Are you a lone practitioner?

Over 50% of the osteopathic profession work alone. That statistic doesn’t include the practitioners who work in multi-practitioner practices but are often working alone in the practice.

When I first qualified there was a lot of competition for associate positions so once you were offered a job you generally just took it. Having worked hard for 4 years we were desperate to get going in the ‘real world’. I know many of my colleagues have similar stories but I will give you a picture of the first practice I worked in.

The practice was in a very picturesque small town and was owned by an osteopath with another clinic in a neighbouring town. The reception staff worked in the other clinic where the principal worked all the time. I was the only associate and worked between the two clinics. The second clinic had two rooms – a door straight into the waiting room and the treatment room. To access the clinic you went up the passageway next to the butchers and then up a metal stair case into the waiting room. There was no-one to greet patients they just came in and took a seat. No entry system on the door. There was just telephone contact with the receptionist in the other clinic. Underneath the clinic was the rear of the butchers where they were preparing meat to sell. It was always amusing to see the delivery lorries come and men carrying half pig carcasses into the rooms below! Behind the premises was a small workers car park and some lanes to residential properties. It was an isolated situation tucked away from the High Street.

At the time I was extremely grateful to have somewhere to work, patients to see and to be gaining some clinical experience. With hindsight though I see what a vulnerable situation that was to be in. I worked late so there often wouldn’t have been anyone at the other clinic to call. We didn’t have any emergency procedures in place. I rarely saw the principal osteopath. All in all it was not a very good situation to be working in.

That situation has been one of the factors motivating me towards developing Mint and encouraging the profession to improve practice procedures and clinical support. It was many years ago now but I am sure there are still practitioners working in similar vulnerable situations. We’d love to hear your stories below.

As part of health and safety it is important to think about lone working and the safety of practitioners and their well-being. Practitioners must be provided with a safe place of work and a good support network to raise any concerns and reduce feelings of isolation and vulnerability.

If you are in a situation where you work alone in clinic – what will you do if you feel vulnerable? What if there is a medical emergency? Is there adequate lighting around the building? Will patients feel vulnerable? Do you need to take particular account of new patients? Etc. etc. Speak to the principal and encourage them to take action about the situation. Think about your own situation if you work alone and identify how you could improve your personal safety.

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