Resilience in the face of a pandemic

Amy-Louise Faulkner is a final year chiropractic student at AECC University College. As a Year Representative for the 2020-2021 student cohort, we caught up with her to talk about the student life amidst a pandemic and the vision students have for the future of the chiropractic profession.

Resilience and enthusiasm are the words you are left with after speaking with the chiropractic class of 2021. Amy-Louise Faulkner shares her take on clinical training during a pandemic. As a Year Representative, Amy attends various meetings with different stakeholders at the university and puts the concerns of the students she is representing forward for discussion. She believes that this keeps the student body engaged and their voice heard. Amy sees integration of chiropractic with other medical professions as crucial for ensuring that patients’ needs are met to the fullest, whilst at the same time recognising the importance for chiropractors to find their voice and know what they are good at. Differentiation is what here at the BCA we are always searching for when representing the chiropractic profession which is why we were grateful to catch up with Amy to find out a little more about her and what it is like being a chiropractic student in a Covid19 world.

How has the year been so far for soon-to-be graduates?

A lot more challenging than we would have ever expected. This year has been all about the importance of gaining experience and the challenges that the pandemic presented us with. Due to COVID-19 and the health and safety procedures around it, final year students have been more limited in their opportunities to practise and to access specialist facilities, such as Xray, rehab or paediatrics. The main question here is: how do we build those skills up as students/new graduates? I am reassured that the learning process doesn’t stop upon graduation, and the mentorship I have seen from BCA members makes me confident that myself and my class mates will be able to continue to develop as chiropractors once we graduate.

What other challenges did this year present the final year students with and what support do they need most?

As final year students we can have moments of anxiety because we don’t know what will happen after we graduate. The transition between university and the outside world is such a big jump, but the BCA has been great at giving clarity and showing active support to students. Having a presence among students and knowing that there are people out there that we can turn to if we have concerns after we leave university is very important to us.

Looking at the chiropractic profession as a whole; what do you think the future looks like and what are the opportunities, and challenges for the profession in the UK?

Chiropractic is less known in the UK partly because the NHS, who are so fantastic and our primary medical port of call, refer out to physiotherapists. Gaining more recognition is a challenge and I think, almost in a weird way, the pandemic has helped us on that front. The NHS has done such a brilliant job but has been so overwhelmed and, as a result, the waiting lists have been a lot bigger and therefore referral a lot slower, so people have sought private healthcare. This has turned into an opportunity for the chiropractic profession to grow, as the public is recognising us a lot more now, compared to a few years ago since I first started studying. We are getting there, but the profession still needs promotion and I think it would benefit from really good marketing. We need to show what we are good at, looking after the public and adjusting; looking after people’s health. It is not just that one ‘can you move better?’. It is bigger than that, it concerns people’s standard of living.

Educating other medical professionals about chiropractic is also extremely important and brings both opportunities and challenges with it. Educating the new generations of medical professionals about what chiropractic actually is and how it can be incorporated in their care plans would mean that we are able to work better together and refer to each other. If we also offer a really honest platform for medical professionals to ask us about what we do and what we have to offer it would help us recongise that they think of us and, therefore, refine our message and communicate this in a much better way. It is a challenge that we all take on as chiropractic professionals and I hope we continue to see progress.

What are the challenges of integration with other healthcare professions,brings, and how can chiropractic maintain a strong identity within that?

If you are going to integrate, you have to know what your niche skills are. This is how you hold on to your identity; knowing what you’re good at and sticking to it. A chiropractor’s predominantly strong skill is adjusting, and this is what differentiates us from other MSK professionals. It is very important to work with other medical professionals because, as a chiropractor, you would be doing your patients a disservice by not increasing your knowledge. Integration can threaten the chiropractic identity but that is where the additional CPD that we do come into play and help us really hone in on those specific skills. We are fantastic adjusters, we know our neurology, we know our neuroanatomy, that is what we are good at and that is what separates us from other MSK professionals. It’s all about knowing what you are good at. That is you!

The BCA is proud to see the resilience and confidence that graduates of 2021 possess. Far from the pandemic hindering them they have learned to be adaptable in their approach. The practising BCA community welcomes the 2021 graduates and looks forward to learning from their experiences just as much as they look forward to increasing their knowledge. Whilst it has been a challenging year for everybody, chiropractic students have demonstrated that their experience has not left them ill-prepared. We would 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.

We all have a role to play in turning the students of today into the chiropractors of tomorrow and making the student voice heard is a key element of managing expectations, encouraging responsibility and helping the student community develop into excellent chiropractors.