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
Myself, Dr. Tony Hamm (ACA president and National grad), and
From the McKenzie Part C seminar this weekend on
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!
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:
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
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!
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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!
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
View from the Salvation Army clinic on a beautiful October
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!
I look forward to sharing my experiences with you from Danville,
• 5-Minute NUHS Campus Tour
• What I Learned in 6th Tri
• Opportunities Outside the Classroom
To read older blog posts, scroll to the bottom and click the "Older Posts" button.