Stepping into your final year with confidence
Kyla Koçak is a final-year chiropractic student at the University of South Wales. Alongside this, she is also a student representative and proud member of the BCA’s Student and New Graduate Committee. As a student who has gained valuable clinic experience in her final year, Kyla spoke to the BCA about why she chose to study Chiropractic and shared her top tips on how to make the most out of your final year in clinic. We’d like to thank Kyla for her enormous contributions to the BCA and the Student and New Graduate Committee.
Hi Kyla. Can you please introduce yourself and share what inspired you to study Chiropractic at the University of South Wales?
Hey, thanks for having me. I love that everyone has their own anecdotes as to how they came across chiropractic. Some people have seen a chiropractor before and came across it that way; I personally had never been familiar with the profession or even heard the word chiropractic, until my A-level biology teacher had mentioned to the class that her partner had started receiving care. Me being inquisitive, I stayed until after the lesson to ask more about what on earth chiropractic was! So, after a long discussion, a few YouTube videos, some very questionable articles and lots of shadowing, I started my own chiropractic journey at WIOC.
I see myself as a very open spirited person. I trialled many sports and activities at university which were all welcomed with open arms! From netball, to badminton, to hockey. But ultimately, I will always be a sucker for the gym and a good mindful yoga session.
You are now in your final, clinic year at the University of South Wales. How are you finding this experience so far? Are there any challenges?
You know, as much as I’d love to say my expectations were accurate when walking into my first clinic shift, they were so off! And that is not a bad thing at all. I can already see how much I have changed as a clinician. Over the past seven months, I have been treating, and I know this is just the start. Be prepared to justify your moves – you will be questioned by supervisors, you will disagree with other clinicians, and they will disagree with you. However, this experience has taught me the sheer importance of being confident in your practise. My ideas have not changed as to how I want to treat and portray myself as a clinician, but my justifications as to why I want to practise the way I do, and how I think I can put it into best practice has changed and become so much stronger.
So yes, there are challenges. It is hard to know if what you are doing is ‘right’ as a new clinician with so many variations in practice and a plethora of evidence to choose to follow, but I am certain there is no challenge that will not be a positive contribution to our professional development.
Some of the chiropractic students in our community do not have a clinic year cohort in their institutions yet and we know that many of them would be interested to hear more about what they can expect from their final year in clinic. Please tell us more about this. How does this year differ from the previous years of study?
I will try my best to put this in a general picture for everyone, as all institutions will run their student clinics in a different manner.
At WIOC, there are about three hours of lectures per week, alongside two clinic shifts, each split into four hours, maybe one clinical management shift biweekly that is also four hours long. Clinical management consists of additional duties such as, managing patient records, housekeeping, or taking over a patient if a clinician is absent. This is, of course, all pertinent to the institution and how each institution runs its clinic.
We have roughly one workshop per week to aid with practise, and then many case write-ups, presentations, clinical audits, reflective writing submissions, and now, exam revision to keep us busy in our free time!
Depending on if you choose a dissertation or a research-based module, you will have additional guidance on submitting and carrying out graded group presentations. If you choose a dissertation, you will be graded individually and will have a one-to-one mentor who will guide you through what you are expected to complete.
You may not be able to escape all the group projects through the dissertation though! There is still a group business plan and diagnosis presentations to do.
There is lots of support academically from lecturers and peers. Clinic also gives you the advantage of being able to approach your clinic supervisors, who are qualified chiropractors, who will help you with sharpening up your diagnostic knowledge. So don’t worry! 4th year is a lot less focussed on actual revision, but it does require a lot more of your time; just make sure to manage your time well, stick to a good schedule and you will fly through.
What would you advise students who are heading towards their final, clinic year at university? What are your biggest tips on how to make the most out of this experience before graduating?
I feel like I should say this now, if you don’t already have one, get a clinic diary! Lectures, clinic shifts, and workshop schedules can sometimes pop-up last minute, and as you may see, there is quite a lot of different things going on in the week. Later in the year, you may be able to see patients outside of your appointed clinic hours, so for yours and your patients’ benefit – you need to make sure that any meetings, lectures, appointments, etc. do not coincide with each other. Shadow as many clinics as you can before you graduate; you want to see the true variations there are in practise before you jump into an associate role. It usually reaps good clinical discussions and adds to your professional network.
Aside from that, the way you’re going to make the most out of clinic on shift is engaging with your clinic supervisors and peers. Like I said, people will disagree with you clinically and vice versa, but learning to look past that is so important for keeping the clinic atmosphere positive. There is nothing that beats having a good laugh with your peers, especially on days where your clinic shift may be feeling a little hard.
A major part of the feedback that the BCA receives from the members of the Student and New Graduate Committee is the importance of inter-university networks for the students. In what ways does maintaining a connection between chiropractic students benefit both the students and the profession?
I have been told that there is sometimes a lack of intraconnectedness within our profession, and there is no better way to bridge that gap than to branch out and form connections with other chiropractors from other UK institutions. For some, there may only be a set of 50-70 chiropractors per year, some even less, maybe 15-20. It would be great to have that larger support network to create a community of friendly familiar faces, postgraduation. Why? With a wider network, peers can update and support each other in their achievements and career progressions, have a familiar face to turn to for advice, and come across other student chiropractors who may be local to their hometowns, but studying at a different institution. Engaging in case discussions and practise between other professionals pre- and post-graduation provides an outside perspective that some may agree has big potential to improve our outlook on patient care.
And finally, what are your plans and aspirations for the future after you graduate, and how has your final-year clinic experience helped you to achieve those?
So far, I know that I’d like to continue engaging in good discussions and working on my clinical skills to become the best practitioner I can be, before opening my own clinic in the future. I can say the curriculum in final year has guided me to become informed about what I want to do in terms of starting up a business. I am lucky enough to have met some amazing chiropractors who have served as great role models to me over the clinic year. I have been encouraged to learn, read, and interact with other professionals as much as possible, which I am doing and thoroughly enjoying. I do have an interest in research, which has been supported by USW with the likes of some amazing evidence-based lecturers, however, for now, I prefer to keep this as a leisurely hobby rather than a full-time career!
We would like to, once again, thank Kyla for her brilliant advice and insight into the final, clinic year at university, and to wish her, and all new students, best of luck in their upcoming chiropractic careers. The BCA is proud to support all students and always looks forward to learning from their experiences. 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.