During Monica Stephans, D.C. (Main, ‘23) time at Palmer, she took advantage of extra clinical training opportunities to prepare her to be the best Doctor of Chiropractic possible. Dr. Stephans took part in a VA Student Rotation at the Cape Coral VA, followed by a preceptorship. These opportunities allowed her to provide care to a wide variety of patients with unique medical cases under several mentors.
Dr. Stephans’ VA Rotation Experience
“The exposure I got in the VA setting was, hands down, more than I could have imagined in preparing me for the real world,” she said. “Being fully immersed in a clinical setting allowed me to experience more growth in the first two weeks than I’d ever imagined. I felt overwhelmed at times but in the best way possible! It allowed me to tweak and fine tune my clinical skills rapidly due to the number of diverse patients and the one on one mentorship.”
In addition to excellent mentorship, Monica experienced a welcoming peer group and patient population. She worked with a variety of medical providers and a diverse population at Cape Coral VA, which forced her to work on her communication skills. She was quickly acclimated to helping patients better understand the chiropractic care they were receiving and how it tied into their overall care plan.
“Being in a multidisciplinary setting meant seeing patients who were not always open to care outside of traditional medical practices. Working side-by-side with medical doctors was highly impactful. I saw patients after their dermatologist, orthopedic, or primary care provider appointments,” Monica said. “It provided me the opportunity to communicate with patients but also other providers. Because the providers were all strong communicators, patients didn’t have to re-explain everything to the next provider. It took that load off the patient.”
Monica often shared her amazement with friends and family, finding it hard to believe how much she’d grown in such a short amount of time. “The VA experience did not underdeliver,” she iterated.
When asked how her Palmer training helped prepare her for her VA experience, Monica spoke highly of her instructor, Dr. Kevin Percuoco. “He pushed his students to be better clinicians. Having the foundation of the student clinic prior to my VA clinical rotation made for a smooth transition and I felt prepared. Palmer did its job so well that I reached a point where I was ready to branch off,” she said.
Monica saw nearly ten times the number of patients at the VA than she did at the Palmer Clinic. These were patients who had very complex issues. She feels she would have been lost without her Palmer preparation.
Post VA Rotation Preceptorship
While Monica could have stayed in her VA rotation for two trimesters, she opted to spend her final trimester in a preceptorship.
“I felt ahead of the game upon finishing my 9th trimester and wanted the best of both worlds! Leaving the VA, I felt ready to graduate and work as a doctor of chiropractic,” she explained. “It was, hands down, different from any other experience I could have received. That being said, it also showed me the areas where I wanted to improve.” Pursuing a preceptorship has allowed her to focus on those areas.
Now in Chicago, Monica is expanding her knowledge in the McKenzie Method (MDT) by working under a doctor of chiropractic who regularly utilizes it. MDT is an assessment system/technique she sought out in her chosen preceptorship, after finding interest in and becoming president of the MDT club on campus.
“Knowing I might not work in a VA after graduation, I wanted to experience private practice from the lens of a student,” she explained.
While she acknowledged that it can be hard to leave Palmer early after calling it home for three years, Monica highly recommends applying for a VA rotation and/or preceptorship. “The experience you gain is well worth the tradeoff of leaving campus early,” she encouraged. And she’s not just referring to clinical experience but also self promotion and honing in on those imperative interviewing skills!