Chiropractic, Inside Chiro School

What to Expect in Chiropractic School

This article is part of our “Inside Chiro School” series, where recent NWHSU graduate Kit Harlow shares the real scoop about what to expect in chiropractic school and more.  

Congratulations! You’ve decided to become a chiropractor. Committing to a nearly 3.5 year program can feel very overwhelming. As a recent graduate of the program at NWHSU, I’m here to share with you what to expect in chiropractic school. 

Maybe you come from a family of chiropractors, or maybe you’re the first in your family to go to medical school. Either way, that daunting feeling is a shared experience among all prospective students. As a top 3 chiropractic school, NWHSU offers the only competency-centered program in the country.

NWHSU’s goal is to send confident and prepared doctors out into the world.

What does that mean for your experience at Chiropractic School? 

Year One: What Chiropractic Classes Will You Take

The first year of the chiropractic program is “Foundational Studies.” You focus on understanding the human body in an in-depth way. At NWHSU, you’ll take Integrative Biology of Human Health and Disease. This integrative class is team-taught by expert faculty across disciplines. It incorporates biochemistry, anatomy, physiology, neurology, and more. This helps you see how all of it ties together and apply the basic sciences to patient care from day one. 

what to expect in chiropractic school

You’ll also start internships right away your first term with observation and shadowing, and it only grows from there.  By the end of your first year, your “Methods” courses will advance to learning basic chiropractic adjusting techniques. 

Classes are held Monday through Friday, with some extracurricular courses held on weekends. Some students choose a part time schedule, but for most people chiropractic school is a full-time commitment. 

Year One: A Recent College of Chiropractic Grad’s Perspective

What to expect in chiropractic school, year one? Many students associate year one as “the grind,” and are purely in survival mode. While it’s true that the class load and material can be challenging, especially anatomy, finding your study strategy, time management and relaxation techniques can help to offset some of the stress. 

My favorite part of my first year in chiropractic school was the cadaver lab. Though the smell of formaldehyde can be off putting at times, students experience the state-of-the-art cadaver lab that will be essential to furthering their understanding of the human body. I vividly remember holding a real, human heart in my hands and gently rinsing it out in the sink like a tomato from the garden. 

Year Two: Gaining Complexity and Taking Your First Board Exams

Things will start to peak, academically, by your second year. Foundational studies will continue, and you’ll take the part 1 board exam after Trimester 4.

Classes will advance to incorporate the basic science knowledge with more complex topics like pharmaceuticals, infectious disease, ethics, nutrition and dedicated body systems such as cardiology. You’ll continually improve your adjusting skills as you attend weekly methods classes and practice on your peers under supervision.

This may feel like the busiest time in your academic career, as most students begin to take extracurricular classes and consider an emphasis in rehabilitation and/or sports.

 Before starting your third year, you’ll finish part 2 and 3 boards, as well as the physical therapy board exam if you plan on practicing in Minnesota. 

Year Two: Seeing Patients in De Rusha Clinic as a Chiropractic Student

By the end of your second year, you will adjust your first patient in De Rusha Learning Clinic. At this stage, you’ll work one-on-one with a supervisor. A huge advantage of NWHSU is this 1:1 ratio, providing support and feedback as your start to gain confidence. 

what to expect in chiropractic school

De Rusha Learning Clinic will feel like your second home. The next step in your internships will be working 2-3 days a week with a faculty member and 3-5 classmates. You’ll treat students, faculty and staff, and NWHSU family members.

This is a key learning experience that will help to foster independence, decision making, as well as person centered care. 

Year Three: A Focus on Practice

Chiropractic school goes by fast. You can expect to feel apprehensive about graduation looking ahead but will feel some relief as the class load starts to decrease. Year three of chiropractic school at NWHSU is dedicated primarily to community-based internships (CBIs). You’ll be seeing patients 25-40 hours a week, with real time assessment and feedback. 

Most interns choose to stay in the metro area. However, there are opportunities to intern across the country, or even across the world in your last trimester (with a little more planning, of course). As you approach graduation, you’ll accumulate nearly 1,500 hours of clinical experience that will help prepare you to enter the workforce as a chiropractic physician. 

I chose to intern at NWHSU’s Bloomington Clinic for two trimesters, which allowed me to see a greater amount of medically complex patients. 

There’s one more board exam, part 4, to tackle before becoming licensed. This can be taken before or after Trimester 10. 

Why Choose Northwestern Health Sciences University? 

The future of healthcare is patient centered and integrative. That’s reflected in NWHSU’s values and missions when training future healthcare professionals. Graduates leave the program with more than 220 trimester credits and 4,300 contact hours.

A robust and competency focused curriculum gives an advantage for passing boards (NWHSU is ranked #2 in the country) as well as preparing future doctors to succeed in clinical practice.