VA Chiropractic Resident: My Month with Neurosurgery

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

VA Chiropractic Resident: My Month with Neurosurgery

Morgan Price, DC

When I woke up the morning of March 16, 2020, to an email matching me with my residency program, I could not even begin to understand how different of an experience it would be from anything I had anticipated. In the following weeks, I would leave both my Bay Pines VA fee-basis position and my associateship in private practice significantly earlier than I planned and wait jobless for nearly three months before moving across the country from Florida to Seattle.

Now, as the 2020-2021 VA Puget Sound Health Care System chiropractic resident—exactly six months after that day in March—the “new normal” is a phrase that I hear too often. Every morning, I match my face mask to my outfit; between three chiropractors, we are allowed seven total face-to-face appointments per week; the majority of my encounters are done through telephone triaging or video call; and for the patients I do get to see in person, I change into VA-issued scrubs, a surgical mask, and face shield (see photo).

To say that I have felt like a fish out of water adjusting to not seeing a patient for three months paired with this new COVID normal was an understatement. Finding my stride in the beginning was difficult.

Then, for the month of September, I was scheduled to go on rotation with the Seattle VA Neurosurgery Department.

Since this is the first year for VA Puget Sound to have a chiropractic resident, we have been doing a lot of trailblazing. My VA is split into two locations: Seattle and Tacoma. The Tacoma location has two well-established chiropractors, while the main hospital in Seattle has none. So, when I’m on rotation in Seattle, I am frequently met with curiosity and a lot of questions; commonly I am told that I am the only chiropractor many providers have ever met.

I knew that Neurosurgery had been hesitant to even open the door for communication between our departments, let alone take me on rotation for an entire month, but after some reassurance from my attending, it was decided.

With barely two months to get back into my clinical mindset post-quarantine, I was more than nervous to have Neurosurgery as my second rotation (after Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, where I felt quite comfortable). Less than a week before my rotation began, they asked me to prepare an “introduction to chiropractic” presentation. I imagine they had no idea how to even speak to me while I was there. When I presented for rotation on the first day, I was ready to keep quiet and observe as out of the way as I possibly could. But what followed surprised me.

I was welcomed with such genuine interest that I never would have anticipated. The members of Neurosurgery spent our entire first day together asking me questions, truly trying to understand my clinical mindset and approach. It was so refreshing. I had prepared a 20-minute presentation that would end up taking an hour because they wanted to know so much more.

As the weeks would go on, I had never felt so at home in a department that was not my own. The surgeons introduced me as “Dr. Price” and explained my role as a chiropractic resident to all the patients and providers we encountered. If I was met with any adversity, they would immediately defend me. They valued my input on every surgical consultation: What did I think? Surgical? Non-surgical? If not, chiropractic? Physical therapy? etc.

About half-way through my rotation, they had me scrub in for a cervical laminectomy. While standing there, elbow-to-elbow with the surgeons, with my hands held up in the sterile field, the resident drawing the anatomy relevant to the surgery on the paper coverings, and cutting in real time directly in front of me…I never felt more validated.

About half-way through my rotation, they had me scrub in for a cervical laminectomy. While standing there, elbow-to-elbow with the surgeons, with my hands held up in the sterile field, the resident drawing the anatomy relevant to the surgery on the paper coverings, and cutting in real time directly in front of me…I never felt more validated.

As I rounded out my month with Neurosurgery, I know that a huge appreciation was gained by both of our departments, and I am so thankful for my residency for giving me these opportunities and experiences.

Dr. Price is the chiropractic resident at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System. Read about the experiences of other VA residents in the ACA Blogs series and learn more about the VA residencies here

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Author: Morgan Price
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2 comments on article "VA Chiropractic Resident: My Month with Neurosurgery"

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Steven Huybrecht

11/2/2020 5:57 PM

Great article Dr Price! Sounds like a very educational experience for all parties involved.


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Nathan Cashion

11/11/2020 5:23 PM

Thanks for representing the profession so well. My brief few hours in neurosurgery weren't quite as positive, but certainly a great experience!

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