As we approach the end of the 2018 academic year in Australia, a new cohort of student osteopaths are about to graduate and enter the next stage of their journey as an osteopath.
With this in mind I have reached out to a number of osteopaths, from new graduates to experienced practice owners, academics and entrepreneurs, to share with you some career advice in the form of a tweet (280 characters or less, although some couldn’t help themselves, and went a little longer).
The aim of this post is to help start you thinking about what you want from your career, and what you might have to do (or not do) to achieve that. I hope it will also save you some of the frustrations I (and many others) have gone through in the early stages of our careers.
A successful professional life looks different to everyone.
For some, it means making a lot of money. For others, it’s about having time flexibility. Others still want to have a big reputation and sphere of influence. Many want to be anonymous instead.
There is no one way to define success, however there are some common practices between all who have achieved success in their own way:
- Self awareness
Whether you are a student, a recent graduate or an experienced professional, there is always potential upside in hearing from others what they believe to be important to achieving professional success.
If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. – Isaac Newton
Absorb What Is Useful
When it comes to receiving advice, it’s important to take what is relevant to you on board, and not get too caught up in the rest. I’ve tried to reach out to a variety of practitioners, with different professional skills and experience, to give a broad perspective on osteopathy.
Absorb what is useful. Reject what is useless. Add what is essentially your own. – Bruce Lee
So, without further ado, posted in the order I received them, the advice for new osteopaths:
Giles is an osteopath (2012 graduate of College of Osteopaths, London), medical acupuncturist and sports/remedial massage therapist and is the co-found of OMT Training, a teaching organisation for manual and physical therapists. I don’t know Giles personally, but apparently we look similar enough for a colleague to use his image (from Google Images) on a PowerPoint slide when introducing me, so he had to be part of this piece. His advice is:
“YOU are the most important person in the treatment room” the key to longevity within osteopathy is to look after your body and your hands.. Don’t use techniques that compromise your joints especially your thumbs and back.. Be opened minded to other professions, they’ve got some great skills and techniques you can steal!!
Aaron is an Australian trained Osteopath. He completed his studies in Australia – Osteopathy with Distinction (RMIT), Sport Science (University of Ballarat). Aaron treats both adults and children. Aaron operates Movement Squared, both in Melbourne and Hong Kong locations (definitely a long commute), and additionally has been an onsite practitioner in both the corporate and sports performance world. He is currently completing a Masters in High Performance Sport through ACU. His advice is:
I recommended to my Associate try to excel in Anatomy and HVLA. These fields can easily put you in the top 10%. Be out and about in person. That’s when people will enquire directly about making an appointment. Still better than running an awesome social media campaign in my experience.
Jena is an osteopath who graduated from RMIT in 2013. She works in private practice at Box Hill Osteopathy and Complete Health Osteopathy and Pilates. Her advice to new osteopaths is:
RE: job hunting
If they are interviewing you, you have a right to interview them back. Finding the right workplace is essential in your growth and development as your as your emotional well-being! Never settle for less.
In over twenty five years as an Osteopath, Bruce has treated people from all walks of life. He has been Osteopath to the Australian Open Tennis Tournament since 2004, and at the Hawthorn Football Club since 2015. A graduate of RMIT, class of 1992, Bruce founded North Carlton Osteopathy in 1998. His advice is:
Interpersonal skills maketh the osteopath. Diagnostic & hands-on skills are a given, but connecting with warmth, understanding & empathy will take you next level. Build trust and take ownership of their management together.
Alison is an osteopath and pain management specialist. She graduated from Victoria University in 2001 and went on to complete her Masters in Pain Management from Sydney University Medical School and Royal North Shore Pain Management Research Institute. Alison works in private practice at Brighton Spinal and Sports Clinic and Pain Matrix in Geelong, treating people with chronic pain, and runs an education company for allied health professionals, Beyond Mechanical Pain.
Stay flexible in your thinking and humble about your role. Listen and learn from your patients. Keep a strong focus on life outside of work. Keep learning and evolving for your whole career.
Claire is in her first year of practice as an osteopath, after graduating from RMIT with the class of 2017. Claire primarily works at Coburg Osteopathy & Health Services, and earlier this year organised the #3058Workout, a massive charity exercise day that raised over $11,000 for cancer council. She has had a great start to her career, no doubt with more to come. Her advice is:
Keep reading and asking questions. Your colleagues are your greatest resource and supporters so use them, ask them questions and observe them as often as you can.
Follow Claire on Instagram.
Nathan, The Surfing Osteopath, a graduate of the class of 2013 from Southern Cross University, owns and operates Universal Health & Performance on the Gold Coast. He practices in an evidence informed manner, utilising traditional osteopathic techniques, dry needling and strength and conditioning principles to help people with injury management and rehab as well as performance enhancement. His advice is:
You’ve spent the last 5 years learning everyone else’s version of osteopathy, it’s now time to spend the next few years exploring how you want yours to look. Osteopathy is a framework which you can build from, and that’s the brilliant part of this job; the exterior is yours to create. The heart of osteopathy is inherently punk, it was born out of rebellion and questioning of the status quo. So keep asking questions, keep studying the human condition and keep osteopathy punk.
You can follow Nathan on his popular Instagram page.
Jacquieline (Jacqui) graduated with me from Victoria University in the class of 2011, and since graduating has worked in private practice in Ireland, studied a Diploma in Paediatric Osteopathy at the Osteopathic Centre for Children (OCC) in London and now works as part of a multi-disciplinary team at a specialist baby treatment centre. Her advice is:
Listen. Listen to your instincts. Listen to your peers and mentors. Listen to your patients and listen to what their bodies need and want. Listen to podcasts and go to conferences/workshops/lectures. Take time to listen and you’ll be amazed at what you hear.
Jade is a graduate of Victoria University, in the class of 2001. She is the owner and director of Western Region Health, one of Australia’s largest osteopathic practices. Jade has been involved in clinical education for a number of years and has an extensive graduate mentorship program in place in her practice and was involved in the development of the 5th year student internship program. Recently Jade has been presenting to osteopathic and allied health business owners on employment models in healthcare. Jade still practices and has a particular interest in maternal and paediatric health. Her advice is:
Don’t confuse confidence with conviction
Never underestimate the need to ‘fake it till you make it’
Social recognition is the key to filling your books
A patient’s financial situation should never cloud your ability to deliver their best treatment plan
Always go above and beyond
‘See how you go’ is not an option
‘Find, it fix it, leave it alone’ should be replaced with ‘find it, fix it, address the predisposing factors and maintain health’
Money is a wonderful byproduct of loving what you do
Core values make us the best at what we do (professionalism, integrity, respect, care and innovation)
If you surround yourself with brilliant people, remarkable things happen…
Shane is a graduate of the Victoria University program, class of 2004. He currently operates a large practice across two locations in Melbourne’s CBD – Melbourne Osteopathy Sports Injury Centre. Shane has previously worked in the UK, and before osteopathy studied biology and genetics, as well as worked as remedial massage therapist. Shane is passionate about developing the profession of osteopathy, and writes for Osteopathy Australia in their quarterly magazine on the topic of business in healthcare/osteopathy. Shane’s advice is:
Every time you step into the consulting room think ‘I’m representing the entire profession Osteopathy’.
It’s not about how interesting you can be, it about how interested you can be in others.
Jon, owner of Back in Health Osteo is an osteopath and acupuncturist with clinic locations in Melbourne and Singapore, where he is currently based. Jon graduated from the program at RMIT in the class of 2008, and in 2011 he completed his Masters of Acupuncture, having previously studied a diploma prior to osteopathy. He is a master of the Japanese martial art Aikido and he founded the Melbourne Budo Academy in 2010, which teaches Aikido, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Shinkendo (Japanese swordsmanship), Japanese Jujutsu, and Judo. He also teaches dry needling and cupping courses through his education company, Manual Medicine Australia. His advice is:The greatest thing that I would like to impress on you is that your learning NEVER stops.
Keep all your textbooks and don’t burn your notes. You will refer to them and keep learning from them over your entire working life; they have been written by some real giants in the Osteopathic world and we are lucky to be able to stand on their shoulders.
Don’t be overwhelmed, everything you have learnt in the course takes years to sink in, just keep learning and studying.
Be a generalist before a specialist. Be a Manual Medicine Master.
Work on yourself professionally and personally.
Don’t put down similar professions as it is unprofessional and it makes you sound like a knob. Everyone has something to teach us and never stop honing your craft.
Get together with colleagues, attend seminars and maximise your potential and be the very best Osteopath you can be.
Don’t get lazy or complacent, go out and chase your dreams.
Leaving Melbourne, while hard may be the best decision you ever make professionally…..
You have one of the best jobs for work life balance.
Keep healthy, take regular breaks and taste those sweet fruits!
The future is bright!
Tina is a highly experienced osteopath who graduated from the osteopathy program at Victoria University in 1999, having also completed a Physical Education degree there previously. Tina owns and consults at Coburg Osteopathy and Health Services, where she treats people from all walks of life, but has established a reputation for her work with athletes, from the junior level all the way through to elites. Tina is particularly known for her work with golfers, with her current stable of players on the US PGA Tour, Nationwide Tour, European Tour, One Asia Tour, Japanese Tour and PGA and LPGA. Tina has presented locally and internationally in sports osteopathy and sports medicine. She is on the leadership committee for the Clinical Practice Group in Sports Osteopathy through Osteopathy Australia and is a clinical advisor for EMS Swiss Dolorclast. Her advice is:
Allocate time to professional development that excites you, it will create lightbulb moments that will fuel your passion for wanting to help others. Be committed to you career, but don’t abandon your personal life. Remember that working with people in pain is exhausting so take steps to look after yourself.
Nigel graduated from RMIT in the class of 1993. He practiced in Sydney for 6 years before establishing Willsmere Health Osteopaths in Kew, Victoria in 2000. He practises patient-centred care with an emphasis on current evidence-based practice. He has a special interest in distance running and the treatment of injuries associated with running, and can also provide training advice. Nigel describes himself as having “No specialisations, I just treat people and their nervous systems”, but he also describes himself as a “hack runner”, so he is definitely modest (he recently competed the Chicago marathon, which is fairly far from “hack”). Nigel is an example of a practitioner who has built a successful career in osteopathy without having a high profile, except with his patients, where it counts most. His advice is:
Assume nothing, actively listen to your patients, they will tell you what’s wrong. You may not be able to help but that’s ok. And finally you are not responsible for your patients problems.
Anne is a former nurse and a 1989 graduate of the International College of Osteopaths, making her the most experienced practitioner on this list. She founded what is now Central Sydney Osteopathy in 1990 and has had a huge influence on the profession over the years. She has been president of Osteopathy Australia, and is now a life member, she is currently president of the NSW Osteopathic Council and has previously sat on the Osteopathy Board of Australia. Anne calls herself a dinosaur, but dinosaurs are extinct, while she is still overseeing a busy practice and seeing patients. Her advice is:
A new business is like any newborn; feed it when it asks to be fortified, nurture it, love it and help it grow strong and robust. That means 100% attention. Meet your patients needs, and very soon they will meet yours.
Osteopathy is medicine, not sports science. The human form, and what ails it, is not a predictable equation. Our job is simply to assist homeostasis. Treat what you find in that one unique patient, not what you’ve been told you should find.
If you think your patients should reflect your own image, then you’ll struggle. Appeal to ALL types. Old, young, fat, normal and thin, non/sporty, sick, well, straight, gay, black coffee and white, mums, overworked, unemployed.
When you graduate you don’t chat about technique at conferences and reunions. You talk business. So get it right from the start. This is a physical job, output exactly matches input, and if you get it right from the start you’ll enjoy a comfortable lifestyle and a deeply satisfying career.
Della is a graduate of the Victoria University program, class of 2003. She is the founder of Melbourne Osteohealth, and a lecturer at Victoria University. She is a caring and passionate osteopath with particular interest in pain and rehabilitation for long term health and function. She firmly believes that the key to preventing many health problems from developing and recurring lies in educating our patients; arming them with an understanding of the their pain and teaching them how to reduce or eliminate it. Recently she has been involved in presenting on both the theory and application of pain science to clinical practice for allied health professionals. Her advice is:
What most patients want is someone who can help them feel good again and while better movement, more sleep and a balanced diet are a good start, humans never feel better than when they are having fun… prescribe fun!
Heath is the founder of Principle Four Osteopathy, Corporate Work Health Australia and Ergawell. He is a graduate of Victoria University, class of 2003, and currently lectures there along with Southern Cross University, primarily in rehabilitation. Heath previously has worked in the UK and Sweden, and is currently a member of the Osteopathy Australian Clinical Practice Group for Occupational Health and Safety. Heath has a big focus on continuing education, and has undertaken numerous courses, workshops and seminars covering topics as diverse as manual therapy and exercise rehabilitation all the way through to communication. His advice is:
Be curious and open to opportunities! Learn from your own experiences, your clients and your colleagues and say yes to opportunities. Life will never be dull and work will always be fun and engaging.
Josh is a graduate of the Victoria University osteopathy program. He owns Paleo Osteo in Bendigo and Torquay in Victoria, which is an “evolutionary medicine and nutrition clinic”. He has a special interest in the treatment of chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and auto-immnune diseases using the modern and traditional principles employed by Osteopaths. Certified in anti-ageing medicine through the Australasian Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine, Josh uses functional medicine principles to help address his patients’ health in a wholistic manner. His advice is:
There is an alarming trend in osteopathic education at the moment that is tending away from what osteopathy really is.
There is a tendency to look for the “tissue causing the symptoms” and eradicate or palliate the symptoms. The ancient wisdom of the body is that it is always seeking balance, and will find it irrespective of the minds influence on what is “normal.”
A metaphor might be something like a boat sinking due to a hole in the bow of the hull. The passengers on the boat necessarily have to run to the rear of the boat to counterbalance it away from the sinking end. This could be seen as an “abnormal” distribution of human weight on a vessel (analogous to abnormal lab tests, abnormal tissue tonus etc,) but without this shift having occurred, the result would be far more disastrous. It is therefore of little use to usher the passengers back down the front (medicate/palliate/undo local “restriction,”) rather, what must be done is to seek the true reason the body is needing to find balance in this way.
Asking “why?” til one can no longer ask it anymore lands you somewhere in the realm of where to begin.
Stephen is dual qualified as an osteopath and physiotherapist. He graduated from the Victoria University osteopathy program in the class of 2010, and the University of South Australia physiotherapy program in 2013. He is the director of Movement Assessment Technologies (MAT), which teaches allied health professionals about movement assessment and functional rehabilitation, The Injury Rehab Centre, a practice in Cheltenham, Melbourne which integrates the concepts taught through MAT and the host of the 21st Century Physio podcast, where he interviews industry leaders about the future of physiotherapy and allied health. Prior to working as a clinician he was a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach, which is where his interest in movement started, and nowadays he spends his time helping professionals get better outcomes for their clients and patients. His advice is:
My top 3 things that I wish I knew as a new grad.
- Do not take everything from Uni as fact – a lot of what you learnt is out of date (it’s not 1898).
- Osteopathy is more than a 3x3m room. Think outside the box, set goals and work hard.
- Be the change you want to see.
Dr Nic Lucas, PhD
Nic is an osteopath, medical researcher, lecturer turned entrepreneur. Having completed his osteopathic studies at Victoria University in 1999, he went on to further studies at the University of Newcastle in epidemiology and pain medicine, before completing his PhD in diagnostic medicine at The University of Sydney. While at uni, Nic founded the International Journal of Osteopathic Medicine (IJOM) and served as an executive editor for 19 years and sold to Elsevier, the world’s largest medical publisher. He also started the Student Osteopathic Medicine Association (SOMA), helped develop the osteopathic course at The University of Western Sydney, where he went on to lecture for almost 9 years, and sat on numerous osteopathic committees and registration boards. After selling his two osteopathic practices, he has moved into coaching online entrepeneurs with his company X10 Entrepreneur.
Are you an Osteopath, or are you qualified as an Osteopath? Big difference. Don’t lose sight of yourself in a Title. Your identity is greater than your qualification. You can go anywhere, do anything. There’s never been more opportunity. Don’t ask for permission to go be awesome AF.
You probably started to sense a trend with the advice given.
While a few of the quotes mentioned technique, the majority talked about attitude, and the big picture.
Common themes were personal growth, education, self-care and listening/communication. This might not make sense now, but when you see such diversity in methods, all with similar results, then you have to look deeper at what is being done.
At the end of the day, this is just a milestone in your life journey. Graduating may feel like “everything” right now, but over time, you will grow and it will become “something”.
You have the opportunity to make an impact on people’s lives, which is an amazing privilege. I wish you every success in your future, both personally and professionally, and hope that this blog helps you in some way.
Finally, start building your network. The internet makes this easier than ever before, and will strengthen your professional life immensely.
This blog post was written by Nick Efthimiou (Osteopath), founder of Integrative Osteopathy.
This blog post is meant as an educational tool only. It is not a replacement for medical advice from a qualified and registered health professional.