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Community Relations Program Helps Student Interns Prepare for Success

APRIL 10, 2001 - Thanks to the strong community relations program at Sherman College, student interns are learning how to make their presence known in the community by taking advantage of opportunities to participate in career fairs, spinal screenings and visits to local schools, businesses and churches. At these events, interns promote chiropractic, refer new patients to the Chiropractic Health Center and hone their skills as communicators.

Director of Community Relations Linda Price introduces students to the program just before they begin outpatient visits in the college’s health center. “I like to introduce the community relations program as a way for interns to build their practices in the health center as well as a way to hone the skills they need to succeed in practice following graduation,” she says. &#x201CI want students to see me as a resource - as someone who can help them build their practices and enhance their communication skills not only in the Chiropractic Health Center, but also in their future private practices,” she says.

Price is dedicated to helping students learn low-cost, effective ways of promoting chiropractic and their private practices. “When I visit a new class of student interns, I ask how many of them will have a practice set up and waiting for them when they graduate,” she says. “Usually only a few students have the financial advantage of returning home to practice with a family member or associate, so I get them thinking. The interns realize they will need to master effective ways to market themselves and their practices without a lot of cash up front. Most of them won’t be able to hire a coach or purchase costly advertising right after graduation.”

One free and effective way for chiropractors to make themselves and their practices known in the community is by volunteering. “Most successful practices are built by patient referrals,” Price says. “If you’re out in the community meeting people face to face, people will remember you, and you’ll build a solid referral base. Advertising is a good way to promote your practice, but it doesn’t put a name with a face - it’s not as personal or as meaningful as personal interaction.”

Price encourages student interns to talk to people in the community as lay persons. “The interns are accustomed to using ‘book words’ like vertebral subluxation every day,” she says. “I tell them that if they are going to use words and phrases that are unique to the chiropractic profession, they need to explain what those words and phrases mean in more simple terms to effectively communicate their message to the public.”

Interns also need to be good listeners and positive thinkers, Price says. “When prospective patients ask questions about cost, x-rays and the details of a visit to the health center, sometimes interns perceive those questions as objections,” she says. “Interns need to think of those inquiries as ‘buying questions,’ and turn those challenges into opportunities. People wouldn’t ask those questions if they weren’t interested. I encourage interns to take this time to explain that Sherman College is a learning institution and that all procedures (including x-rays) are done with the patient’s safety in mind.”

Sherman College has definitely increased its presence in the community within the past few years, Price says. Last year alone, student interns and college representatives participated in 69 community events, including health fairs, spinal screenings and school visits. “My phone is ringing more and more, and I’m hearing from people who have seen the college at a local event and are interested in having us visit their business or school,” she says.

Price has never had to cancel or turn down an offer to participate in a community event for lack of student interest. “It’s a credit to our interns - sometimes we have too many interns volunteering for spots in health fairs and screenings, and they have to sign up as alternates. The students’ enthusiasm and initiative with the community relations program shows that we will have successful chiropractors in practice that will use their skills and drive in the communities in which they practice.”

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