How to Become an Osteopathic Physician – Overview
Osteopathic medicine has been around for over 120 years and osteopathic physicians are some of the most prestigious doctors worldwide. The World Federation of Medical Education accredited a body for osteopathic medical schools in 2022. It allows a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) to practice healthcare across the world, at par with an MD (Doctor of Medicine).
So, this is one of the best times to become an osteopathic physician.
If you want to learn how to become an osteopathic physician and more information about the career, then this article will be helpful.
What is Osteopathic Medicine?
Osteopathic medicine refers to an approach in healthcare and wellness that focuses on improving a person’s mental and physical health by treating their entire condition. This refers to making changes or improvements in their lifestyle, diet, daily routine, exercises, and more.
The main difference between osteopathic and allopathic medicine is that the former focuses on treating the entire condition rather than focusing on individual symptoms.
Similar to a holistic nurse, a DO emphasizes tapping into the body’s self-healing ability and mitigates the use of conventional allopathic medicines. Not just this, osteopathic medicine also integrates numerous conventional medical practices but with a holistic approach through OMM (Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine), which consists of OMT and other techniques.
What is an Osteopathic Doctor?
A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) is a licensed physician trained in an accredited osteopathic medical school. These professionals are educated in the osteopathic approach to healthcare, where patients are seen as partners during their medical treatment. As a DO, you will need to talk to patients about their conditions, lifestyle and other aspects that can result in an imbalance in the body’s function and structure.
A Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine performs duties that are similar to an MD, such as:
- Discussing the patient’s lifestyle and medical history
- Performing physical examinations of the patients
- Conducting or ordering diagnostic tests
- Interpreting diagnostic test results
- Making diagnoses and treatment plans to treat patient’s symptoms and health disorders
- Prescribing medicines or surgery as and when necessary
Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine (OMM) involves several types of manual techniques that can treat a variety of problems that affect a person’s neuro-musculoskeletal system. Osteopathic physicians use hands-on, manipulative treatments called OMT (Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment) to optimize function and restore balance in the body.
Some of the most common OMT techniques used by DOs include:
- Lymphatic pump
- Soft stretching, kneading and massaging
- HVLA (High Velocity/Low Amplitude)
- Balanced ligamentous tension
Most techniques in OMT may seem similar to a chiropractor’s or a massage therapist’s.
7 Steps to Become an Osteopathic Physician
An aspiring osteopathic physician receives training in the same procedures and methods as an allopathic physician but in alternative natural healing. DOs lean OMT (Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment). It is a therapy that improves the body’s function and balances with the aim of self-healing.
If this sounds like a good career for you, then let’s check out how to become an osteopathic physician:
1 – Get a bachelor’s degree
One of the main criteria to get into an osteopathic medical school is to earn a bachelor’s degree in a science-related field. You will essentially have to earn specific numbers of credits in subjects like physics, biology, chemistry or health sciences. Earning an undergraduate degree in these prerequisite courses is highly recommended if you want to become a DO.
2 – Take the MCAT
Similar to allopathic medical students, aspiring osteopathic physicians also need to take the MCAT. This test helps to evaluate a candidate’s understanding of social, natural and behavioral sciences. Candidates are required to achieve the minimum passing score to get admission into an accredited school of osteopathic medicine.
3 – Get admission to an Osteopathic Medical School
Currently, there are 37 accredited schools of osteopathic medicine and 58 teaching locations approved by COCA (Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation) in the US. You should be ready for a four-year medical program to complete your studies. This period also includes clinical experiences besides the regular coursework.
4 – Take the COMLEX Test
The Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX) is a three-part exam and equivalent to the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam) that every allopathic medical graduate has to take to get a license for the practice.
Candidates are expected to pass the first two parts of their exam to graduate from osteopathic medical school. The third part of the exam is held during your residency period. You will need to pass the COMLEX completely to apply for licensure.
5 – Apply for Residency/Fellowship
Once you have successfully passed parts one and two of COMLEX, you will need to apply for a residency or fellowship, or both to complete the required post-graduate training in osteopathic medicine. The state rules will specify the amount of post-graduate residency/fellowship training required to apply for licensure. According to the AOA (American Osteopathy Association), the residency period could be anywhere between 3 to 8 years.
6 –Apply for State Licensure
Upon successfully passing the COMLEX and completing your residency/fellowship, you will need to apply for an osteopathic license in your state. Make sure to check your state’s specific requirements, as they vary from state to state. According to the AOA, osteopathic physicians should check out the Federation of State Medical Boards to see their directory of state license boards.
7 – Start practicing
After receiving your license, you are officially a DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) and can apply for a job at a hospital, community health clinic, doctor’s office and other healthcare facilities.
To advance your career even more, you can also get certified by the AOA, or ABMS (American Board of Medical Specialties), in a specific medical specialty. This certification will increase your competency and earning potential too.
What are the Average Salary and Career Outlook of an Osteopathic Physician?
According to the AOA, the demand for osteopathic physicians is growing noticeably in the US, with a reported rise of 81% registered in the last decade. As the healthcare industry continues to expand and public awareness about holistic healthcare alternatives grows, it is expected to contribute to a substantial growth in demand for osteopathic physicians in the coming years.
An osteopathic physician is similar to an MD but focuses on holistic natural healing by boosting the body’s self-healing ability. These are trained and licensed medical professionals who work in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities. The growing awareness of holistic medicine in public is expected to prove incredibly fruitful for a career as an osteopathic physician in the United States.
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