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A well-trained chiropractic assistant is priceless

Proper training is good for both the office and the employee. Training can improve overall business performance, profit, and staff morale. This is especially important for your chiropractic assistant, who are often the first person a patient sees.

In 1983, I had the opportunity to work for a principled chiropractor who needed a billing CA.

I was assured I’d have a month to train with the existing CA who was going out on maternity leave.

Unfortunately, that was not to be. After only three days on the job, she went into labor, and I was on my own. That was both a blessing and a curse. A curse because I had no idea what I was doing, and nobody in that busy office could help teach me.

The blessing in disguise was that I was forced to figure it out on my own, and I did. It wasn’t the smoothest transition for the office, but in the long run I appreciated facing the challenge.

Although my story had a happy ending, this type of CA indoctrination is not ideal—and unfortunately it’s all too common. You’ve likely heard horror stories and seen the results of haphazard and incomplete CA training and orientation.

When one is thrown into a job not even understanding the basic tenets of the profession or the task at hand, it leads to frustration and low morale. Both the provider and team member deserve better.

Training for exponential results

Proper training is good for both the office and the employee. Training can improve overall business performance, profit, and staff morale. The results can be better customer service, efficient work practices, and productivity improvements.

Team members want and need to see their employer investing in them. This shows that the provider wants to empower them, thus improving loyalty and retention. Staff turnover is costly and time-consuming. Likewise, team members who are properly trained can increase their contribution to their practice, and thus build self-esteem.

As they learn and grow, taking on additional tasks in the office, CAs can remain motivated and fresh. Properly trained CAs tend to have increased job satisfaction and higher morale, which leads to increased performance and happiness.

Don’t stop training

Training and development can be initiated for a variety of reasons, and not just when an employee is new. For example, ongoing training should take place:

  • When a performance appraisal indicates that improvement is needed to address weaknesses or ongoing errors.
  • As part of an overall professional development program.
  • Annually, for required HIPAA and Office of Inspector General (OIG) training.
  • At least annually, for those who work with billing and collections, to meet federal requirements.
  • When audits reveal errors that must be addressed with training for risk mitigation.

What is initial CA training?

There is no exact answer to this training question. Each office customizes training to its specific needs.

However, some core areas of focus are essential to the proper preparation of a new, valued team member, especially if they are new to chiropractic. Gaps in the learning process on these core issues can cost a practice time and money.

Include both curricular study and practical hands-on learning: After studying at a seminar or in an online environment, use hands-on training to solidify the concepts and customize them for your office. Use questions and quizzes to challenge and stimulate CAs. Make a plan to implement concepts learned and allow the trainee to take ownership over the execution of them.

Don’t skimp on the basics: Even team members with chiropractic or other health care experience must learn about their doctor’s philosophy, background, reason for becoming a chiropractor, and vision and mission. Don’t assume that your processes, scripts or systems are already known. When you’re training new team members, always start at the beginning with the fundamentals to keep them challenged.

Cross-train for maximum efficiency: In today’s practice environment, it’s vital that team members know their own job inside and out. But in the interest of productivity, each member should also understand other jobs in the practice. Cross-training also fosters team spirit, as employees appreciate the challenges faced by co-workers. Written policies and standard operating procedures (SOPs) ensure a seamless transition from job to job as necessary, and they simplify the on-boarding of new hires. Don’t give CAs a reason to move on by letting them stagnate once they’ve mastered initial tasks.

Set the bar high: Every employee wants a challenge—even if they don’t know it. Nobody wants to be bored at work, stuck in a rut or feeling like there is no opportunity. There is always opportunity within every practice to improve or learn new skills.

Nurturing employees to develop a more rounded skillset will help them contribute more to the practice. The more engaged and involved they are in working toward your success, the better your (and their) reward.

Don’t limit training to only chiropractic skills: Training adds flexibility and efficiency. Teach CAs to be competent in sales, customer service, administration and operations. While it’s important to master chiropractic and practice-specific skills, enhance team members’ proficiency with training in Office programs (like Word and Excel), and with enhanced customer service and marketing training and other areas that are vital to the practice.

Every dollar and minute you invest in your CAs can pay 20-fold in dividends. Upgrading employee skills makes great business sense. It starts from day one, and becomes successive as your employees grow.

The short-term expense of a training program ensures you keep qualified and productive workers who will help your practice succeed. That’s an investment you can take to the bank.

Kathy Mills Chang  is a Certified Medical Compliance Specialist (MCS-P). Certified Chiropractic Professional Coder (CCPC), and Certified Clinical Chiropractic Assistant (CCCA). Since 1983, she has been providing chiropractors with reimbursement and compliance training, advice, and tools to improve the financial performance of their practices. Kathy leads a team of 30 at KMC University, and is known as one of our profession’s foremost experts on Medicare, documentation and CA development. She or any of her team members can be reached at 855-832-6562 or

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