Background: The literature pertaining to chiropractic students’ opinions with respect to the desired future status of the chiropractic physician is limited and is an appropriate topic worthy of study. A previous pilot study was performed at a single chiropractic college. This current study is an expansion of this pilot project to collect data from chiropractic students enrolled in colleges throughout North America.
Objective: The purpose of this study is to investigate North American chiropractic students’ opinions concerning professional identity, role and future.
Methods: A 23-item cross-sectional electronic questionnaire was developed. A total of 7,455 chiropractic students from 12 North American English-speaking chiropractic colleges were invited to complete the survey. Survey items encompassed demographics, evidence-based practice, chiropractic identity and setting, and scope of practice. Data were collected and descriptive statistical analysis was performed.
Results: A total of 1,247 (16.7% response rate) questionnaires were electronically submitted. Most respondents agreed (34.8%) or strongly agreed (52.2%) that it is important for chiropractors to be educated in evidence-based practice. A majority agreed (35.6%) or strongly agreed (25.8%) the emphasis of chiropractic intervention is to eliminate vertebral subluxations/vertebral subluxation complexes. A large number of respondents (55.2%) were not in favor of expanding the scope of the chiropractic profession to include prescribing medications with appropriate advanced training. Most respondents estimated that chiropractors should be considered mainstream health care practitioners (69.1%). Several respondents (46.8%) think that chiropractic research should focus on the physiological mechanisms of chiropractic adjustments.
Conclusion: The chiropractic students in this study showed a preference for participating in mainstream health care, report an exposure to evidence-based practice, and desire to hold to traditional chiropractic theories and practices. The majority of students would like to see an emphasis on correction of vertebral subluxation, while a larger percent found it is important to learn about evidence-based practice. These two key points may seem contradictory, suggesting cognitive dissonance. Or perhaps some students want to hold on to traditional theory (e.g., subluxation-centered practice) while recognizing the need for further research to fully explore these theories. Further research on this topic is needed.
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