissenters that even the state's real estate agents and cosmetologists were required to complete continuing education credits in order to maintain their licenses.

After a healthy debate, those in favor of mandating continuing education prevailed  with a vote of eight to one. That vote allowed the issue of continuing education to move from the committee to the full legislature, where it passed unanimously. From there forward, continuing education became a requirement for chiropractic licensing in the state of Arizona, as it is in many states across the nation.

The debate around continuing education has drawn much fervor over the course of my 44 years in chiropractic, and I have seen education take on various forms. But as our industry has become more standardized, so have our continuing education resources. Back in 1918, medicine often was taught by verbally passing down ideas and theories with no consistency from program to program. In recent years, we have established much stronger and more dependable methods of teaching. For example, we have moved away from technique instructors passing information via "word of mouth" to hosting formal seminars and conferences accredited through chiropractic colleges to ensure teachings are reliable. We also have benefited from advancements in today's electronic world. Now, we can transfer information from chiropractor to chiropractor in a consistent manner through the use of DVDs and the Internet.

Although we reap the benefits of the electronic age on a regular basis, it's important to note the value of meeting face to face in a classroom, seminar or conference setting remains unparalleled. In my view, these interactions - a cornerstone of the most effective continuing education programs - truly elevate chiropractors to higher levels of professionalism, knowledge and skill. Long before continuing education was mandated in many states, I remember being a new practitioner in rural Minnesota and a veritable sponge for information that would help me become the best clinician possible.

Our state association sponsored regular meetings in each district and then all members annually came together at one convention. The participants enjoyed great fellowship at these meetings; a key to our success as a group. The older doctors served as mentors to us younger practitioners, while the younger group brought natural enthusiasm to projects thought to benefit all doctors in their areas. We spent time getting to know each other, learning from one another and developing positive and lasting relationships.

These same benefits now translate to the courses, seminars and conferences that allow us to learn the latest in chiropractic research, tips on how to better manage our practices, details on what changes to the profession are on the horizon, and so much more. With continuing education, we not only become better clinicians, but we also enjoy better relationships with our peers. Our colleagues become our sounding boards, our mentors, our motivators and our reason for striving for ongoing improvement in chiropractic. And that's a lesson from which we all can benefit.

Click here for previous articles by Arlan Fuhr, DC.

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