Osteopathy as a Career: the first year in practice

I work in three practices, and patients often ask if that’s “normal”. As osteopathy generally isn’t available on the NHS, clinics are typically small businesses that can’t provide 8 hours of patients, 5 days a week for a new practitioner. Unless you’re taking over a list from someone, you’re unlikely to find full time work in one place. Even if you’re setting up your own clinic, you’re probably going to want to work for someone else to pay the bills while you build a reputation and therefore a list of patients.

In my last post I mentioned that osteopathy is a small world. I had shadowed Nick at the Burton Road Clinic in fourth year as part of one of the modules, and spoken to The Village Osteopaths at the same time but not managed to fit in shadowing. After I got my results and sorted out moving to Manchester, I sent emails to ask if there was any work going, and after a chat with both principal osteopaths, I had a start date. I found the vacancy at Leek through a post that Helen had put on an osteopathy facebook group.

Typically you can expect to work in a self employed position. A 50% cut of what the patient pays is generally a fair starting rate if the clinic takes the money and pays you; alternatively the clinic may want you to manage your patients and money yourself and instead charge a rate for the room by the hour/day/patient. Both are worth considering. You will be responsible for maintaining your GOsC membership, which is a legal requirement in order to call yourself a practicing osteopath. This includes keeping a valid professional indemnity insurance policy, meeting CPD requirements (information here), and renewing the membership itself each year. You will also need a DBS/criminal record check at registration and to declare any new records throughout your membership and at renewal.

Marketing will vary clinic by clinic, but there’s no harm in getting the word out there even if you’re not obliged to do so. I find my blog posts as useful for my existing patients as they are for explaining to the rest of the internet what we can treat.

On a more exciting note for potential osteopaths, the experience of working alone makes practice a lot easier! After a year in practice, patterns become a lot more obvious. This is particularly true when considering diagnoses- subtle differences between the presentations of lower back pain coming from a disc, a spinal joint, or the pelvis, become more clear and so questioning and testing become more efficient.

More nebulous things become easier to work with as well. I think a lot more about the diaphragm than I used to at uni, and normally when I start to consider the diaphragm, I find dysfunctional breathing. Whether that’s because I got it right or because a lot of people breath incorrectly is something I have yet to learn! This constant learning is what keeps us interested and up to date. It’s not on the scale of learning at uni, but it’s very clinically relevant, because it takes the form of researching a topic inspired by a patient. Something else that dramatically improves over the course of a year is the rapport you build with patients. Your small talk skills improve! Osteopathy is a very social career, with 30-60 minutes talking with one person at a time, asking about medical and personal things to determine factors in their case. Asking about a recent holiday is important to find out whether the shoulder pain was irritated by carrying luggage. But it also builds a relationship that makes the sessions flow easier for practitioner and patient.

Previous post: Studying at the BSO

If you have any questions about osteopathy as a career, please feel free to contact me via email (freya@freyagilmore.uk) or facebook.


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