My first year as an Osteopath
I MADE IT!
Just over a year of being a fully qualified professional, starting my own business and seeing my own patients… Wow.
“My First Patient”
Seems like such a whirlwind, a full year ago I started up on my own, fresh out of uni – I can still remember the first, nerve-wracking time I saw a patient on my own without a tutor(!) and the daunting prospect of creating my own business. It’s hard to believe I’ve got here.
What was even more gratifying, is when that same new patient came back to see me as a follow up. Especially when they said they're feeling better. Since then, I’ve seen a few more patients and each time, even if they're not feeling better, there is a satisfaction in knowing that they trusted you enough to come back. You may spend that first week whilst you wait for their follow up appointment stressing about whether they'll turn up...
what they will say...
whether you did something wrong etc... (I certainly did!)
BUT don’t let yourself forget that you spent at least 4 long years studying for this, with tutor support and guidance, you can do this!
“The Initial Business Plan”
When I first started I was excited if I got one patient in a week. Then, as it went on, I began to worry that it was stagnating, my income wasn't certain and being self-employed means that I have learnt to HATE doing accounts (they were a real mess when I first started). I still get no-shows and last minute cancellations, which is frustrating, but there is often a reason and even if there isn’t, it happens to everyone!
I have since learnt that the advice everyone told me at the beginning is right, it really does pick up, despite how slow it might be to start with. So to anyone looking to do this for themselves, hang on in there, this job is so worth it.
My initial business plan was to do home visits in my local area and rent a room in a clinic nearby. The gentleman who owned the clinic was very well known and so good at helping me land on my feet and referring patients to me. Things really started picking up after the 2016 New Year and I thought to myself; “here we go, this is really happening”. I had my business cards, a business phone and my reprinted leaflets with my actual business phone number on them rather than my personal one… (That was a frustrating mistake).
“Gaining Networking Connections”
My next venture was to form a local Osteopaths Networking group. As a self-employed Osteopath, there is a definite risk of becoming isolated in the profession. Being a new Osteopath, I thought it would be beneficial to get some connections in the area. If nothing else, it would mean that maybe I would gain a forum to turn to if I had difficulty with a patient or the business aspect of things. My advice to any new Osteopath is to gain networking connections any way you can. This networking group has been invaluable – from getting me work opportunities, to CPD (Continuing Professional Development), to gaining people that I have been able to ring up regarding patients and get a more experienced opinion.
“A Bumpy Ride”
I’ll be honest with you though, as first years go, it’s been a bumpy ride.
The home visits were almost non-existent and not a viable option to continue with on a regular basis. Don’t get me wrong, it’s well worth investing in a portable couch for the times when people do need home visits but it can be difficult to get up and running on a full time basis.
Just when I thought things were picking up again after this, another Osteopath I was meant to be starting work with over the summer, unfortunately needed to suddenly shut down her clinic due to problems with the building.
Move on a couple of months and the clinic I had been working in since I started, burnt down. Not the best news. All of us who worked there then had to go into damage control mode and find other places to work.
However! If I’ve learnt anything over this first year it’s these 2 things: 1) The phrase “When one door closes, another opens”, couldn’t be more appropriate.
2) If something pushes you down, you get right back up, dust yourself off and create a game plan.
“The Silver Lining”
So, to the silver lining!
I am still in communication with the Osteopath I was meant to be starting work with over the summer. We are still planning on working together and creating a clinic. Yay! I actually met her via the Networking Group and she has been great with sorting things out and being a listening ear when I need some help.
I had a holiday, which can sometimes work wonders at helping you get things into perspective and let your brain have a rest.
I set up a room at Bliinx Eyecare Studios (I know the Optician there) in Kingsley (see left), which I used to cover the patients I would have seen in the clinic that burnt down. I have now properly decorated it and will be using it as a regular base on Wednesdays.
The Osteomyologist who owned the clinic that burnt down has been working hard to get things back up and running. We have now moved and set up at the Chocolate Frog in Oakhanger.
“With a heavy heart”
It is with a heavy heart that I write this next section.
Mr Greg Barker, a man who was integral to getting me where I am today, passed away in September 2016. He was my tutor in university, gave me a job at his clinic and acted as a mentor through my time working with him. He had been in Osteopathic profession for a long time, knew and helped so many people, from students, to patients and his passing will have long-reaching effects. I shall always remember his laid back attitude as a tutor helped put me at ease, his quick and witty comebacks always eased any tension and his depth of knowledge could always be called on when needing help. I will be forever grateful for his help in becoming the Osteopath that I am today.
“An Uncertain Future”
This whole first year has definitely shown me that in this line of work, it’s very difficult to predict what the future holds. You can make contingency plans upon plans but at the end of the day, sometimes adversity can encourage adaptability and development as a person and as an Osteopath.
Having said this, I am looking forward to what the future holds. I love my job. Every day is different, each patient a new puzzle and it is wonderful being in a position to help people the way Osteopathy can.
Yes, things may get a bit overwhelming sometimes, unexpected problems may come your way and it can be hard watching other people sail ahead in their professions but here comes my other piece of advice:
3) Don’t compare yourself to others, everyone has different experiences and that way lies insecurity and despondency.
Take each day as it comes, in this profession you learn every day and sometimes you may find that just lending a listening ear can make the biggest difference.