The May/June Osteopathy Today (pp. 15-18) reveals more of the results of the Osteopathic census. There is an incredible disparity between the support that Principals believe they are giving and the supports that associates consider they are receiving. For example 15-20% of associates reported formal clinical support took place as apposed to 25-40% of principals. Freeth et al. (2012) found that practitioners don’t support one another because principals don’t have the skills, don’t want the responsibility, don’t have the time to mentor an associate or associates are unwilling to engage with principals. We could enter into a lengthy discussion as to why this discrepancy occurs but it will be more helpful to consider how associates can be better supported. I am sure there are many stories to tell from both sides of the fence.
40-50% of associates receive no formal support. Areas where associates require support in the first three years of their career include – advanced clinical skills, peer group support around clinical and patient issues, access to a mentoring scheme, marketing, business support and development, communicating with other professionals etc.
All of these items could easily be considered in regular practice meetings, snatching a 10 minute chat with a colleague is not normally enough to consider issues in detail. Many practitioners consider that they don’t have time to set-up practice meetings or it is impossible to all be in the practice at the same time due to other commitments. Surely if practitioners valued the opportunity to meet together then they would make the time. It counts as CPD time too, if someone minutes the meeting to provide evidence. With the help of Skype or similar technology there is no reason that everyone cannot make the time to meet and share knowledge and develop. Every practitioner will have felt the boost they experience from meeting with colleagues and discussing practice life or gaining knowledge from courses – why wouldn’t we benefit from that on a regular basis.
Maybe there is an opportunity to make arrangements to meet with colleagues from other practices as networking and practice development opportunities. New graduates have a lot of fresh knowledge that principals would benefit from hearing and principals have a wealth of experience to share. All practitioners can benefit from practice meetings/mentoring/peer support.
Several years ago I was involved with a project contracted to the NHS with homeopaths, acupuncturists and massage therapists. As part of our contract we had to participate in monthly mentoring sessions of 2 hours, for which we were not paid. I must confess I started off very negative about the sessions – a waste of time having to travel and then be there for 2 hours, such a mix of therapists and compulsory. It didn’t take more than a couple of sessions before my opinions had changed completely. It was a fantastic way to build a team-spirit, discuss difficult cases, understand different approaches and develop different skills and knowledge as a practitioner. Since then I have been a strong advocate of peer-support and clinical meetings whenever the opportunity arises.
I hope the profession will develop so that practitioners take the opportunity to learn from colleagues and help and encourage one another on a regular basis.