Why Do Chiropractors Call Themselves Doctors?
How many times have you heard someone ask this question? Or maybe you've wondered if chiropractors have any real, science-based training. It's important not to trust your health care to just anyone, so I'm glad when people bring this up! This post is going to get a little bit technical, so if that's not your cup of tea, I'd like to summarize the big ideas right off the top.
* A doctor is a teacher; doctors study how bodies should work and how to help them when they don't, and we teach you how to take better care of yours.
* Chiropractors earn the highest credentials available in our field, a doctorate in chiropractic (DC). We are not doctors of medicine or any other profession.
* Chiropractors study for the same number of hours (a minimum of 4.200) and years (3-4 to earn an undergraduate degree and 4 in chiropractic college) as medical doctors.
* Chiropractic students spend time practicing under the supervision of experienced chiropractors, take national board exams, and apply to a local licensing board to obtain their license to practice.
* Chiropractors take educational classes every year to maintain their license.
Is that what you expected? Is it more or less training than you realized? I'd love to know what you thought it took to become a chiropractor!
Now, if you're interested in the full details, read on!
Our word "doctor" comes from a Latin word that means "to teach." I absolutely love this, because it doesn't paint me as someone with all the answers or someone who can't make a mistake. Being a doctor/teacher simply means I have a specialized knowledge and the responsibility to share it with you. My goal is to be your trusted teacher as you journey toward better health in a natural way. But no one wants to trust the big questions to someone who simply has good intentions, so let's look at what it means to be known as doctor.
A doctorate degree is awarded to someone who has earned the highest credentials in their field of study. It can be earned in engineering, law, architecture, forestry, religious studies, music and many other fields. We don't often refer to people in these areas as doctor, and in some cases it's against the law for them to identify themselves this way. Of course, when people ask "Are chiropractors real doctors?" they aren't asking if chiropractors know about forestry, so let's focus in a little bit more.
Like much of the English language, the term "doctor" has a storied history which is only interesting to word nerds like me, so we'll skip over most of it for now. Context usually indicates whether someone works in the healing arts or holds some other doctoral level degree. But doctorates can be earned in quite a few disciplines related to healthcare that have nothing to do with treating patients. For example, a doctorate in healthcare administration is a business degree with no training in improving health or diagnosing and treating disease. But did you know that many nurses hold a doctoral degree (DNP, doctorate of nursing practice)? Is an MD more trustworthy or competent than a DNP, simply because we call one "Doctor Jones" and the other one "Robin?" The answer is a resounding "not necessarily!" But I do want a surgeon, not a hospital administrator, to fix my broken wrist; to prevent confusion and protect patients, the title of "doctor" is reserved for practitioners in specific professions, typically medical doctors, chiropractors, osteopaths, and sometimes physical therapists. And of course, fictional Time Lords with an affection for humans. ;)
So what does it take to become a licensed chiropractor here in the U.S.? Chiropractors complete 3-4 years of undergraduate work focusing on sciences, similar to a pre-med program, and enter chiropractic college with a bachelor's degree. There are 19 accredited chiropractic schools in the United States, about half of all chiropractic colleges worldwide. During the 4 year chiropractic program, students receive a minimum of 4,200 hours of instruction, an average similar to medical students. Subjects include:
Both chiropractors and medical doctors go through a clinical residency/internship where they hone their skills by treating real patients under the supervision of experienced, licensed doctors in their field. Both must pass board exams and be approved for practice by their local licensing board, and both must complete continuing education every year. Many chiropractors continue their education to receive advanced certifications in pediatrics & pregnancy, sports medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, neurology, rehab, x-ray, and more.
Chiropractors are proud of our profession. We have completed the highest level of education in our field. We have extensive training in the normal functions of a healthy body and how to support your body to function at its best. We are experts in our scope of practice: evaluating, diagnosing, and treating dysfunction in muscles, joints, and the nervous system. We can identify which conditions are likely to respond to conservative care and which ones probably need medical treatment. So why do chiropractors call ourselves doctors? Simply...because we are!