How to Make Practice Fun Again

Posted by Bill Esteb on Jun 8th 2022

Having fun

If you've been at this awhile, there probably was a time when practicing chiropractic was deeply soul satisfying. If you've since fallen out of love, something happened. And it probably wasn't a specific event, but rather a process that happened so gradually you may not have noticed.

With your head down, pushing, you weren't looking. But now you may nw be looking around and find yourself in unfamiliar territory. This isn't what you signed up for.

What was it that caused your Monday morning eagerness to be replaced with gloom, even dread?

More importantly, how can you get the mojo back?

To leave this unsatisfying place, you'll want to be absolutely clear where you are. Because you can't leave a place you've never acknowledged to have been.

Perhaps you find yourself in a practice that is stressful, burdensome and barely profitable.

Or you may have concerns about being able to retire because you're not as far along as you thought you'd be.

If you're a chiropractor who finds him or herself fearful, frustrated and even questioning your career choice, let me provide a roadmap. It's not the only map, but it will get you closer to the Promised Land.

Step 1. Become Coachable

It's fascinating how many struggling chiropractors in an underperforming practice can remain so dogmatic.

"I want to help more people, but I won't [enter procedure here]."
"I want to earn a professional income, but I refuse to [enter policy here]."
"I want to have a more fulfilling practice, but I'm not willing to [enter change here]."

Clinging to this, success-but only-on-my-terms attitude, reduces possibilities and constrains the more obvious suggestions that could turn things around. At its root is often a crippling combination of low self-esteem and pride, accompanied by all manner of ‘yeah-buts.'

"I tried that already."
"When I did that, it didn't work."
"I can't see myself doing that."
"My patients would never go for that."
"That's just not me."
"That would make me uncomfortable."

These excuses may be true. But they provide the perfect way to avoid the emotional risk needed to make change.

Of course, you tried that before. But did you give it enough time? Of course, you can't see yourself doing that. That's why you're struggling. Of course, that makes you uncomfortable. That's the very definition of growth.

If you're not willing to surrender, face your fear and take on the required personal development, you simply don't want it bad enough. That's okay. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

Action step: Find a coach you trust and whole-heartedly lean into their suggestions. Count on feeling uncomfortable, even scared. Feel it and do it anyway.

Step 2. Reduce Your Expenses

The source of much of the angst that sucks the joy out of practice is the financial burden caused from living beyond one's means. Having to practice produces a far different vibe than wanting to practice.

When new initiatives simply have to work, when your back is constantly against the wall, when there is no margin for missteps and you require instant results, failure is less likely. That's because your self-serving motive to fund your lifestyle cannot be hidden and exudes an unpleasant aroma, easily detected by others.

At its root is almost always a spending problem, rarely an earning problem.

Simply put, whether it's you, or your spouse who is the spender, the success you seek will remain elusive until you rein it in.

"You don't understand, we've already cut our expenses as much as we can."

That's not true.

If you're reading this, it means you have a computer and an Internet connection. So, it's unlikely you're sleeping in your car and showering at the YMCA. And while I'm not suggesting you do that, I bet a friend or neighbor could review your monthly expenses and make countless cuts and reductions.

You may not have a country club membership to cancel or a luxury automobile lease to end, but there are countless nonessential expenses that can be cut.

Yeah, but…

"I'm a doctor and patients expect me to look successful."
"We need to eat out at least once a week to give my spouse a break."
"Cutting our cable bill won't be enough to make a difference."
"I deserve to treat myself every once and awhile."
"I have to have the gym membership to stay healthy."

Again, pride is raising its ugly head. Combine this with wanting to avoid a difficult conversation with your partner, and your only alternative is to redouble your efforts to increase your take home pay.

No wonder practice is stressful.

Action step. Lower your personal expenses. Live beneath your means for a season (or two), pay off debt and give yourself a cushion. Then, your efforts to grow the practice will be more successful.

Step 3. End the Off-Label Use of Chiropractic

Blame the insurance carriers if you wish. But using chiropractic to treat headaches, backaches and various musculoskeletal conditions was never the intent of chiropractic. But tragically, it's morphed into that.

Granted, that's what prompts many patients to seek your care. But by this choosing this practice model you're doing far more than pleasing patients and getting reimbursed by their insurance carrier:

You're engaging in the practice of medicine
You're using chiropractic in a way unintended by its founder
You're focused on bones and muscles rather than nerves
You're delivering pain relief instead of health care
Your practice style produces a constant demand for new patients
Your future is reliant upon third parties who despise you

When you agree to accept a new patient on the basis that you'll be treating their symptom, you take on the burden to deliver your promise, while having little control over what patients will or won't do between visits to support or sabotage your ministrations.

In other words, your willingness to be responsible for resolving symptoms is producing a hidden source of stress that takes the joy out of serving.

Patients want an outcome. You deliver a process—reliant on reviving the self-healing capability of their body. Which may or may not occur within the time frame expected by the patient.

No wonder practice is stressful.

Action step: Make chiropractic about the integrity of the nervous system, not the resolution of symptoms. Stop accepting patients on the basis that you'll treat their symptoms. Learn more here and get scripting ideas here.

Step 4. Transition to a Cash Practice

One of the surest ways to deliver health care rather than merely pain relief is to extricate (slowly) yourself from the tyranny of third-party reimbursement.

Granted, if patients have insurance benefits, they want to use them. But that doesn't mean you automatically have to accept assignment for their limited coverage, along with the documentation obligation, payment foot dragging and audit exposure.

By taking assignment, you've agreed to be subjected to all manner of supervision and the suspicion that you might "over treat," which apparently means providing nontherapeutic adjustments. You aren't to be trusted. You're merely an undesirable liability for the carrier.

Enter the commissioned auditor. Who, long after the delighted patient has come and gone, wants some of their money back because of some imperfection in your records.

No wonder practice isn't fun.

Action step: Stop taking assignment. Equip the patient with the necessary paperwork so they can file their own claims. They will likely get better reimbursement, and more quickly than you. After all, they're the customer, not you. You might find this resource helpful.

Step 5. See More Children

Back in the day, when chiropractic was the ugly stepchild of medicine, chiropractors were whole-body, nervous system focused family doctors. That's when chiropractors were thrown in jail for practicing medicine without a license. Appreciative patients would raise bail money to get their chiropractor released.

I wonder how many of your headache and back pain patients would be similarly motivated?

Once you stop treating symptoms and accepting insurance assignment, you'll be free to see more patients suffering from visceral and organic complaints. And while you won't be treating their symptoms, reviving their healing potential by reducing tension to their nervous system can be just the breakthrough they seek.

You're not likely to see many colicky babies, bedwetters, ear infections, asthma patients and witness the fun, "miracle," life-changing cases if you're merely perceived as a back doctor under the thumb of stingy insurance companies.

No wonder practice is stressful.

Action step: Transform the bone and muscle mindset into a whole-body nervous system centric orientation. Recognize there are plenty of people for whom results are more important than cost or even insurance coverage.

Making Practice Fun

When you make a promise you can't reliably keep, practice will be stressful. When new initiatives have to work, practice will be stressful. When you insist the world line up the way you want, practice will be stressful. When your boundaries are vague or you assume responsibilities that aren't rightfully yours, practice will be stressful.

There are countless ways to improve the performance of just about any practice. Some significant. Others more nuanced. Yet, until there is a firm foundation represented by these steps, the profit, the significance and the fun of serving others will remain elusive.

Helpful? Let me know. Do you have an issue that could benefit from a private one-hour consultation?