Giving yourself a head start in your first year at university

Clea Reid is a first-year chiropractic student at Teesside University and a proud member of Teesside’s Chiropractic Society and the BCA Student and New Graduate Committee. As a student who has recently entered the world of chiropractic and has experienced a foundation year of study in the heart of a global pandemic, Clea shares her views on the chiropractic profession, the post-pandemic way of teaching and her top tips on how to make the most of your first year at university.

Teesside University is the most recent addition to undergraduate chiropractic provision in the UK. In September 2020, the university opened its doors to chiropractic students in North East England, supported by the Society for Promoting Chiropractic Education (SPCE) and other chiropractors from the region. Daniel Moore DC was appointed as course leader in early 2020, having been on the curriculum development tier prior to his appointment. In the summer of 2021, Faye Deane DC joined the university as the first additional chiropractic lecturer. Two years on and Teesside is now home to 49 students and growing from strength to strength. Teesside University’s chiropractic course is embedded within the Department of Allied Healthcare Professions and is endeavouring to lead the way with clinical placements throughout all four years of their chiropractic undergraduate degree; a model that would not be possible without the outstanding support of the profession in the North East.

Hi Clea. When you joined the BCA’s Student and New Graduate Committee in 2021 you were in your Foundation Year in MSci (Hons) Chiropractic at Teesside University. Can you tell us more about why did you choose to study chiropractic?

Before starting my chiropractic journey, I was able to work in a variety of corporate settings and gain valuable skills that I still carry with me today. I also completed a degree in Fine Arts Photography in Leeds. Currently, I run my own Natural Skincare business, CleasSkincare, which I have developed over the last seven years. Throughout that time, I have always been connected to the chiropractic field after I was first introduced as a patient due to an injury which occurred when I was a teenager. Instantly, I was fascinated by the profession and the high levels of care that it provides as it did not only help me with my condition but also greatly improved my mental health. After years of feeling like my medical needs were not adequately taken care of, chiropractic was the first time I felt acknowledged and involved in my own care. I started volunteering at my local clinic which further fuelled my desire to join the field. At the time, due to family and work commitments, I couldn’t apply for any courses as the locations were not ideal but in 2020 Teesside opened the first Chiropractic course in North East England which allowed me to finally start my journey.

Now in your first year and having gained a lot more knowledge in the field, what is your impression of the chiropractic profession? What do you admire most and equally, what do you consider to be its biggest challenges?

One of the things I admire most about the chiropractic profession is that it is always advancing and developing. We live in a constantly changing world so to be a part of an evolving field is exciting and I am eager to see what the future will bring.

In terms of challenges, I believe that one of the greatest challenges was during the global pandemic. With chiropractic being a hands-on profession, having to adapt to a remote setting came with many obstacles. On the other hand, the pandemic brought in a new wave of patients as COVID-19 prompted more people to take account of their personal health.

A challenge that I would personally like to see overcome is the levels of diversity in the profession. I’m hoping in the future that the profession can continue to progress and include a diverse range of ethnicities, races and religions, not just in the field but also within leadership roles. I am happy to say that changes have already started to occur. For example, the course starting at Teesside University opened the doors to a new demographic and hopefully we will continue to see further changes in the future, not only in the UK but worldwide.

As the world is slowly shifting towards a post-pandemic new normal, how are you finding the educational process to differ, compared to the way things were done prior to the pandemic?

The pandemic brought on a lot of challenges but it also pushed the nation to adapt quickly to change and find solutions. In terms of education, the teaching processes have vastly evolved to pair perfectly with the current digital era we live in.

Self-directed learning has always been part of the university learning experience but I feel that the pandemic has put more of an emphasis on this area and has given additional ownership to the students to contribute to their own education. In my opinion, there are more positives than negatives when it comes to post-pandemic teaching. For example, there is a wider range of materials that students have access to now, which allow us to obtain critical information not only on campus but wherever we are in the country. This comes in many forms; for example, Self Help Hubs, Resource Websites, Subjectrelated Podcasts, and the list goes on. As a first-year student these have all been vital to me and especially helpful in my foundation year when teaching was from home.

What would you advise students who are just starting their undergraduate career in chiropractic?

My advice would be to get organised and try to give yourself a head start. I know it may be obvious to many potential students but once you start the course and have to juggle daily life as well as university, it can become easy to lose track. The course content is extremely vast and a lot of new information is going to get thrown in your direction at a relatively fast pace. The best way to not become overwhelmed is to stay organised and on top of tasks, find subjects that interest you related to chiropractic and try to constantly develop and reinforce your knowledge.

Also remember that your support network, your tutors and peers, are there to help, so don’t be afraid to reach out if things start to become intense. I personally have experienced stress, anxiety and self-doubt but by taking ownership of my learning and incorporating it into my daily life, I have got to the position of feeling confident within my abilities. The level of teaching and support at Teesside University has been pivotal in getting me to a stage where I am comfortable.

As you must have seen, in 2021 the BCA went through a major strategic repositioning, which aims to get to the heart of member and patient needs and position chiropractic to be integral to UK healthcare. How would you like to see chiropractic operating within the wider healthcare landscape?

The BCA is doing an amazing job at moving the profession forward and as a student and committee member it’s exciting to be part of this journey. In the future I would most definitely like to see chiropractic integrated into the wider healthcare setting. Chiropractors have been operating for decades and there are still people who are unaware of what we do and the level of care and knowledge that goes into the profession. We need the public just as much as they need us so that we can continue to learn and progress. Integration would hopefully allow the profession to become more accessible to the general public. There are a few restrictions that mean not everyone can access our services, one of them being finances but also location which can be a burden for some patients. In some areas and regions clinics aren’t as widely available so it would be amazing to overcome some of the obstacles related to this. I believe that through integration the barriers can be broken down and the profession can continue to progress through collaboration and education.

And finally, what are your plans and aspirations for the future? How do you see yourself in 4 years’ time when you graduate?

After I graduate, I hope to be able to travel with my degree and do contractual chiropractic work in other regions, such as Australia, USA, UAE or Europe. I’m hoping that my travels will allow me to gain further experience, appreciation and insight into the profession through various perspectives. Sport and fitness are a big part of my daily life and I would love to be able to incorporate these into my chiropractic field of expertise. To do this, I hope to gain the required knowledge to become a trained specialist in sports and rehabilitation chiropractic and work within a team that is collaborating with other healthcare professionals to achieve best patient outcomes. One of the attributes that stands out to me about the chiropractic profession is that there is always room for development and growth, meaning once you’re qualified there is no end to the possibilities of where your career can take you.

We would like to thank Clea for her brilliant advice and insight into the postpandemic student life and to wish her, and all new students, best of luck in their exciting new journey in chiropractic. The BCA is proud to support all students and looks forward to learning from their experiences just as much as they look forward to gaining valuable knowledge in the field. We would also like to record our praise for the chiropractic universities for doing a brilliant job providing a good level of competency and training which shines through and should be recognised.