By Benjamin J. Davidow
Many DCs recognize the utility of aligning with others in their own profession, but what about collaborating with those outside of it? Building relationships can help both DCs and MDs reap the benefits of inter-professional cooperation. In many instances, these vital relationships are formed in one’s own family, some of whom may belong to other health care professions. For some chiropractors, the first hurdle may be finding common ground with family members who practice medicine, yet disparage Chiropractic. A mutual education can be especially useful in nurturing cooperation between the two fields. In working together, both DCs and MDs can create a healthier environment in which to care for their patients.
Embracing Collaborative Strategies
First and foremost, it is important to establish clear lines of communication when engaging in conversations with family members of different health care professions. “The fact that you are conversing with family allows for a more relaxed and informal communication style,” notes Marc Schneider, M.Ed., D.C., vice president of student services at Life University. Schneider is an advocate for what he calls calm conversation, which focuses on illuminating the facts about Chiropractic that are often contradictory to what the family member believes the profession to be. Any family member who uses the phrase, “I don’t believe in Chiropractic” usually does not fully comprehend what Chiropractic is. Schneider supports family members who hold alternate perspectives on the subject, yet he wants to enable conversation from both parties that is about creating understanding, not about proving a point.
In order to help a family member understand Chiropractic, practitioners should act as a calm agent of advice without allowing emotion to overcome intellect. This sets the foundation for a relaxed, respectful and informative interaction. “It is extremely important to respect the family member’s point of view and listen carefully to them,” Schneider says. This way you build a relationship that fosters reciprocity. Through reciprocal conversation, a DC can both give and receive advice from a family MD.
Kerith Powell, D.C., whose wife, Belinda Millington, is a DC and an MD, notes that though he does not have family members who deride Chiropractic, prior to him becoming a chiropractor, no one in his nuclear family had a firm understanding of the profession. “I had to spend time informing and educating them,” Powell explains. The education proved to be advantageous as it opened further avenues of communication. “After I … performed [adjustments] on them, they began to understand it even more,” he recalls.
Integrating the Professions
Once a mutual understanding has been reached, the methods that chiropractic and medical professions use directly aid one another. “In my experience, a request for assistance rarely goes unanswered,” says Schneider on the benefit of collaboration between MDs and DCs in the same family. There is certainly no disadvantage to asking for help or simply having a casual conversation on the subject. In reflecting on the professional usefulness that often arises from a health-based conversation, Schneider points out that most people enter health care professions because they want to help others.
Powell can relate to this spirit of helping, since his relationship with his wife has been cultivated within a reciprocal environment since its beginning. “We went to school together. After three years of chiropractic, she decided to pursue a medical degree [as well],” he recalls. The addition of Millington’s medical degree has been a life-changing factor for both of their current practices. Powell says that because Millington is a chiropractor, and was a chiropractor before going into medicine, she is more holistic in her approaches. This has allowed her to become more open-minded when it comes to her patients’ care—not only can she perform the duties of a doctor, but she also has the ability to address issues such as stress or severe traumatic events within the framework offered by Chiropractic.
Powell explains that Chiropractic, when compared to medicine, is actually more conservative, since one major goal of Chiropractic is to achieve a state of homeostasis. Powell maintains that our bodies possess the innate ability to heal themselves. Thus, as a chiropractor identifies vertebral subluxation, it is dealt with by the application of a force motivated to “specifically remove that nerve interference,” Powell says, “which is the extent of the intervention we perform.” However, when collaborating with Millington, they can discuss together the limitations of their practices in order to weigh their patients’ available options. They can then make a more informed decision as to whether a chiropractic- or medically-guided approach would be more beneficial, or, hopefully, how the two could work synergistically to a patient’s benefit.
Working Together to Promote Health
The ideologies of Chiropractic and medicine, which both serve to support greater patient health, create an ideal space for ties to be made. “Many chiropractors recognize that other health care options are beneficial to their patients,” says Schneider. Powell, who sees the limitations of both fields, agrees.
For Powell, the main limitation of Chiropractic is matter. For example, if a person’s heart were damaged, it is highly unlikely that the body can heal itself organically, in which case the use of medicine to artificially coax the organ into functionality is incredibly beneficial. “[When] matter is not capable of overcoming the weakness without the use of medicine, surgery or any intervention, it is at this time I feel it’s appropriate,” says Powell. “Otherwise, if it is strong, it needs to be recognized that the matter is strong enough to be weaned off or discontinued from medicine.” Powell’s theory is that the medicine to heal one organ often has toxic side effects to other organs.
As evident in the example of an organ, without collaboration, it would not be possible for either Chiropractic or medicine to fully explore the gray areas of recovery. The pathways to intervention and regeneration would be blocked; therefore it is beneficial to the patient for both professions to establish a mutual recognition of the others’ ability. Powell and Millington have seen firsthand the limitations of both Chiropractic and medicine when collaboration is superseded by mistrust of the other. “One of the things we came across quite often when we were practicing in 2001 [was that] many patients would have combined issues,” Powell says, which was one of the main reasons his wife went into medicine. Both Powell and Millington took on the responsibility of assessing patients and relaying the information to other doctors. “We were trying to take [the patients] off of the chemical dependent stresses,” he says, yet, to his dismay, “none of the doctors responded well to this.” Millington’s main initiative became to say, “If I can help [the patient] by decreasing toxic meds while aligning the nervous system, then these people will be better off,” regardless of the ideology from which the treatment originated.
The open line of communication between Powell and Millington carries over into Powell’s relationships with his patients, particularly as it concerns the use of medications. “I may not prescribe medicine, but I recognize [its role],” Powell says. He goes on to say that his goal for his patients is for them to thoughtfully consider whether or not medications can help them enjoy their lives. “If we can see the body as more than a machine and as a living organism that is able to monitor and regulate its own function, then there will be more MDs out there who will share that view and [begin to] monitor and regulate prescriptions more effectively,” he says. To truly promote health, there must be recognition of where one profession begins and the other ends. Powell and Millington’s relationship promotes this type of interaction.
From the Dinner to the Operating Table
Chiropractic can benefit from examining itself through the lens of other health care professions. For DCs who sit around the dinner table or share a household with a member of another health care profession, those conversations start at home and expand outward. It may be difficult at first to overcome prejudices across different professional lines, but engaging in open dialogue and taking the time to listen to one another will build bridges that can benefit everyone. “Find common ground and build on it,” Schneider advises.