“I’m an Old-Fashioned Bonesetter.”
One of the most hated phrases in a recent college graduate’s early career is “experience required.” This simple assertion on a job application is the bane of anyone trying to get a foot into a good job after years studying. But sometimes someone comes along who reminds you why there is such a high value placed on time in practice. One recent guest to our Chiropractic Technique class showed us just what skill comes with great experience.
Dr. Ken Padgett is the former president and current chancellor of New York Chiropractic College, and a longtime Waterloo, NY chiropractor. His list of accomplishments is long, including president of the American Chiropractic Association, president of the Association of Chiropractic Colleges and president of the Association for Chiropractic History. Locally, he even once held the post of coroner. Though these are hard credentials to overlook, he added, “I’m not here to brag about my involvement, I’m here to tell you how much I love chiropractic.” The assortment of stories and adjusting demonstrations that followed made that singular love fully evident, and also put his skill from years of chiropractic adjusting on display.
Refreshingly, Dr. Padgett made no show of his skills. Rather, he solicited patients with stubborn pain or biomechanical problems from among the members of our class, and simply treated them as any other patient, taking a brief history of the issue, making an evaluation, then delivering an adjustive treatment. By the time he was working with his second patient, in the audience phones came out to record videos of his process and technique. Comically, he seemed a bit surprised. This was all routine and unremarkable to him, though to us students, who began adjusting in February, his ease, adjustive speed, and grace with patients was exemplary. At this point in our education, we do not often get to observe a doctor executing the complete process of exam and treatment, much less a doctor with such a honed and personalized style. “I hope you notice one thing here: giving an adjustment is not hard,” he told us, a statement that seems a bit ironic, since we will spend at least 84 hours in adjusting labs this summer alone.
Regarding different techniques and styles, he advised us not to discount any, or to overvalue any, including his own moves. There are many different options for chiropractors, such as Gonstead, Activator, Nimmo, ConnectX and many others. “They’re all tools you put in your toolbox,” he reminded us, “Don’t tell me my way’s the wrong way, and I won’t tell you your way’s the wrong way.” However, he added, “Don’t forget what chiropractic is.” He suggested- with good reason- that the most important part of a practice is being a good adjuster.
It would have been funny for an outsider to see our group of over one hundred students so attentive. With phone cameras rolling and all eyes on the doctor’s hands, our enthusiasm gave the whole affair a bit of a geeky air- everyone looking to glean new tips or moves from actions that would mean very little to the average observer. Yet one day you will want to go see the doctors who were once those excited students.
I think it is likely that once Dr. Padgett would have been one of those students hoping to come away with something new from every adjusting lesson, leading to a natural air to his appointments that now allows him to inject much more personality. “Maybe you say ‘this is a different world,'” he offered, in regard to how our practice might be different from his, “but life is short- you’ve got to have fun. And to me, that’s what this is, chiropractic is fun.”
Fifteen minutes after the end of class, a group of 25 students finally gave Dr. Padgett a round of applause and let him go to dinner. “Now don’t look at what I’ve done, but what you’ve got to do,” he said. I think his lead sets that bar high, but my classmates and I are up to the challenge.