To realise our full potential, I believe osteopathy needs to continue to adjust how we communicate; with other health professionals and with the public too. It would be a significant step towards spreading our work to a broader and more diverse population. It is our collective responsibility to reach the estimated 90% of the UK population who do not know what we do, or how we can enhance their wellbeing. I think this is achievable without compromising our principles or traditions.
Meeting all our stakeholders with language and communication, which is more familiar to them, will not lessen what we do. I believe this is something I could do well because of the skills I developed during my previous career, and further expanded during my diverse clinical practice and work in education and training.
One unexpected bonus of this pandemic is that many of the fragmented groups within our profession are collaborating. The spirited debate between evidence-based and tradition-based practices seems to be less visible in this crisis. We seem more open to rethinking how we promote our work. I have begun conversations around innovation to drive our profession into the middle part of this century, expand our scope and build on our previous successes. On many levels, this is an exciting time for us.
In response to the Covid 19 pandemic, I have reflected and adapted; up skilled to offer telehealth and live-streamed, my movement rehabilitation classes, collaborated with other healthcare professionals in my neighbourhood and taken additional training.
Also, I am transitioning some of my continual professional teachings to virtual platforms and produced mini guidance videos to support those unfamiliar with this technology and media. Change can be a challenge at the best of times, but I am mindful that some osteopathic folk have become alienated and report feeling left out by the uncertainty of this year. For me, these steps have been about supporting the community, creating stability and working together to build resilience.
Osteopathy is not my first experience of self-employment or enterprise, nor the first time I’ve had to reinvent myself or adapt without prior warning. It was a severe injury followed by an extended period of rehabilitation that meant I had to close my studio ending my blossoming design career. It also pressed the pause button on my hard-fought-for visiting lecturing role at one of London’s leading art schools.
However, the benefits I gained from osteopathic support tempered the difficulty of that time, ultimately enabling me to change both the quality and direction of my life. Using my new skills and previous ones to offer support to others remains an enormous privilege; education in its purest form is at the heart of all my activities.
My direct experience of leadership to date has been as a mentor and as an educator. I mentored young design talent in my previous career and have lectured since my first degree. I returned after graduating from the university college of osteopaths (UCO) because demystifying complex information is important to me and wanted to give something back.
Working in education alongside treating patients creates for me the perfect a platform of learning, doing and sharing, it offers me a space to be a problem solver and a role model while demonstrating best clinical practice. It also allows me to keep up with the changes in student needs and expectations, for example; initiating online support groups. Developing these opportunities and innovations while respecting the heritage of osteopathy is something I would like to bring to the council if my application is successful.
My participation in the GOsC’s leadership programme in 2016 was a meaningful space to identify hidden skills and develop my softer ones too. It created a place to collaborate and upskill while navigating the tasks of working in teams with new people on a time-sensitive project.
Making space to hear the views of all team members while ensuring my voice didn’t get lost was an invaluable learning experience. I left the programme with newfound confidence to write and deliver my own osteopathic continual professional development (CPD) courses to meet gaps I had identified sometime earlier.
To date, these courses have been well-received and attracted delegates across other healthcare disciplines, creating a beneficial interdisciplinary exchange. I supported this initiative with a closed Facebook group. One aspect I love about teaching osteopaths (students and those qualified) is how I can combine our wonderful traditions and principles with innovation and remain authentic, which I know is a perennial conversation about how we move our profession forward.
Developing responsive listening skills, rather than doing, is often the most significant initial challenge for the practitioner becoming an educator or widening their scope of work. I have been fortunate to have worked across higher, undergraduate and postgraduate education and in my local community too, which I believe has given me the skills and sensitively to manage the needs of multiple voices and differing needs.
For example, supporting the enhancement of learners’ problem-solving skills while juggling the differing needs of all stakeholders; students, their patients and the institutions is a much larger part of working in osteopathic education and a more critical aspect of the patient’s experience in the treatment room.
I believe these experiences have enhanced my conflict management and problem-solving skills, which I think are beneficial transferable skills that make me a good team player and a resilient individual voice to join committees and practitioner development groups.
The last few months have also provided me with time to increase my presence on social media, which has opened discussions about many of the issues surrounding osteopath and those driven by world events. Much of this has been around equality, diversity and inclusion in our profession.
Some of this has been around my interest in mental health awareness, particularly male mental health and suicide prevention. However, in the main throughout the lockdown, I have been supporting a group of students and practitioners of colour (folks from the BAME communities.) Managing the fallout and pain following the events around the homicide of George Floyd.
While this event did not occur on UK soil, it has heightened the inequalities and systemic discrimination still present in the UK. I started an online group for safe space conversations around these sensitive and sometimes triggering issues.
We have been considering ways forward to drive out inequalities, identify unconscious bias and ways to resolve systemic discrimination, which sadly remains an ongoing challenge in all aspects of UK life, I have brought these issues to iO and GOsC for further discussion.
The number of osteopaths of colour in our profession is low, the only way to broaden diversity is for people of colour to be sitting around your table, where they can have influence and be a sign of possibility and hope.
Whilst not my primary reason for applying to join the council; it is a factor because, at times, I do not feel fully represented, or think your existing council members can appreciate the challenges that practitioners and patients of colour continue to face daily in their ongoing battle for equality.
If we want to move our profession forward, representation for all communities and voices is fundamental to gaining complete respect from all our external stakeholders and the wider community.
I am mindful of the challenges of navigating the path of growth during this pandemic and the upcoming changes in regulation while holding a safe space for practitioners to continue to serve their patients and continue their professional development.
I want to offer more support to those coming through training or considering osteopathy as a profession. Being more involved in practitioner development would be part of that, too. I would like to have more involvement in demonstrating and supporting my fellow osteopaths to appreciate that adapting and change does not mean a diminishment of our work; it could be the catalyst for growth and the deeper recognition and respect we seek.
The opportunities to thrive may seem more difficult as we work through and around this pandemic. Still, for many, it presents new and exciting possibilities and openings. I would welcome the opportunity to share my osteopathic passion, educator and life experience on the council. To collaborate, promote and encourage both existing and new groups of users; patients, students and practitioners.