Recurring Thoughts of an About to Graduate Chiropractic Student

Alexandra Gerdel BA, DC
Recurring Thoughts of an About to Graduate Chiropractic Student

My alarm goes off. I roll over and hit snooze. “Can’t I just stay in bed all day and watch Glee reruns?” I think to myself. After the third snooze I drag myself to the shower. My body is exhausted. I find myself wondering just how long it will actually take the school to get my transcripts out to the Georgia Board after I walk across the stage in a few weeks. My stomach churns, “Am I going to be able to pay rent in two months?”

I get to my PEAK office where I’ve been completing my final internship before I enter the real world. Patients come in and I’m so distracted I can’t remember their names, or that I saw them two days before, or what I did with them the last time they were in. Oddly enough, they still like me and express sadness that I may be leaving them in a few weeks. Time drags, and finally lunch comes. I find myself at the Starbucks near the office, spending $5 I don’t have on a sugary coffee drink I never used to consume, hopelessly perusing Craigslist and the Chiropractic Classifieds for an opportunity to independent contract or to associate for someone willing to pay a half decent salary. “Clinic Director of integrative medical practice.” “Sure,” the little voice in my head says, “I could go under cover on the dark side. They pay well, maybe I could infiltrate their nonsense from within!” Then the voice of reason nearly yells out loud, “NO! What are you nuts? Don’t you dare sell out just to have job security at graduation!”

The truth is, I’m one of the most prepared people I know. I have business coaches and mentors, manuals, cds, notes, I know how to adjust, my patients like me and have experienced amazing things under my care, I can speak in public and explain chiropractic to a lay person, I’m driven and I absolutely love chiropractic and the amazing potential it brings out in all who get adjusted. I even have an offer from my PEAK office to stay on as an independent contractor!

I also have over $200,000 in student loans, no collateral, credit now dinged by too high of a “debt to income ratio”, parents not in a position to help me financially, and enough money to survive perhaps two months after graduation. I did have work-study during school, but that didn’t do much in the realm of lessening the blow that hits during loan exit counseling in the final quarter of school. I balk at the thought of having to work an unfulfilling job that is not doing what I love or just spent the last eight years in school to become, just to make ends meet while I wait for my license and get my practice up and running. The sense of urgency to have a plan, whether it’s independent contracting or finding a phenomenal associate opportunity, is literally raising my blood pressure and causing me a lot of anxiety.

I drive home from my day at PEAK, exhausted and still lost in my thoughts. My gas tank is running near empty, but the thought of spending more money that day sends my heart racing so I decide to risk putting it off until tomorrow. “So this is that starving period all those speakers at school glossed over before getting into how great life is as a chiropractor,” I think to myself.

I suppose it’s a rite of passage that every chiropractor (and business entrepreneur for that matter) must go through, but it’s unbelievably frustrating to be graduating with a huge amount of debt looming over my head, into a profession with very little in the way of a job market that actually pays enough to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, much less what my expertise and skills are actually worth. Add to that an economy in which it’s become next to impossible to secure a loan for anything, and I begin to feel like I’m going to implode before March 23rd even gets here.

It no longer surprises me that friends and classmates of mine have joined large franchises, even if it means doubling or tripling their debt. There’s a security in that idea that lasts a few years, until you have to pay for the $300,000 practice with a huge overhead that you roped yourself into. It no longer surprises me that there is a faction of the profession pushing for expanded scope of practice into western medicine, for what I can only imagine is largely financially driven.

I love chiropractic. I didn’t choose this career for the promise of lots of money, but because I felt called to become a chiropractor and touch the lives of as many people as I can. For this reason alone I know I will succeed, and that somehow, some way I will find a way to pay my bills while I get there. I know my stress is mostly self-created by worrying about the future, but knowing doesn’t make any difference in making it go away. I get ready for bed. Tossing and turning, I remember to say my prayers. I pray for peace, serenity, direction, financial security. It is coming, right?