What gets a Chiropractor Out of his Posture Supportive Bed in the Morning?

Proving that the career choices we make straight out of school aren’t always right for us, sports chiropractor Dr. Nick Shannon began Uni. studying to be an accountant.  I’m intrigued how one person can choose such seemingly disparate careers – apparently it comes down to final year school marks.  Ok. Good.  For a moment I thought Nick had a thing for choosing careers that create divisive comments when asked the inevitable question “what do you do for a living?”

What’s the appeal of a career that in the minds of some, is still on the periphery of mainstream medicine?  Especially when I see Nick oozes enthusiasm for what he does and the impact his care has on his patients’ health and wellbeing.  Sport. Nick chose chiropractic because he loves sport and sports medicine is his primary focus. Having explored other health disciplines, he settled on Chiropractic to understand the human body, how it functions and what can be done to optimise performance.

According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2004-2005) National Health Survey: Summary of Results (No. 4364.0), there are over 215,000 chiropractic consultations in Australia every week.  Nick tells me that first official Chiropractic School started in Australia in 1976 and, in its infancy, a few unprofessional practitioners contributed towards it still not being recognised by many medical practitioners in his home country.  The United States has a much better relationship with the discipline because, in part, the huge salaries professional sports people there command, mean team management are keen to “do what it takes” to get their players back onto the field in the shortest possible time.  Chiros are part of this team support, along with athletic trainers, osteopaths, masseuses and doctors and because of this, the general population are more aware of what chiros do.

His Professional Development in other aspects of Sports Medicine has seen Nick further his initial 9 years of study with aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Ultimately though, it’s the mentors, training, contacts and peers he’s met through his association with the American College of Sports Medicine that Nick values the most.  Throughout our conversation, Nick returns to the importance of personal growth, technical development and continual learning as one of the reasons he loves what he does.  “It’s not like work” he says.  How cool is that?  Getting up every day, loving what it is you do – now that sounds like a solid career plan to me.

The word ‘chiropractic’ is derived from the Greek ‘cheir’ and ‘praktikos’ meaning ‘done by hand’, so any chiropractor needs to literally be a ‘hands-on’ person; and while they may be manipulating the body, it ultimately is a people focussed business. For Nick, the patient / chiropractor relationship is a combination of diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation exercises (if required) and creating a partnership where the patient is informed and involved throughout the consultative period. Nick concedes that his client’s mental outlook plays a critical role in recovery and he maintains a positive approach to each case.

Research in Canada suggests that positivity does make a difference in recovery time across a number of health disciplines.  It is known to reduce levels of stress-induced inflammation and hormones such as cortisol, but the way I look at it, a positive practitioner makes for a better customer experience, and the better the experience, the easier it is for a patient to be present throughout their consultation and subsequent healing.

Maybe Nick can maintain this positivity because his career allows him to travel to work in the sports he loves – most recently as team physician at the V8 Supercars in Bathurst, located approximately 200 kilometres (120 miles) west of Sydney.  What an adrenalin rush to be that close to the action, be a part of maintaining the drivers’ health and how brilliant to have such opportunities in your ‘day job’!  Nick’s days have also seen him work at other racing events, with the Hong Kong 7’s Rugby team and with world class athletes and performers. Working with athletes appeals, as Nick strives to make a difference in each patient’s life; he generalises that because athletes are invested in their body reaching optimum performance, they can be driven to work hard to get the best results from any rehabilitation process.

Nick’s drive to make a difference is balanced with the freedom having his own practice allows.  It was a career highlight to take the risk to start his own practice through a combination of “persistence and backing yourself”.  There are the inevitable highs and lows, but Nick tells me that the benefits far outweigh any negative aspects.  For Nick this means he calls the shots, is making a difference through working within his passion for sport and is always learning and challenging himself while maintaining the work / life balance that is important to him.

We are not all in private practice, so how can companies translate what Nick does to provide a satisfying work culture?  It starts with:

  • having the support to work autonomously
  • being given the tools and resources to fulfil our role
  • exposure to opportunities to learn and grow
  • trust that out team and leaders ‘have our back’

McKinsey’s 2009 report Motivating people: getting beyond money demonstrates this has little to do with what we do for a living, and everything about how we feel.  It’s about business leaders being ‘cheirpraktikos’ (hands-on) in not discounting the human aspect of their team.

Images thanks to Ryan at Gratisography