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Why we chose osteopathy and the BSO

Jennifer Sparks, M.Ost student

Photo of Jennifer Sparks in the BSO libraryHow did you hear about the course?
I first heard about the course when I was a wee 16 year old and wanted to become an osteopath - it's a bit unusual but it can happen! There aren't many osteopathy courses around, and I wanted to go to a specialist school rather than a university, so the BSO was one of the few remaining to me. At the time I first heard about it, I didn't know anyone who'd studied osteopathy, nor any osteopaths, so I didn't hear about the school by reputation. I finally came here to start my studies at 24 and there are still not many more full-time osteopathy programmes in London, so the same choices applied.

Studying for a degree in osteopathy can be very demanding – what are your motivations for wanting to become an osteopath?
I agree with the principles of osteopathy, and that's why I want to be an osteopath and not a physiotherapist or a doctor or anything else. I think that the musculoskeletal system is key to health, so working primarily with that as an access point to the body makes sense to me. Cliché as it sounds, I love working with people, and this course is great for me because we get to work with both colleagues and patients so much. Working with your hands to make a change is very satisfying and learning and continuing to learn is also a really attractive element of the course and profession. The idea of being an autonomous practitioner, whilst terrifying at this stage, is also part of the draw: it implies constantly engaging your brain for something useful, varied and responsible, which not all careers can offer!

How do you balance the demands of study?
I'm not sure if I 'balance' them particularly well but I have a part-time job, which keeps me in touch with the real world and the reality of office work, and I frequently see friends who don't study osteopathy and have very different concerns. I also play the cello (badly), which makes a good change from staring at books and words.

What aspects of the course do you find challenging/rewarding?
I've only just started taking patients in clinic (because I'm at the very beginning of 3rd year), but that's probably the biggest challenge and reward so far. It's terrifying, because patients seem to think we will know the answers to their questions, and there's not much opportunity to stand and stare at the ceiling and wait for the next word or thought to arrive, compared to written exams where you can mull things over. It's rewarding because helping people to feel better is bound to be rewarding! You'd be crazy not to think so, and you probably wouldn't want to be an osteopath unless you thought so.

What areas of the course do you find the most interesting?
I'm interested in osteopathic concepts; they're significant because they're the things that differentiate osteopathy from other manual therapies. Of course, anatomy and physiology are interesting because they're complex and the things the body does can be amazing, though I don't appreciate the amount of factual learning this requires! Clinic is very interesting because you just don't know what a patient might show up with, be it symptoms or stories, and they both make for much more memorable and practical learning

Why did you choose the BSO to study osteopathy?
I chose the BSO because of the very busy main clinic and the varied external clinics. I also chose the BSO because I wanted a programme that really focused on osteopathy in a specialist environment. Plus, I wanted to remain in London, but that's not such a relevant answer!

What advice would you give to prospective students applying to the BSO?
I would encourage prospective students to really consider why they want to be osteopaths, because it's a long course that requires a lot of commitment, and there are a lot of times when it helps to know why you're here! At the same time, I think it's important to take things a bit lightly too: when everyone's studying the same subject and has the same concerns, it can really engulf your time and your mind, but we're not preventing famine or creating world peace or anything near that, so sometimes, just quit worrying and get some perspective!

Austin Plunkett, recent M.Ost graduate

How did you hear about the course?
After spending several years realising I was becoming disillusioned with my career in IT, I got talking to my osteopath during a treatment session. I'd been seeing her for various martial arts injuries. It was she who suggested that I look into osteopathy as a career, and I realised that it offered everything I wanted: the chance to study something fascinating, and to work with people.

How do you balance the demands of study?
This is very hard, especially as a mixed-mode student. There are no secrets, just dedication and organisation! I realised that I wasn't the most innately organised person, so I joined a group of other students and we met regularly for study sessions in the BSO library. This quickly became our home-from-home, and the regularity of our study sessions gave me the motivation to revise hard. Also, I realised that I liked teaching other students about the material I understood -- something I didn't realise I'd enjoy.

What aspects of the course do you find challenging/rewarding?
There's nothing quite as rewarding as the thanks you get from a patient. Also, the mental stimulation from learning the vast amount of material available to osteopaths is as rewarding as it is challenging.

What areas of the course do you find the most interesting?
To me, neurology became the most interesting subject. With lots of recent research pointing towards neurological models of pain and dysfunction, and new therapeutic techniques that address problems on a neurological basis, I found it a fascinating and complex subject area.

What sort of practice would you like to work in once registered?
People are complex entities, and no two individuals are the same. This underlines the importance of therapy that is tailored to the individual. Consequently I'd like to work in a multi-disciplinary practice with physiotherapists, medical doctors, pharmacologists and radiologists.

What advice would you give to prospective students applying to the BSO?
Get a diary if you haven't already got one, and book one day a week to relax! It's easy to get caught up in revision and hard work, but it's just as important to relax and make time for yourself. If you can reserve one day a week to spend exclusively with friends, it will help get you through the tougher parts of the course.

Margaret Sinclair, recent M.Ost graduate

How did you hear about the course?
I heard about the course from an internet search around the subject of manual healthcare. I liked the look of the BSO, went along to the open day and was impressed.

Studying for a degree in osteopathy can be very demanding – what are your motivations for wanting to become an osteopath?
The decision to become an osteopath came from my personal experience with an osteopath and a chiropractor. After an accident these two amazing people put me back together again and inspired me. I decided I wanted to be able to do that for others. So I looked at the two courses and decided that osteopathy personally suited me more so I applied to the BSO on the strength of its excellent reputation.

What aspects of the course do you find challenging/rewarding?
To complete the course took time and hard work. It was harder than I had ever thought and required a lot of dedication. There are a large number of exams and assessments to complete and pass. But this means that when you come to start treating patients, the fun part, you are able to start piecing all the information together with some exhilarating eureka moments where you can help change someone's life for the better.

What areas of the course do you find the most interesting?
At the BSO there is a team of enthusiastic, supportive and dedicated teaching professionals. During the course you are given a good base in structural osteopathy. But you are also taught various other aspects of osteopathy including visceral, cranial, paediatric and pregnancy. These are inspiring shafts of light amongst what can be the monotony of study, showing how broad and exciting osteopathy can be and how much it can help people from all walks of life.

What sort of practice would you like to work in once registered?
My aim for when I finished the course was to work in a multidisciplinary practice who work together to ensure that the patient is at the centre and receives all the support they need to be happy, healthy and pain free. This I have achieved. That first moment you realise you are an osteopath, treating a patient and getting paid for it is very special.

What advice would you give to prospective students applying to the BSO?
My advice for anyone considering osteopathy is to think hard about the time and work that is required to complete the course and to maintain a high standard after graduation through a varied practice and dedicated continuing professional development. If you are able to do this you will enter one of the most rewarding jobs where you meet some amazing people and make friends who will be there for life.