Why (NOT) Parker: picking apart the "Parker Difference"

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I know, I know, I keep ripping on Parker (College of Chiropractic, that is).  Hindsight is 20/20 and the grass is always greener and everything happens for a reason and all that.  I get it.

But let’s face it: if you’re considering becoming a chiropractic doctor or you’ve already decided to become one and now it just comes down to which school you should choose, I think that there’s a gaping lack of information out there, and the scant information you do find may be, well, potentially misleading.

And as for ripping on my alma mater?  Well, if they didn’t just spoonfeed me a whole bunch of material…

It’s interesting to be a fly on the wall during one of their guided tours (given by carefully hand-selected yes-men and women, of course).  You hear all sorts of propaganda, some of it true, some half-true, and some outright false.  The entourage meandered through a small seating area just off the main kitchen, where I happened to be having lunch and I wanted so badly to set the record straight, right then and there, but for reasons I can’t explain, I didn’t.  What I heard prompted me to visit the school’s website out of morbid curiosity, just to see exactly how big a load of junk they’re selling to the would-be chiro hopefuls.  What I saw on the website wasn’t much of an improvement.

So, in my typical message-in-a-bottle mode (writing something and hitting the “post” button, hoping someone someday stumbles upon it), I bring you their list, copy-pasted word-for-word (in italics), followed by my comments (honest yet subjective, from my own perspective and based on my own experience).

“* Doctor of Chiropractic degree as well as a Bachelor of Science in Anatomy and Bachelor of Science of Health and Wellness”

This is true.  And, they’re real degrees, not some fly-by-night “credits unlikely to transfer” like the tech institute junk you see on Cops commercial breaks on G4.  Understand, though, that the requirements for the two Bachelor degrees are very similar, so chances are decent that if you qualify for one of them, you may very well qualify for the other.

“* Nine techniques that correct vertebral subluxations”

Oh really?  I’ve been waiting to pick this one apart.  First, let’s get one thing straight: chiropractic doctors do not ordinarily fix subluxations.  A subluxation is a partial dislocation, implicating a degree of “significant structural displacement”, and chances are decent that it’ll take someone besides a DC to reset it.  Now, segmental dysfunction, on the other hand (which is what DCs like to call subluxation even though it’s a complete misnomer), is what a chiropractic doctor specializes in fixing.

Now that the semantics are out of the way and we’re all on the same page, let’s talk about those 9 techniques.  Frankly, as much as I like AK, it is not an adjusting technique.  It’s more of a diagnostic tool, and as effective as it is (and it really is), it’s currently not as accepted in so-called scientific circles as it should be.  So AK doesn’t really correct any vertebral (or any other) problem.  It is, however, a good way of re-testing.

How about the 8 other techniques?  Here’s the deal: it’s a crash course, at best.  It’s very hard to get really good (or even competent) at any one of them, because in 15 weeks, you get to meet maybe 12 times (due to finals, holidays, other breaks, in-services, weather, assemblies, etc etc).  Class time isn’t spent all that well (including lab time), and you don’t get to adjust much in lab.  Classes and labs are too big for the professors to spend adequate time answering questions and ironing out common mistakes.  It’s really more of an introduction to the technique, and it’s not like you get another trimester’s worth of instruction after that intro tri – you’re on your own to practice, although they put the fear of God into you to not even do that.

“* Advanced chiropractic business and practice-building courses”

OK, sure, if you call a trimester of theoretical Medicare or a discussion of Triple Net “advanced”.  Not to diss the Business classes, the prof was indeed decent and I’m sure he’s teaching what the school told him to teach.  I did find his discussion of how rent was calculated very useful, although it seems as though others weren’t as clear on it as I was, because in visiting some in the progress of setting up their practices, they were confused about exactly how much they were paying and whether or not that was a good deal.

As for insurance and Medicare, well, the prof teaches it as it’s done by the book, but hardly any doc actually does it that way.  Sure, they might be playing with fire, but I think as long as you stay ethical and on the gray/white side of the law you’re fine.

In short, the biz classes were OK, but nothing I’d call “advanced”.

“* Technologically-advanced campus (web-enabled classrooms, podcasted lectures, wireless campus)”

Our school is fairly technologically-endowed.  Wi-fi went in a few trimesters before we started, so most of the bugs were ironed out by the time we came of age enough to realize we needed laptops to make it through (to ward off the boredom and monotony if nothing else).  The campus-wide email system is pretty snazzy, too.  Its only weakest link is the fact that they use M$ Outlook, which blows goats, but whaddaya do?

A word about the lecture podcasts, though: they almost imply that all lectures are podcast and this is not the case.  In fact, in Tri 8, only 2 of our 7 or so classes were actually podcast.  I believe it’s left up to the professor’s discretion.  Also, I had problems accessing the podcasts.  For a while they had a workaround link for those who didn’t have iTunes, but I could never get it to work.

“* Award-winning research facility whose partnerships include Harvard, Yale, University of Alabama, and other world-renown facilities”

If we’re so “well-connected”, why the f*ck aren’t we more visible and respected?  Why the hell aren’t we getting referrals from UT Southwestern (the nearby allopathic medical school)?  Why don’t we at least have some sponsorship or something from those schools?  You hear nothing about, and receive no benefit from, this claim beyond the website they’re using to recruit you.  We’re not as respected as you’re being led to believe–not as a profession, and certainly not the school.

Side note: our research building is a tiny little nondescript building that nobody ever really ventured into.  And is University of Alabama really a “world-renown [sic]” school??

“* State-of-the-art gross anatomy lab and radiology facilities”

I will totally vouch for this.  Both of those facilities, and their faculty, rock the free world.  This is probably the one edge Parker has over its competition.

“* Unique internship opportunities with the Dallas VA hospital”

Yes, for 1-2 lucky people.  And only as long as you’re selected.  Although now I hear that you still have to get your recruits (before, they were letting you off the hook for this nasty little requirement if you were in the VA program).  And if you live anywhere west of 35 and north of 635, forget it – the commute will kill you.

The VA is hit or miss.  Some trimesters it’s a dudly fail and other times it rocks your world.  The intern who went from our class got about 2.5 times the required adjustments and about double the required physicals.  PT credits, though, are feast or famine.

“* Opportunity to perform on-site, supervised adjustments of athletes at Pan American and Olympic games”

Again, for 1-2 lucky people (and you’re only at the Olympics during Olympic years – although you might be working on Olympic athletes anytime).  And again, it’s all about hand-selection.  Pay extra attention to–and put extra emphasis on–the word “opportunity”.  And it’s scanty at best.

“* Campus athletic facility and organized sports leagues” 

You mean the same athletic facility that shut down on August 12th, promised to re-open at the beginning of October, but was still shut down when we graduated in December, but yet still had to pay for in our tuition?  That athletic facility?  I had forgotten about that one.  Up until then, it had been pretty nice.  We took a walk-through shortly before it opened back up, to find a few things changed around, a couple doors and walls moved, and the interior peppered with a lot of new aesthetic designer decor.  Was it worth the 4 months and million-plus pricetag?  I dunno.  I just know it still doesn’t have a calf-raising machine!

“* Networking opportunities (continuing education events, Parker Seminars, After Hours Clinic Visits, assemblies)”

Ahhh, yes.  You can network, all right….as long as you can stomach the typical Parker rhetoric.  I reckon the first tri or 2, you can.  You might even find it refreshing.  But soon there becomes a dissonance between real life according to Parker and real life according to reality.

One of the professors mentions a “chiro-bubble” in Tri 1 – he’s right, all right – it’s created by Parker itself!  They sorta seem to live in la-la land.  They seem to think that the world is locked headfirst into this “wellness revolution” and I’m here to tell you it’s BS.  They like to quote BJ a whole lot, and seriously, that’s not where it’s at.

After I realized what PSPS was all about, I avoided it like the plague.  Assemblies are basically a mini-PSPS that you don’t have to travel for, but consist of the same BS regardless.

One important difference, however: you are soooo not going to network at an assembly.  There aren’t any other field docs there!  The only people who attend assemblies by and large are the Tri 1-8 student body, and that’s because they’re required to.

After hours clinic visits are cool, but again, the school hand-selects those most capable of parroting the useless drivel.  On the other hand, you can at least go for the experience, for the variety, to witness the example of an office.  Even if it ends up being an example of what not to do, you might still get a couple good idea nuggets out of the (local) trip.

“* Focus on wellness”

Surely they jest!  I totally beg to differ.  They spew wellness out of one corner of their mouths, and especially during assemblies, but you’re in for a rude awakening when you get to clinic: it’s all pain-based!  It’s all symptom-based care, and your patients are pretty much reduced to file numbers with headaches, neck pain, or back pain.  Pain, pain, pain.  Oswestrys and Neck Disability Indices and QVAS scales.

The intake paperwork focuses mostly on pain, too.  I saved a couple blank copies just to remind myself of what not to do on our own intake forms.  Wellness is not a part of patient care at our school.  Everything focuses on chief complaints; if you can’t find a complaint in (or to relate back to) a certain area, you can’t adjust that area.  If your Medicare patient has shoulder, elbow, wrist, knee, or ankle pain, he or she is SOL, because Medicare doesn’t cover that.

You don’t get credit for extremity adjustments or extremity exams, but I didn’t know this until I specifically asked, because they won’t tell you.  You can adjust extremities (for no credit) after your (no-credit) exam (and potentially x-rays too), but it’s out of the goodness of your own heart (which I often did anyway, for that reason), and if you mark it on the fee slip, the patient pays extra (so, I never marked it – I just did it, like every other intern).

“* Full financial aid available”

Sure it is.  They’re a Title IX school.  Just like every other accredited chiropractic university out there.  That’s hardly a selling point.

Now.  Print this out, and take it with you, should you ever decide to attend a Parker open house and go on their little tour.  Picture me across the cafeteria, mentally willing you to get in your truck and point it in a direction out of town and not look back.  Maybe play with the tour guide a little first.  Show him or her this printout.  Get them to fess up.  Watch them stutter as they don’t know what to say.  Ask to see a packet of initial patient paperwork, both external (i.e. that the patient fills out) and internal (i.e. the intern fills out on the patient to start their file).

Maybe, just maybe, someday I won’t have as much material about Parker to rip on.  Believe it or not, I look forward to that.

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