Not exactly a year of ‘clarity’, ’insight’ and ‘2020 vision’ as we might have hoped…
Had anyone said that they’d set up a clinic at the start of a pandemic, they’d have been told they were completely mad - and I would have had to agree with them!
I opened the Wye Valley Chiropractic Clinic in the Autumn of 2019 having moved on from my clinic in Anglesey where we’d lived for the last 12 years whilst my husband, a former fast-jet pilot, was flying at RAF Valley.
The clinic was really ‘launched’ in New Year 2020 and all went swimmingly in Ross for the first couple of months, with patients finding out about us and spreading the word to their friends and families. Clinic became busier, and I was in the process of getting a receptionist and recruiting an associate to start in the summer, when we were all thrown into lockdown at the end of March.
It was a worrying time for us all; we were scared of Covid-19, no one knew how we’d survive weeks on end in isolation, away from friends and family, starved of social contact and every day activities and entertainments. For me, it was the first time in 20 years that I’d not been able to practice, and being told to stop made me realise two things: i) just how hands-on and people-centred our job is, and ii) just how much I enjoy what I do, and what a huge part of my life it has become.
After the initial shock of lockdown, I quickly adjusted to the enforced time away from clinic. Fortunately the weather was kind, and I enjoyed long, lazy days in the garden, weeding the rose-bed and planting up the vegetable patch.
I spent many happy hours exploring the gorgeous Herefordshire countryside, and was hugely grateful to live in such a beautiful part of the country. We also reared a baby pheasant ‘Cheep Cheep’ who’d been abandoned as a hatchling in our garden - a fantastic lockdown project and one which provided many hours of fun.
Like many, I adapted to life ‘online’ and attended numerous workshops and webinars, updating my knowledge base and catching up with friends and colleagues from around the world, albeit in a ‘virtual’ arena!
I embraced modern technology and started offering ‘telehealth’ appointments for patients - perhaps not ideal for those more used to hands-on treatment, but it was very good to be able to offer advice, reassurance and rehabilitative exercises to people who were struggling during lockdown. I worked with colleagues who have since written up several papers for publication in scientific journals about the use of virtual consultations in chiropractic.
Fortunately, we were able to resume face-to-face contact for the majority of our patients at the end of June, following guidance from the government and our own professional regulatory bodies. We’d undertaken a thorough (and regularly reviewed) risk-assessment and implemented a number of changes in clinic to keep our patients (and the wider community) safe. Rigorous cleaning and sanitisation protocols, reduced footfall and fewer appointments to clinic, increased ventilation and full PPE for me.
It was hot and frustrating at times, and admittedly took some getting used to! With over 20 years’ clinical experience with emphasis on a ‘professional, yet friendly’ approach, it was very strange to be hidden behind a white coat, mask, apron, gloves and visor. It was only when I went to see my own chiropractor for a check-up (too much gardening!) that I realised just how intimidating we looked! My mum said that she thinks of me like an orchid in the supermarket, carefully wrapped up in plastic and a cellophane shield - a rather lovely analogy and much better and less hostile than the alien spaceman I feared I resembled!
Despite the rustly apron and fugged-up visor, it was lovely to be back in clinic, helping patients with their aches and pains, sore backs, necks, knees, hips and shoulders. So many people had struggled during lockdown - not only with their physical health, but their mental wellbeing too. Many of our patients live alone, and for some, coming to the clinic was the only social interaction that they had. It was hugely rewarding for me too, to resume some element of normality and help people to get back on track, free from aches and pains. Having had time away from clinic I was reminded just how much I enjoy what I do, and what a privilege it is to be able to help people.
I think we’ve all adjusted to a ‘new normal’ - a normality of face-masks, social distancing, hand-sanitisers and fist-bumps. Gone are the formal handshakes and the friendly hugs, and it is sad to not be able to see smiles and laughs as before. But we’ll get back to that eventually.
So, we’ll carry on as we are in 2021 and hopefully with the vaccine, restrictions will gradually ease, and we’ll get back to the ‘old normal’ one day!
In the meantime, an enormous thank you to you all for your support, smiles and laughter behind the masks! And well done! We’ve done it! We’ve got to the end of the year, and if nothing else, at least we all know how to spell ‘unprecedented’…
Elisabeth Angier, DC, is an experienced chiropractor with over 20 years' in clinical practice. She writes about hints and tips she gives to patients, and shares some of the wisdom and life experiences she has learned over the years.