For those who’ve stumbled across this with no idea what osteopathy is- it’s a holistic manual therapy, meaning that patients, generally with muscular or joint pain, come to us and we consider all parts of their history to find a diagnosis. We’re trained to identify whether any patient fits in our remit or needs referral to another healthcare practitioner. If the patient is safe to treat, we do so with our hands: manipulating or articulating joints, and treating muscles using direct techniques like massage, or indirect techniques like Muscle Energy Techniques. We can also give lifestyle and exercise advice.
Osteopathy is rarely available on the NHS, but this means that we generally work as self employed practitioners, and patients often come to us to avoid the long waiting lists they may face elsewhere. There are many branches of osteopathy, but they all tend to treat the neuro-musculoskeletal system. For more information on what we do, have a look through the Conditions Explained section of my site.
A lot of people chose to study osteopathy (straight from school or as a second career) after eye opening results as patients themselves. In contrast, I fell into it after choosing my A Levels (biology, chemistry, geography, English literature) based on what I enjoyed and what I liked. Originally, I put those together to come up with something environmental, but then I questioned where a degree like that would take me. At this point my mum suggested looking at osteopathy and physiotherapy, because “you’ve always been able to get the knots out of my back”. We went to an Oxford Brookes open day to compare the two, and at that point I decided on osteopathy- it seemed more hand on and less reliant on equipment.
I observed a couple of clinics to consolidate the idea and really understand what I’d be doing, then I got the ball rolling. I applied to BSO (now UCO), BCOM, ESO, Oxford Brookes and Leeds Met; the last two courses aren’t running anymore. I also posted my UCAS personal statement online for anyone struggling with that aspect of it.
I accepted interviews at BSO, BCOM, and Oxford Brookes. Of course I’m biased, but I wasn’t impressed with the interviews for BCOM or Brookes. One of them seemed in a hurry to get rid of me even though they’d already told us we had hours spare, and the other opened with “So what happened to chemistry?”. Chemistry was my only A* at GCSE and I dropped it after AS Level with an overall grade of D, so it’s a valid question but maybe not the best way to open an interview. I was offered a place on the condition that I attended a bridging course in chemistry before. Ultimately, I liked all three at the open days, but it was the interview that really made up my mind.
The main thing to remember when choosing a course in osteopathy is that the profession is regulated, so to become an osteopath, you must complete a course that is recognised by the General Osteopathic Council. A list of those can be found here. A lot of these are part time, and weren’t found on UCAS, but you can apply directly.
What was important for me was the clinical aspect. As a vocational course, you want to be as close to real life as you can while you’re studying. BSO’s clinic was second to none, and was absolutely the most valuable part of my education. When I started taking my own patients, I was probably seeing an average of three in every half day in clinic, which was enough to really get to grips with osteopathy. The tutors were fantastic, and it felt like I learned more in my 8-12 hours in clinic than I did in the rest of the week. I did really want a campus experience (which is still a possibility at Swansea, and potentially St Mark and St John Plymouth if GOsC awards it RQ status), but the whole feel of BSO outweighed that, and I’m glad I had a chance to study in London. Just be prepared for the cost!
The standard in osteopathic education now seems to be an integrated masters degree. This tends to take the form of a 4 year course, with masters credits being taken through the last two years. It means you graduate as an MOst (master of osteopathy), but what mattered most about this to me is that it meant there was an extra year of clinical experience. Another benefit is that it becomes quite research focused, opening the door for more evidence based practice. This is what we need to become more widely recognised and accepted as a profession. On that note, prospects for teaching and research are definitely worth thinking about when considering a career in osteopathy. I think it also means that you can be funded for the whole degree by student finance if you’ve already completed a bachelors degree, because it’s the next level up.
The course is intense. There are a lot of contact hours, and the prospect of resitting a year is very real if you don’t keep on top of the work. But the payoff is huge- the feeling of making someone feel better with your words and your hands is fantastic, and it still gives me a thrill every day in work. If you’re considering something biology/healthcare/medical but you’re not sure what exactly, definitely have a look at osteopathy.
Next post: Studying at the BSO
If you have any questions about osteopathy as a career, please feel free to contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or facebook.