After qualifying as an osteopath, my inexperience and idealism led me to believe that osteopathy was the cure for all ills, everything from back-pain to eczema to bed-wetting.
I felt reasonably confident with orthopaedic conditions but less so with the other stuff. However, I still accepted into my clinic most of what came my way. A part of me felt that to be an osteopath, I had to treat all the conditions that fall under the osteopathic umbrella, anything else would disqualify me. Also, I had unconsciously imbibed the belief that osteopathy is the solution to most medical problems. It was a belief that I had not checked, but had come to believe.
With time I felt disingenuous and worried that it was affecting my reputation. It was even harder to admit defeat once the treatment had started and instead I would carry on treating indefinitely till it petered out.
I am sure that some osteopaths treat eczema and bed-wetting successfully but my omnipotent, hubristic attitude led me to think I was one of them simply by qualifying from an osteopathic college.
The affect of my osteopathic hubris may have been an initial increase in my patient list but ultimately it reflected badly.
Nowadays I am more honest with myself and my patients. I am careful on the phone to discuss the condition. I ask if others have treated them, and how chronic the problem is. If they have been to see other practitioners without relief I put the question to them why they think another manual therapy may help. I discuss a mutually satisfactory approach that meets realistic expectations. From the start I try to set boundaries.
One could argue that it is experience that has helped me to evaluate what I do as an osteopath in more realistic terms. Perhaps it is not possible for educational institutions to teach these skills. However, to self-question and be critical is something the profession must encourage. Helping students and new graduates realize the limitations of osteopathy doesn’t weaken the profession, it strengthens it and it will ultimately help graduates enhance their professional identity and sense of achievement.
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