Training To Be An Osteopath

water-wavesInterested in becoming an Osteopath and don’t know where to start? A career as an Osteopath can be very rewarding if you are interested in the health and well being of others. Osteopaths take what is considered a more holistic approach to treating patients – looking for underlying causes of illness rather than just the immediately evident symptoms.

Excellent communication skills, good coordination and a compassionate nature are essential to becoming a good Osteopath, along with a good head for business as many practitioners seek to run their own practice in time.

Osteopath’s use a combination of touch, stretching, physical manipulation, massage along with postural and exercise advice to treat patients with a wide range of issues with the aim to aid faster recovery and help with long term prevention. Common reasons why people choose to see an Osteopath are back pain, sports injuries, joint pain, pregnancy related issues and digestive disorders.

Studying To Be An Osteopath

Here in New Zealand to become an Osteopath it is necessary to have completed a Masters Degree in Osteopathy from Unitech in Auckland (currently the only accredited course provider).

As part of this process students complete a Bachelor of Applied Science (Human Biology) which takes three years full time, graduates meeting the entry requirements are then able to apply for the two year Masters programme. (Please note a B grade average is required in the final year of the Bachelors degree for acceptance in to the Master of Osteopathy).

Students are given hands on training from the outset with access to a dedicated student clinic, this practical experience is crucial to the training process and equips students with experience in real world situations.

Throughout the Bachelor of Applied Science (Human Biology) and Master of Osteopathy students will cover medical sciences with a focus on diagnosis and treatment using osteopathic treatment techniques and principles. This will include study in anatomy, physiology, pathology and general medical diagnosis. A research thesis in an appropriate area of interest is also undertaken by students in the final stages.

Once successfully completed graduates are able to apply for registration to practice as an Osteopath with the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand.

Maintaining a current Osteopath Practicing Certificate also requires the completion of a minimum of 25 hours of approved continued professional development each year.

Osteopath Vs Chiropractor

Often there is confusion around the difference between Osteopaths and Chiropractors and this is understandable as the professions are similar in many ways. Generally speaking, Osteopath’s focus mainly on gently moving muscles, bones and joints to help relieve pain and improve the overall function of the body, including treating problems that might not seem related to the spine or joints.

Chiropractors seek to maintain the health and wellbeing of patients through the care of the spine and nervous system primarily using manual adjustments to correct spinal, nerve and joint disorders. With the aim of assisting the body to heal itself, Chiropractors focus more on restoring joint position and function in order to resolve any nerve interference so the body can function at optimal levels.

However it is important to note that there are significant variances in the way that individual practitioners within both professions practice. Some Chiropractors practice holistically more like an osteopath might and some Osteopaths do not use massage or focus on rehabilitation, only the joints.

Osteopaths In New Zealand

To work as an Osteopath in New Zealand practitioners must hold a current Annual Practising Certificate and be registered with the Osteopathic Council of New Zealand. Australian registered Osteopaths are eligible for New Zealand registration under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act.

Self-employed Osteopaths are common in New Zealand meaning the expected income ranges are largely determined by the hourly rate charged, number of patients, hours worked and business overheads. The NZ Government’s Careers website places the average salary for an Osteopath in New Zealand who have less than five years’ experience around $40K-$60K per year. With Osteopaths who have more than six years’ experience sitting at around $60K-$100K per year.

Osteopaths in New Zealand work in conjunction with other medical professionals which may include referrals to general practitioners (medical doctors), specialists and radiologists. Osteopaths are registered ACC treatment providers (no referral required) and some private health insurers in New Zealand will also cover Osteopathic treatments.