Saying Goodbye to Danville

Gasoline: $150
Audiobooks: $30
Travel snacks and coffee: $40
My experience at the VA hospital: Priceless

Over the past month, I've driven over 1,500 miles and spent over 25 hours in the car. I've finished two audiobooks and consumed copious amounts of coffee while driving. Would I do it all over again? In a heartbeat!

My experience at the Danville, Illinois, VA hospital system has been challenging, yet so rewarding. Dr. Owens reminds me that I was selected for the preceptorship because he knew I would make a beneficial impact on his patients, and each day that has passed at the clinic, I have been proud of my achievements. I entered the position knowing that the patients would be a challenging population, many of them dealing with chronic pain and having psychosocial components to their conditions. I was confronted with the task of providing care to significantly older patients than those I saw at my clinic internship, the majority of whom were strong men.

Myself, Dr. Tony Hamm (ACA president and National grad), and Andrea
From the McKenzie Part C seminar this weekend on campus

I was limited with what types of care I could offer the patients, partially because the VA hospital has health care providers to perform some of the modalities we use as chiropractors (i.e. the PT department also has an electrical stimulation machine), but also because the patients were being co-managed with so many other providers. My primary tools in the clinic were manual manipulation, mobilization assisted with a drop table, flexion distraction, and acupuncture that was performed by Dr. Owens. With a much smaller tool bag than what I was familiar with having at Salvation Army, I learned to be resourceful!

One of the most valuable lessons I learned from Dr. Owens during my time at the VA is the importance of open communication with the patient. The verbal components of a patient encounter are often the most challenging to grasp as a new doctor. I found myself explaining various treatment options and their benefits, educating the patient about the importance of adjusting and acupuncture, and most importantly, emphasizing prognosis.

As interns, we often see a new patient and want to do everything we can to help them reduce their pain and improve their function. However, it's important to remember that not all conditions that walk into our offices can be treated conservatively with chiropractic. With a few difficult cases, I realize that I can't necessarily help everyone. Some patients need more aggressive treatment options or may never be fully out of pain because of their previous conditions. I've been learning to strive for "maximum clinical improvement," rather than "completely-healed." Often times, we blame ourselves and our skills for not being good enough to heal patients, and that mindset is gradually broken with time. My experience at the VA has made me value my talents and manual skills more than ever before, and I'm excited to say that I feel prepared to begin practicing.

I'm sad to be leaving my patients that I have worked with over the past four weeks, but I am confident that I am leaving them in great hands with Dr. Owens. He was a wealth of knowledge and a true mentor to me during this preceptorship, and I wouldn't trade my memories and experience for anything. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to Dr. Owens and Tammy for all of their encouragement and support along my journey!

Only three weeks until the big day! Here I come, graduation!

Part 4 Boards - COMPLETE!

There is no greater feeling than knowing you have just jumped over your last hurdle in what seems to be the most exhausting race of your life. That's the metaphor I am using to describe this overwhelming relief of having completed Part Four (IV) of the chiropractic national board exams. I haven't quite reached the finish line yet to cross through that final threshold, but the only elements that stand between that graduation stage and me are four weeks and the unknown certainty of board scores.

A beautiful sunrise I witnessed driving down one morning from Chicago to Danville

The National Board of Chiropractic Examiners, or as we refer to as the NBCE, is the organization which administers all components of chiropractic board exams, and they always have a six-week waiting period for scores to be graded and posted. All board exams up to this point had been written exams, consisting of oodles of multiple choice questions that covered the diverse curriculum of our education. The last series, Part IV, was a practical style of exam, which in my opinion, was much more nerve-wracking!

The exam took place over two days:

  • Friday focused on diagnostic imaging, where each of the candidates progressed through stations containing radiographic X-rays, CTs, and MRIs. This section evaluated our ability to read and interpret imaging studies, as well as determine the appropriate follow-up care or referral to other providers.
  • Saturday focused on case management and chiropractic technique. For three hours, candidates were asked to rotate through different stations where we were challenged with tasks of history intake, problem-focused orthopedic examination, physical examination components, and chiropractic technique skills demonstration.

Saturday was by far the longest and most draining day of the board exams, but I walked out feeling confident that I was amply prepared through my education at National University and with my weeks of independent preparation. It was great to spend time with my friends and peers again, those who I haven't seen much since beginning clinic at Salvation Army, even if it was only because we were all forced to convene in Davenport, Iowa, for exams!

My sister Liz and I relaxing on Saturday night after my long weekend of board exams

After the exams were finished, I came back to Chicago to spend Saturday night relaxing and decompressing from the long weekend in Iowa. I was excited to spend some time with my little sister Liz, who was in town briefly and was there to celebrate with me when I returned.

Over the next couple weeks, I will be finishing up my internship in Danville, preparing the last components of my Illinois license application, and gearing up for graduation. The last hurdle has now been jumped and the finish line is finally within reach!

My First Days in Danville

Well everyone, I've made it through my first week here at the VA Hospital! My experience began last Monday morning when I entered the rehabilitation wing of the hospital where the chiropractic clinic is among the physical therapy and occupational therapy departments. 

View of the hospital from my house

I met Dr. Donald Owens and his assistant Tammy, who manages the front desk and handles the business matters of the clinic. After a brief introduction to other people within the department, I toured the hospital and had the chance to get oriented with my surroundings. Dr. Owens eased me into the clinic by allowing me to shadow him the first day, but my experience became hands-on by day two!

During my first week, I encountered a variety of veterans all from different eras and different branches of service. Believe it or not, almost all of the patients were presenting with neck and low back pain! Each patient has presented with a different set of symptoms with different degrees of severity, and managing each case has been a learning experience so far. It was exciting to see how Dr. Owens performs his physical exams, how he adjusts patients, and how he educates them about their conditions.

For many of the veterans, this is not their first experience with chronic pain, so as a shiny-eyed intern, it has been a challenge for me to understand the prognosis of these conditions. In our education, we focus on effective and efficient treatments that will release the patients from our care in a set number of visits. However, with many of the patients here at the VA hospital, there is no date set in stone. Teaching the patients how to best manage their condition is part of the doctor-patient relationship here at the VA hospital, because more often than not, a chronic condition associated with military service may never fully resolve.

Sunset in Danville

In my evenings, I have been spending time at the Danville public library and in my room, gearing up for Part 4 boards coming up next weekend! Between all the flashcards and highlighters I've bought to prepare for this exam, I'm ready to put down the study materials and just be done. The light at the end of the tunnel is near!

Saying Goodbye to Salvy

To those of you who have followed my blogs over the past year, you've heard all about my experience at the Salvation Army clinic. What began as an ambitious decision to move to Chicago for my last year of school transformed into one of the best decisions I've ever made.

View of Chicago taken from Lake Michigan

Living by myself in a big neighborhood taught me so much about myself, everything from identifying my living habits to realizing how much I love the energy of the city. I had the opportunity to work with patients I never would have imagined treating: People suffering from addiction, depression, challenging upbringings, and people who just wanted to live a better life. My patients taught me about patience, about humility, and most importantly, about perseverance. Working with these people was such a rewarding experience, and I learned so much along the way. Thank you to all of those who allowed me into their lives to connect and grow with over the past year.

Shehab, me and Johnny being inducted into the "Salvy Wall of Fame"

It was difficult saying goodbye to my fellow interns. Shehab, Johnny and I became very close over the past 11 months, and I am so excited to stand by these gentlemen at graduation and watch them change the world.

Student housing at the VA hospital

As I write this blog, I find myself sitting at my quaint little desk that faces a westward window in my room in Danville, Illinois. I'm watching the sun set on a beautiful November afternoon, gazing at the beautiful leaves changing color outside my window, and I am eager to begin working with the veterans here at the VA hospital. I have no doubt that the next four weeks will be challenging -- but also rewarding -- as I spend time with men and women who have served our country.

Until next time!

The End is Near

I hope everyone enjoyed learning about Johnny and Shehab in the Salvy Series the past two weeks! In the chiropractic profession, it's important to appreciate all of the different backgrounds students come from and focuses we have while going through school. I look forward to sharing my own Salvy Series blog closer to December!

View from the Salvation Army clinic on a beautiful October morning

The past few weeks of clinic, I have been passing off my patients to 8th and 9th trimester interns who are eager to get more hands-on with patient care! I've been keeping myself busy studying for Part 4 board exams in mid-November, working on my Illinois state license application, and studying material for my Nutrition and Functional Medicine courses that I'm currently enrolled in. With the University of Western States program, I am learning about gastrointestinal and immune system imbalances, classes that I find both incredibly fascinating and invaluable. We have always been taught in school that food itself is NOT medicine, yet eating a properly-balanced diet and incorporating a wide variety of nutritious foods can have a life-changing impact on your health! Making these lifestyle changes can be a challenge, so I'm enjoying using myself and my friends and family as guinea pigs before I'm in clinical practice!

View from the rooftop of my new apartment in Lakeview overlooking the city

For the month of November, I will be interning with Dr. Donald Owens (a 1992 National University grad) at the Illiana VA hospital in Danville, Illinois. I'll be moving down Sunday afternoon and preparing for my 4-week experience working with veterans. Fortunately, there is housing provided for me while I am participating in the internship, and I plan on returning on the weekends to Chicago for seminars, Part 4 boards, and the Thanksgiving holiday. November is already booked up, and before I know it, December will be here. Woah, time has flown! I think it's safe to say our entire class is eager for Week 15 to arrive! #DecemberDocs

I look forward to sharing my experiences with you from Danville, Illinois! :)