The following information should be reviewed by individuals who are preparing to study osteopathy as well as individuals who are interested in applying to become a student, active (working in Ontario) or affiliate (working in Canada but not in Ontario) member of the Ontario Association of Osteopathic Manual Practitioners (OAO).
BENCHMARKS FOR TRAINING IN OSTEOPATHY
In November 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a benchmarks document to serve as a reference for national authorities who wish to establish systems of training, examination and licensure that support the qualified practice of osteopathy. The document presents what is considered to be the minimum level of adequate knowledge, skills and awareness of indications and contraindications for safe practice that would be obtained from an osteopathic program of study. This document was developed in consultation with many expert participants from the worldwide osteopathic community.
Access document here.
One important aspect of osteopathy education and training is the total amount of time in the program as well as the amount of time devoted to supervised, hands-on training in palpation (touch). For individuals who have no clinical training (or health care background), a program in osteopathy should be a total of at least 4200 hours including at least 1000 hours of supervised, hands-on training in palpation from a skilled, professional Osteopathic Manual Practitioner.
For individuals who have had clinical or health care training (within the Ontario environment this is considered to refer to a regulated health care professional), an osteopathy program may be less than a total of 4200 hours (if the required training did occur previously during prior clinical or health care training) but 1000 hours of supervised, hands-on training in palpation from a skilled, Osteopathic Manual Practitioner is still needed.
The OAO utilizes the WHO benchmarks document to determine whether or not educational institutions provide the necessary skills, knowledge and clinical training to students, including supervised, hands-on training in palpation from a skilled Osteopathic Manual Practitioner, so that when they graduate they will be able to maintain a qualified, independent practice in osteopathy. In addition, the OAO has developed a competencies profile for an entry level Osteopathic Manual Practitioner who is an OAO member which is utilized as part of the process to recognize the osteopathic programs provided by the various educational institutions.
There are many educational programs of study in osteopathy throughout the world. However, not all of these programs of study are recognized by the OAO. It is up to you to determine if the program of study offered is the one you wish to take. Be wary of educational/training institutions that require you to be a member and/or pay fees to other organizations in order to be "licensed" to practice osteopathy, or, suggest that you will graduate as an "osteopath".
In Ontario, there is no system of licensure for practitioners of osteopathy other than physicians who may practice as osteopaths in certain provinces. For this reason, be wary of any educational institution that states that you will graduate as an "osteopath".
The OAO promotes the highest standard of osteopathic education and training and the highest, safest standard of ethical, osteopathic practice. As discussed in the World Health Organization’s benchmarks document, osteopathy is practiced in many countries throughout the world. There are manual therapists who use osteopathic techniques, and claim to provide osteopathic treatment, although they may not have received proper training.
In Ontario, there are universities (that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees and other professional programs), community colleges, private career colleges and post-secondary private schools such as those that offer osteopathy education and training. Osteopathy programs are not offered in private career colleges; for this reason, educational institutions that offer osteopathy programs are not registered as a private career college under the Private Career Colleges Act, 2005.
The OAO Board of Directors approves, but does not accredit, educational institutions for the purpose of accepting individuals as members of the OAO. Currently, there are only two OAO board approved, Ontario-based educational institutions whose students and graduates are eligible to become student members and active, or affiliate, members, respectively, of the OAO – the Canadian College of Osteopathy in Toronto and the Canadian Academy of Osteopathy in Hamilton.
The OAO membership approved a bylaw amendment at the May annual general meeting that will change how membership applications are reviewed and processed by the OAO.
Currently, membership applications are based on graduating from an institution listed on the board-approved list of schools on the OAO website. In keeping with OAO’s commitment to the professional development and advancement of osteopathy, we will be changing this system to reviewing membership applications from applicants who demonstrate meeting the required competencies by providing documentation, including transcripts and proof of the minimum required hours of supervised clinical practice, as outlined in the Board-approved guidelines for training in osteopathy. This will determine that the individual has demonstrated currency of knowledge, skill, judgement and ability sufficient for professional practice.
OAO’s Membership Application Task Force is currently developing the guidelines and the new membership application process. They will be shared with the OAO Membership for feedback. Once the new membership application process is approved, the system will change and move away from approving memberships based on the current system of the list of institutions.