Frequently Asked Questions About the VA Chiropractic Residency

By Vivian Ly

I often receive questions about the VA chiropractic residency. Here are the most frequently asked questions and answers based on my experience as a resident at VA Connecticut Healthcare System, six months into the program.

Can you tell me about your experience as a resident?

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my experience as a resident and look forward to going to work every day. From the first six months, I have grown confidence in my clinical skills, experienced and learned from a variety of specialties, and have been encouraged to pursue scholarly and research activities. Here is a bit more about each portion of the residency:

  • Clinically: I am in clinic at least three full days of the week. At the beginning of residency, I worked closely with my attendings and discussed each patient’s history, evaluation, and management plan. As confidence and competence developed, I am gradually granted more autonomy. Though I have more responsibility with patient care, I always have attendings available for any question and concerns. I often consult with my attendings on difficult, complex, and new patients, which allows me to deepen my clinical skills, learn from experienced clinicians, and discuss evidence-based decisions. Also, in the Connecticut facilities, we offer acupuncture in our chiropractic clinic. I am learning about acupuncture as a treatment option for our patients.
  • Rotations: rotations started after the first month of residency. I typically go on a rotation once a week, though it varies week by week depending on the availability of each rotating provider. Through rotations with other specialties, I have learned and been exposed to a variety of different care and treatment options for patients that are commonly seen in the chiropractic clinic.
  • Scholarly: An afternoon each week is set aside for scholarly activities, including online classes, reading literature, exploring ideas for research and preparing for presentations (Journal Club presentations, presentations and workshops at affiliate chiropractic school, ACC-RAC platform presentation).

What kind of rotations do you do? What do you do on the rotations?

Having the opportunity to go on rotations has been educational in many ways. They are great for learning about different providers and specialties, they expose me to the various treatment options for patients, and they remind me that the focus of our work is patient-centered care.

  • So far, I have done rotations with:
    • Primary care.
    • Physical therapy.
    • Occupational therapy.
    • Pain medicine: clinic visits and interventional procedures (see ACA VA Chiropractic Residencies blog “My rotation through a VA Pain Medicine Clinic” by Dr. Stephanie Halloran for more details).
    • Integrative pain clinic and health psychology.
    • Rheumatology.
    • Peripheral vascular cardiology.
    • Yoga for chronic pain (this was a rotation that we added on because of my interest in yoga as an active treatment option for chronic pain).
    • Women’s clinic.
  • Additional upcoming rotations include
    • Opioid reassessment.
    • Pain rehab school.

What kind of responsibilities do you have at the chiropractic school your program is affiliated with?

The VA Connecticut chiropractic residency is affiliated with University of Bridgeport School of Chiropractic. There are student clerkships at both West Haven and Newington facilities and sometimes I work with the students clinically. Additionally, residents typically give presentations and workshops at Bridgeport.

What is your favorite thing(s) about the residency?

My favorite thing about residency is having intelligent, experienced, evidence-informed, and caring attendings who are always available to help with clinical questions, research ideas, professional development, and life in general. Not only are they always there to help, they are also always inspiring and encouraging me to do more and be better.

What are the hours for a typical day?

The residency is a full-time position, 40 hours per week. Typically, the first patient is scheduled at 8 a.m. and the last is scheduled at 3:30 p.m. Usually, I come in around 7:15 a.m. to prepare for the day and leave around 4:30 p.m. after notes are done.

Are there outside commitments from daily schedule? Do you ever have to work weekends?

There are no outside commitments from the daily schedule and there is no work scheduled on the weekends. At times, I choose to stay late or work on projects that I have decided to pursue at home, such as this blog, scholarly projects and extra learning and reading.

What’s one thing you would change about the residency?

The residency has been an amazing opportunity for me and I have learned and progressed so much as a clinician, scholar, and healthcare provider. If I could change anything, I would want more VA residencies available.

Recommendation for getting a VA residency? What makes you a competitive applicant? What are the residencies looking for?

A presentation regarding the residency can be found on the VA chiropractic education and training webpage. In this presentation, common traits among applicants and accepted residents are listed. Features of a competitive applicant include high GPA and hospital training as a DC student, commitment to integrated, collaborative practice, knowledge of current evidence related to chiropractic care, recommendation letter from individuals with experience formally supervising/assessing the application, and professional, collegial and self-driven approach.

Though I have only gone through the process on the applicant side, my hope for the next residents that take my place and the places of my fellow resident cohort is well rounded, evidence based, intelligent, and motivated doctors.

Tips on applying?

For students who will apply in several years:

  • Learn as much as you can in all your classes.
  • Become involved and do things.
  • Do a student clerkship through the VA to experience what life is like at the VA.

For those who will apply soon:

How do the different residency locations differ?

All the residencies are different in ways and yet the same. Each residency’s goals are the same and residents come out of the residency prepared for clinical practice in hospitals or other medical settings through hospital-based clinical training, interprofessional education and scholarly activities. To learn more about the differences at each location, listen to the webinar Dr. Lisi lead with each of the other residency directors about the VA chiropractic residency—the link it can be found on the VA Chiropractic education and training webpage.

What is the application and interview process like?

The residency takes place over a year, from July 1 to June 30. The application call opens at the beginning of the year for the upcoming residency (ex. Application call opened January 2018 for residency from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019). Application includes residency application with personal statement, current CV, and three letters of recommendation. The application and interview process fell while I was in my last quarter at Palmer West. I found that through the process, I was able to reflect on my schooling as well as think about what I wanted for my career and for the chiropractic profession. Though the experience was stressful and uncomfortable at times, it helped me better my interviewing skills, aided in clearly synthesizing my thoughts and was a capstone to the end of my schooling.

Do you need to do the residency to get a job at a VA?

It is not a requirement to do a residency to get a job as a chiropractor at a VA facility, though the residency will prepare you and will make you a good candidate for a position.

Dr. Ly is the 2018-2019 Connecticut VA chiropractic resident. She graduated from Palmer West College of Chiropractic in March 2018 as valedictorian and earned the Clinical Excellence Award.