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Dynamic Chiropractic – April 9, 2012, Vol. 30, Issue 08

No Chiropractor Is an Island

By John Hanks, DC

My first year in chiropractic practice, I was concerned that I couldn't spread myself thin enough on this Earth to meet the demand of suffering humanity. So, inspired by the call to service, the zeal of the young healer, and the terror of insufficient funds, I started a satellite clinic in a small town. Actually, I joined with an older DC who couldn't be at his office every day.

"There should be enough patients coming in on those afternoons to get you started," he promised. I took up the "slack" by being there three afternoons a week. I had an adjusting table, a telephone and an X-ray machine, but very few patients.

Did I mention I also had no receptionist? Not that I really needed one. I had plenty of time to nap on the old hi-lo treatment table or page through the chiropractic magazines, checking out the practice-building ads.

Now, back to that receptionist thing. I learned that somehow, I could survive in a small practice without an assistant, but I didn't like it. At my "primary" practice, which I shared with another chiropractor, we had a receptionist/manager and even a part-time assistant, although we could barely afford them. But over the years, as the practice began to prosper, we couldn't afford not to have them.

That's why I don't know how to change the toner on the copy machine. In fact, I don't know how to turn on the copy machine. It's one of those fax, copy, print combos that can also polish your shoes. I don't really know how to swipe credit cards on our "swiper" machine. I can barely navigate through our office- management software. Consequently, I get nervous when the staff goes to lunch together in the same car. What if they are in an accident and, God forbid, are disabled or do not survive?

Whenever I have the need for insight into a patient's life, I can always depend on my receptionist. Alice knows things that the patient may not be telling me. "What's up with Max?" I asked the other day. "He seems particularly agitated!" Alice looked up from her computer screen and whispered, "That's because he's having an argument with the county over his property tax assessment, and his son-in-law has a gambling addiction." This is one example of why I just can't do this job by myself. 

I also depend on my staff to keep me informed about trends in popular culture. For instance, I was reluctant to hire one young guy who had been an assistant manager of the local "Tattoos and Tacos" store, but he turned out to be one of my best assistants. As a bonus, he was a student of People magazine. I was looking through the publication one day and asked, "Who are these people?" He then pointed to several pages and gave me the low-down on all kinds of celebrities, until I was satisfied that I was not missing much by my ignorance. But I now know much more about paparazzi and plastic surgery.

My wife was my receptionist and assistant at one time. She was talented at the job, but I did not always appreciate her enthusiastic administrative strategies. We sometimes reminisce about those days when we have run out of everything else about which to reminisce. Let's just say it was a "growth experience" for our marriage. It was either work together or sleep together, and we only had a one-bedroom apartment. Sleeping in the bathtub was not an appealing choice for me.

There are couples that work very well together in the office. I know male DCs whose wives run the front desk, and the phrase "Mom-and-Pop shop" really comes to life. One DC I know had a wife, Phoebe, who was such a quirky, funny character that patients often came to the office just to interact with her (or so it seemed). The waiting room often resembled a scene from a comedy club. 

But there was an unfortunate side effect to this sideshow: When the couple would go on vacation and hire a substitute DC to see patients, almost no one came in. But if Phoebe stayed home and was at the front desk, the office was busy, even with the "fill in" DC. Consequently, the couple ended up taking separate vacations to keep the income ... well, incoming. While Doc was working in the office, Phoebe's vacation was in Illinois at an annual "Raggedy Ann" doll festival. When she was home, Doc went fishing for whatever he could catch in any lake within 20 miles. He couldn't relax without her, either.

What's my point? It's simple. Doctors, start your engines, go down to the Dollar Store ... no, go to the Hallmark store, buy the biggest "Thank You" card you can find ... or go to the nearest flower shop, find the biggest bundle of roses you can find or ... OK, I know you get it.

Click here for more information about John Hanks, DC.

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