NWHSU Student Kate Williams Learns Work-Life Balance While Studying Chiropractic

While NWHSU Student Kate Williams earns her doctor of chiropractic degree at Northwestern Health Sciences University (NWHSU), she’s learning more than anatomy and spinal manipulation. A mom of three with a demanding full-time course load, she’s also learning how to balance work and family as she carries a full-time course load, treats patients as a student intern, and prepares to graduate and embark on a career as a chiropractic doctor.

“Students pursuing a doctor of chiropractic degree here at NWHSU come from a variety of different backgrounds,” says Erin Kahn, dean of admissions at NWHSU. “Our academic schedule is rigorous, yet we have students who continue to both work and meet the demands of family while excelling in their full-time studies.”

Studying Chiropractic to Better Serve Patients

NWHSU Student Kate Williams

Kate Williams (R) and her spouse.

Williams began her undergraduate career on a pre-med track, and was considering pursuing her medical career at the University of Minnesota Medical School to study Obstetrics and Gynecology or attending NWHSU to become a chiropractor doctor. But when she started seeing a chiropractor after a bad car accident in the year 2010, she was inspired to pursue a Doctor of Chiropractic degree.

“As much as I loved medicine in every sense, I wanted to be able to have relationships with my patients that were just more than come in, let me figure out what’s going on real quick, and get you out the door,” says Williams. “I like having the time and ability to understand what drives my patients; this understanding really helps me determine how the patient and I are going to drive their care.”

As part of her decision-making process, Williams shadowed a couple of chiropractors, and observing those doctor-patient interactions inspired her to pursue chiropractic as a career path. A native of Bloomington, MN, with a passion for science, NWHSU was a perfect fit for her.

“After my daughter was born, I moved back home to be closer to my family, who gave me a lot of support as a single mom,” says Williams. “I really loved that Northwestern is so science-based. There are other chiropractic colleges that are more philosophy based, which is great, but I just felt like my background is in science. I love the science of chiropractic, being able to talk with the instructors instead of just being another number through a medical program door.”

Balancing full-time studies with family

Soon after Williams enrolled as an NWHSU student, she married and now juggles a blended family with three kids with her full-time course chiropractic course load.

“It’s hard, I won’t lie,” says Williams. “I stay up late to study and make sure that when I come home, my family comes first because if I don’t give my family the time and energy and the support that they give me, it’s just doesn’t work. And I just have to make sure that the time that I’m home is for them and when everybody else is in bed, I give it what I can.”

Despite all of the demands on her time, Williams stresses the importance of making time for herself: “I make sure to stop for a coffee on the way home if that’s how I can relax before I get there and kind of reset my mind, then that’s what I do. Or I’ll listen to a podcast or I’ll go for a walk, you know, something that lets me reset from being at school during the day until I get home.”

Building Toward a Family Practice

All of the hard work that Williams is devoting to her studies is paying off. She’s close to the end of her time as an NWHSU student, completing her eighth term out of ten, and despite delays in coursework and internships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone at Northwestern has done a really great job of making sure that all of the upper trimesters who are out in community-based clinics are on track for graduation,” says Williams. “They front-loaded all of our didactic work this trimester to the first four weeks while we were still in the quarantine phase. Then we increased our hours once we were able to go back to clinic.”

Williams has no plans to slow down after graduation. She’s working hard to become NWHSU’s next radiology resident. She’s also passionate about starting a family practice.

“I really think that health and wellness not only includes what you’re doing for your body, but what your family is also doing,” says Williams. “The people that you surround yourself with are so important to everyday health. It will be nice to have a family practice where we can see the babies and the toddlers and the kids, everyone from age zero to age 70, so that we can treat the family as a whole to keep everybody healthy, because when everyone’s healthy, everyone’s happy.”

The practice that William envisions is not only a practice that treats families—it’s a practice that belongs to her family.

“What you do at work affects your home life too and so my husband and my kids would be a big part of my practice. We may try to leave work at work and family life at home, but the two are so intertwined that it’s really important to understand what we’re facing at work so that we understand each other when we come home.”

Experiencing the Rewards of Treating Patients Before Graduation

NWHSU Student Kate WIlliams

In addition to her studies, Williams (Third from L) is also an active member of SACA, and makes time to lobby for the chiropractic profession with state and local lawmakers.

Through her internships in the NWHSU clinics, Williams has discovered just how rewarding treating patients can be.

“We had a patient come in who presented with a typical complaint of low back pain, but had this full back pain for quite some time,” says Williams. “He’d been seeing a chiropractor for most of his adult life, but recently moved and needed to find a new chiropractor. Because of the patient’s history, we took x-rays and, in addition to degenerative changes, this patient had fractures at multiple levels. But he was upright, and didn’t complain of any other pain than dull, low back pain.”

“That was one of the more surprising cases that I’ve seen walked through the door,” Williams continues. “Anybody can say they have pain, but you just, you don’t even know the depth of it or what’s actually going on until you start doing your examination. It was just so surprising to me what, what was actually inside and you think, Oh my gosh, that would be so painful, but it just spoke to the power of the chiropractic adjustment because he does regularly see one but it had been a while.”

Wiliams’s passion for the medicine stems from cases like this that she has seen in the clinic, and everything that she’s learned at NWHSU.

“Chiropractic isn’t just about spinal manipulation and resetting the spine,” says Williams. “It’s resetting someone’s nervous system, improving the functionality of their vital organs and it really does make people healthier.”