Duties: Helping patients attain and maintain good health; examining patients; diagnosing and treating patients’ illnesses
Alternate Title(s): Doctor; D.O., Doctor of Osteopathy; Physician; Osteopath Salary Range: $75,000 to $400,000+
Employment Prospects: Excellent
Advancement Prospects: Good
Best Geographical Location(s): Positions may be located throughout the country.
Prerequisites: Education or Training - Osteopathic school including internship
Experience - Rotating internship required
Special Skills and Personality Traits - Compassion; emotional stability; good judgment; caring; diagnostic skills
Special Requirements - Osteopathic Doctors must be licensed in states in which they practice. Certain states have reciprocity. Osteopathic Doctor’s may seek voluntary board certification in one or more specialities.
Specialist or Physician with a Larger Practice >> Osteopathic Doctor >> Student
Osteopathic Doctors have a large number of responsibilities and duties. Their main functions are helping patients attain and maintain good health. Osteopathic Doctors are also referred to as physicians, Doctors of osteopathy, or D.O.’s. Doctors of osteopathy (D.O.’s) and medical doctors (M.D.’s) both utilize all accepted methods of treatment when caring for patients. These may include drugs and surgery. However, when treating patients, D.O.’s place an emphasis on the body’s musculoskeletal system. Their beliefs note that a person requires the proper alignment of bones, muscles, ligaments, and nerves in order to reach optimum health. In many cases, the D.O. is a patient’s primary care physician. Doctors of osteopathy may also specialize in a variety of fields including family practice, pediatrics, internal medicine, emergency medicine, cardiovascular medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, homeopathy, and so on. A doctor of osteopathy’s responsibilities depend to a great extent on his or her specialty. Similar duties exist among all physicians. For example, all doctors examine patients, and they are also expected to talk to patients to determine what symptoms and problems exist. They may recommend, order, and perform a variety of diagnostic tests. If the D.O. is a general practitioner, he or she may refer a patient to a specialist to diagnose or treat specific conditions. Specialists have more specific duties depending on their line of work. After a patient’s illness has been diagnosed, the physician must prescribe a course of treatment. This may include medication, surgery, or various therapies. Osteopathic physicians often perform body work or body manipulations as part of their patient’s healing regime. T his process may have an effect on various body parts, including the patient’s bone structure, ligaments, and nerve structure. This is helpful in treating the “whole patient.” D.O.’s believe that if the body is aligned, patients will heal faster and be healthier. Physicians often help patients stay in good health with preventive medicine. This can include examinations, immunizations, or advice on exercise and diet. As part of their job, physicians answer patients’ questions regarding their health or a medical procedure. Osteopathic doctors are also expected to answer the questions of patients’ family members when necessary. Osteopathic Doctors usually work long hours. They may be on call for a variety of emergencies and are often involved in life-and-death situations. While this type of work can be stressful, the ability to help others is very rewarding and fulfilling to most individuals in this profession.
Osteopathic Doctors can earn $75,000 to $400,000 or more. Earnings vary greatly depending on the specific type of work setting and its geographic location. Other factors include the specialty, experience, responsibilities, and professional reputation of the individual.
Employment Prospects for Osteopathic Doctors are excellent. A n individual can either start his or her own practice, become a partner or be an employee in a hospital, health care facility, nursing home, prison, school, college, medical group, HMO, urgi-center, surgi-center, clinic or public health center.
Advancement Prospects for Osteopathic Doctors are based on the career paths they take. Some climb the career ladder by obtaining additional education and specializing. Others go into private practice. Some individuals build up their professional reputation and obtain a large roster of patients. This results in increased earnings. Still others go into research or teaching as a method of advancing their careers. Osteopathic physicians working in hospitals can also become medical directors.
Education and Training
It takes a great deal of education and time to become an Osteopathic Doctor. Individuals must complete at least three years of college before entering osteopathic school. T he osteopathic programs are four years long. Competition for admittance into osteopathic school is fierce. There are a limited number of schools in the country. Individuals must take an admission exam prior to being accepted. Selection criteria include the scores of the exam, college grades, letters of recommendation, interviews, and participation in extracurricular activities. Individuals must also take and pass an exam offered by the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners while still in school. After finishing osteopathic school, D.O.’s go through 12 months of rotating internships. Even more training is required for those who want to specialize or be board certified in a specialty. This training can take up to five years in a residency program. T hose aspiring to be board certified must also take and pass another exam.
D.O.’s must be licensed in states in which they practice. To become licensed doctors of osteopathy must graduate from an accredited osteopathic medical college and pass a licensing examination. Some states have reciprocity allowing osteopathic physicians licensed in one state to get a license to practice in another state without passing additional exams. Other states limit reciprocity. Osteopathic Doctors may obtain voluntary board certification in one or more specialties. In order to become board certified, individuals must generally go through additional training in the form of a residency in their specialty and take and pass a number of exams given by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). The AOA has approved 18 specialty boards. Some osteopathic doctors also become certified in subspecialties which require further training.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Osteopaths must be very compassionate, caring people. Successful doctors have a good bedside manner. A s they may be dealing with life-and-death situations, individuals should have excellent judgment and the ability to work under stress and pressure. Emotional stability is essential. Stamina is mandatory when working long hours. Osteopathic physicians must have good diagnostic skills. Scientific aptitude is necessary. Individuals should be organized and detail oriented. Communication skills are also needed. The ability to perform manipulations is mandatory.
Unions and Associations
Aspiring Osteopathic Doctors can obtain additional career information by contacting the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and the Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine.
Tips for Entry
1. If you are beginning to build a practice, consider participating at local health fairs. This is a good way for people in the community to get to know you.
2. Offer to speak to local civic groups and nonprofit organizations. This is another way to get and keep yourself in the public eye.
3. Many schools contract out for physicians.
4. Rural areas needing doctors will often help pay for medical school if you make a contract to return to the area and work for a certain number of years.
5. It is easier to build a practice in less populated areas that do not have a great many physicians.