Speaker You’re listening to Allied Health podcast, talking all things Allied Health with your hosts, Danielle Weedon, physiotherapist, and Clare Jones, occupational therapist.
Clare Jones This episode, Danielle talks with Matthew Cooper, one of the directors of Osteopathy Australia. Matt has been a practising osteopath for little over a decade and has spent the last number of years mixing clinical work with teaching at Victoria University. He thrives on mentoring young practitioners and helping with their transition into practise. He discusses the benefits of membership with Osteopathy Australia and why it’s an exciting time to be an osteopath. Bear with Dan at about the four minute mark when she delays with a small technical glitch. Enjoy.
Danielle Weedon I’m joined today by Matthew Cooper, osteopath and one of the directors of Osteopathy Australia to talk about the benefits of joining Osteopathy Australia as a member. So thanks for your time, Matt.
Matthew Cooper Thank you so much for having me.
Danielle Weedon Can you tell us a bit about your background?
Matthew Cooper Yeah, happily. So I graduated from Victoria University as an osteopath in 2010, so I’ve been practising a little over 10 years now. So initially moved out into the private practice, working across a couple of clinics and was a subcontractor in those roles. And then from 2016, I opened my own clinic, so I opened the clinic down in Docklands. We’re a mix of osteopaths and myotherapists at the moment. I have five staff plus myself and have been doing that for the last five years, which has been fantastic throughout. Throughout my osteo career I’ve mixed time working in elite sports, I’ve done some work with the Western Bulldogs and the Footscray Bulldogs programme, so AFL and VFL, a little bit of work with the Melbourne Victory, which was fantastic also. And I was lucky enough to be part of the medical team at the Bulldogs during their 2016 Premiership run, so that was a career highlight for me, it was really, really exciting. Something amazing to be part of. And then in more recent times, I’ve done some clinical sort of skills, teaching clinical practice, teaching at Victoria University, in the student clinics there, as well as some of the, you know, the clinical skills, hands on treatment classes. So that’s been, that’s been brewing over the last three or four years. And then from, yeah, January 2020, I was elected onto the Board of Osteopathy Australia. So I’m now a director there. So it’s been a fun ride so far. It’s been a pretty diverse career, all sort of stabilised by clinical work and private practice work, but certainly it diversified across different states is there as well. So that’s kept me pretty fulfilled for the first decade of my career so far.
Danielle Weedon Yeah, great. And can you tell us a bit about Osteopathy Australia?
Matthew Cooper Yeah, thank you. Osteopathy Australia is the national peak body of osteopathy in Australia. We represent the majority of osteopaths in Australia, it’s well over 85 per cent of registered osteopaths in Australia are part of our membership. So in every jurisdiction, every state and every territory across Australia, we’re sort of that voice, the support, the profession. So our roles range from levels of advocacy and lobbying policy development for the profession. I think our members have really seen the value of our membership over the last 18 months as we’re dealing with different jurisdictions in regards to state governments and federal governments, and all the various restrictions around COVID and the team at OA have done a really fantastic job interpreting and trying to make sense of each different state’s restrictions that they’ve had. But then moving away from sort of the more recent stuff, our core focus is raising awareness of osteopathy within Australia. We really want to have the professional an [?] who know what osteopathy is within their, within their local regions, in their state. And then for our members, it’s providing information and guidance and advice and things on clinical excellence, CPD and continuing professional development, business support, legal advice, HR advice, all those sorts of things that you know, crop up over your career, so pretty broad scope now. We’re very lucky to be able to represent the majority of osteopaths in Australia.
Danielle Weedon Excellent. So can you, can you tell us specifically some of the benefits of joining as a student member?
Matthew Cooper Yeah, absolutely. So first thing, first thing I’ll say, as a student within our three university courses, so at SCU, RMIT and Victoria University it is free to become a member of Osteopathy Australia. We have a big group called SOMA, which is the Student Osteopathic Medical Association, which has a great connection with Osteopathy Australia. And so that membership is free for you as a student, all you need to do is essentially sign up, and the university should have that information there. We encourage students to join nice and early in their degrees so they can get their, I guess the full bang for their buck over their university experience and their times as students there. So once again, it’s a little bit similar to what we offer our full members. Yes, so they get access to their information, guidance and support. You know, a little perk there is some access to some insurance advice or free liability insurance. Not particularly needed as a student, but it is a nice sort of blanket to have there to protect you if need be. The fourth and fifth year, so more your transition graduate students, get full access to our HR services, our legal services, online classifieds for jobs, courses, student placements, these sorts of things which you, as you are heading into graduation, you’re obviously interested to find work. So OA provides a platform there that that has plenty of information of the current jobs going around in the market. But then, of course, access to free and discounted CPD webinars, podcasts. You know, OA has just launched its own podcast, so a little bit like this, which is fantastic. And very recently, but it’s to essentially help people transition into private practice and then our practicing members to get a bit of information. As we know, not everyone’s in major cities, so accessing CPD can be a little bit challenging face to face, you know. And we’ve also got obviously access to our commercial partners there as well, which might interest some students in regards to when they move into their profession and into their career, wanting to maybe buy certain things or get set up in the clinic. And we’re able to offer discounts for our commercial partnerships there. So look, that’s really the nuts and bolts of it. But yeah, it’s sort of one those things where you’re in your final years, it’s a very seamless transition from being a student member into being a fully fledged OA member.
Danielle Weedon Yep, yep. And what about, is there any benefits of being a graduate member different to a student member?
Matthew Cooper Look, yeah look, financially, it’s a little bit cheaper for the first couple of years. During COVID actually, at first the first year was free for osteopathic graduates, so that gave them an opportunity there without the financial burden, to see what the membership offers there. And you’re pretty much at a reduced rate for the first two to three years of your career. So there’s that benefit there. Obviously, the networking opportunities and access to senior osteopaths or more experienced osteopaths throughout our online discussion forums, various social media channels, these sorts of things give, you know, is sort of a good place for the students to ask questions, you know, and get some, get some advice on various conditions they might be facing or if they’re not too sure or they’re a bit embarrassed to even maybe talk to say their clinic owner or the person that they’re working for, they’ve got access there. And particularly they can, you know, they can call the association at any time if they need, if they need certain advice around that as well.
Danielle Weedon And in terms of CPD, you touched on it briefly, but CPD courses and training, what sort of benefits have you got and access to those?
Matthew Cooper Yeah, look, so essentially for any graduate or osteopath, we’ve got to do a minimum of twenty five hours. Okay? And there’s some mandatory topics that the OBA, which the Osteopathic Board of Australia, under the guide of AHPRA, mandate. And so OA provide those sort of e-webinars, e-modules online, which you can access quite easily, to at least tick off those four hours which are your mandatory hours there. Yeah, and obviously the world as it is at the moment, we’ve moved very much on to producing a lot of fantastic e-learning content and webinars pretty much every few weeks there’s something new popping up that our members can attend for free. And realistically, you know, if you just attended those things that we put up, you’d pretty much cover your CPD requirements each year. Now, obviously, during non-COVID times, we were able to offer a lot more face to face sort of conferences, face to face lecture series, these sorts of things for people to attend. And we’re hoping to get back to that over the next couple of years and, you know, to really enhance and develop people’s hands on skills and their communication skills and these sorts of things. But also, you know, within that, it’s I think there’s the social aspects of the membership, which is super important as well. You know, over the years, I’ve certainly been to a number, before I was the Board of Osteopathy Australia, I went to a number of events which were run by OA, which were Christmas social catch ups, evenings sort of webinars followed by sort of after drinks and things like that, which gave you a chance to network within the osteo community. You know, and particularly as a young practitioner, I found that really valuable, by the clinics I worked at it was me and one other osteo, so it was actually really nice to pick the brains of other people. But yeah, those training modules are obviously there for everyone. And then we’ve got a couple of sort of more specialised things, I guess you would say in terms of an advanced practise recognition where osteopaths can do some further training through the association to get recognition, whether that be in paediatrics, sports, exercise rehabilitation, these sorts of spaces which are of special interest to some of our members. And so we’ve started, that’s been built over the last few years, and we’re starting to see members come out with special recognition of advanced practice, which is fantastic and a real great step for this for the profession. And we’re hoping to see far, far more of our members and osteopaths being recognised for their for their work and their special interests.
Danielle Weedon Yeah. And I’m going to jump back, or ahead a little bit and then back. But in terms of networking opportunities, I couldn’t agree more. I mean, the allied health world, let alone the osteopathy world, is really small. But then if you’re working in, you know, sort of sole, private practice or whatever else, it’s so important to network amongst your peers. And you know, you never know what opportunities are going to come from it as well in terms of growth, but even in terms of jobs in the future or that sort of thing.
Matthew Cooper Absolutely, absolutely. And the amount of stories that you hear over the years, you know. I know of osteopaths who’ve had, you know, through networking events, had the opportunity to go do some locum work not only interstate but overseas. You know, follow the sun throughout the year, which is, you know, especially living in cold old Melbourne, it’s a fantastic opportunity. And, you know, you can’t undersell the importance of it, it is so important to meet people from all walks within the profession just to pick their brain sometimes. And yeah, you know, it’s something that I still do, being 11 years out of practice. There’s always someone who’s practiced a bit longer than you. So it’s a really, yeah I think it’s fantastic. And any new graduate out there, you know, even far more important coming into private practice over the next sort of 6 to 12 months, I think that considering, you know, the different clinical experiences that they may have had during these COVID times.
Danielle Weedon Yeah, yeah. And you know, even now having to transition in such physical therapy work, osteo and physios into telehealth, all of those sorts of things are important to keep in touch with your networks to, you know, to explore those also.
Matthew Cooper Absolutely.
Danielle Weedon And in terms of insurance affiliations, I think you briefly mentioned it when you’re talking about student members. But have you, has Osteopathy Australia got any insurance affiliations?
Matthew Cooper Yeah. Look, we’ve been affiliated with Guild Insurance for the last 16 years, okay. And they’re our primary affiliation to the association. Look, the one thing I’d say about Guild is they understand osteopathy. They understand how we work and what’s required. And they’ve really helped us in understanding, you know, a whole heap of requirements which are on us, not only as registered practitioners, but obviously to protect ourselves and protect the patients, obviously. So Guild have been fantastic. You know, they will often provide us with some e-modules, which are often some of those mandatory subjects, which is really important. And there are, you know, I believe they’re 100 per cent Australian owned. So they’re a local insurer. They have a brilliant relationship with osteopathy and the majority of our members actually are covered by Guild.
Danielle Weedon Excellent. And we before we started recording, we did speak about it never been a better time to be in osteo grad in terms of job opportunities, but also in terms of diverse career opportunities, not just in a clinical setting. How can Osteopathy Australia help members with career growth?
Matthew Cooper Yeah, look, it’s a brilliant question. There is so much scope there and I think, as I said, when we’re speaking earlier, you are only restricted by your imagination when you when you graduate as an osteopath and so, you know, 10 years ago, osteopaths weren’t working in aged care homes, they weren’t working in rehabilitation spaces. They now are, and a lot of that is due to the work that Osteopathy Australia has done advocating for the profession. Some of the other states as well, you know, working with the NDIS, a whole heap of different areas. But that being said, you know, I have a number of friends who are no longer in clinical practice, but they’re working with Vic Police. You know, an osteopath heads up health at Apple, one of the biggest companies in the world, for the Asia Pacific. We have people working at some huge, huge companies around the world, so it’s, you’re not just restricted. And that’s one thing I would say, you’re not just restricted to necessarily the three by three metre treatment run. And there is so many opportunities out there and it does, it comes back to networking, but it also, you know, your association is there for you to help maybe put you, and send you in the right direction or put you in contact with the right people. If it is something that you are interested in working in – sports, rehabilitation or aged care, you know the association is able to help facilitate or get you in contact with the right people to look for those sort of opportunities.
Danielle Weedon Yeah, and it is. It is also about being creative. You know, we speak to osteos every week and it’s about being creative about your skillset because you’ve got amazingly transferable skills. We have deals that move into medical device sales or, like you said, into sort of return to work rehab sectors. So there’s there’s a lot of options out there rather than just, like you said, just a private practice.
Matthew Cooper And let’s face it, if we break it down to what osteopathy is and what osteopaths do, physios do all this, you’re a problem solver. People love problem solvers and you know, it gives you a very unique way of thinking, but it also gives you a very unique way of looking at a problem. And so I think that’s a really desirable skill. It really is. And so those opportunities are there. And I think, you know, there’s probably someone sitting there towards the end of their degree right now, who’s a little bit worried that they may not want to treat in a clinical setting. You know, I certainly went through with people who felt that way. And the one thing I would say is don’t despair, there is so many opportunities there. And as I said, it is only your imagination which is holding you back.
Danielle Weedon Yeah, I couldn’t agree more. And I was actually one of those students when I went through physio who pretty much knew I wasn’t going to practice for very long. So I was in that boat. But it is about, like you said, contacting your professional body or, you know, networking or speaking to other therapists that might have been in the same boat as well.
Matthew Cooper Exactly right.
Danielle Weedon So Matt, I’ve just got to ask, could you just jump back one more time? Because I think my internet was a little bit unstable at the beginning, just in case you didn’t cover it off, just briefly, a brief overview again of Osteopathy Australia.
Matthew Cooper Yeah, perfect. So Osteopathy Australia, we’re our members foundation. OK, we we represent well over 85 per cent of the osteopaths in Australia. Our core focuses are on raising awareness of osteopathy, lobbying with various governments, third party players, these sorts of things policy development, clinical education and quality. And then also for our members, it’s focussing on information and guidance and advice, helping you transition from a student into a practicing osteopath. And then once you’re there, you know, helping you get your CPD up to the level that you need it, every osteopath has to do 25 hours a year. If you want to run a business or you’re thinking about starting a business, providing that business support, that HR support. But then also sort of being that one stop shop, I guess for all those questions that we have as practitioners, you know, you can’t know everything. And so, you know, Osteopathy Australia really try and fill that gap for you. And as I said in recent times, it’s been very, very challenging, with different restrictions put in place in each state and sometimes changing overnight. And so Osteopathy Australia has been really crucial in terms of giving that message out there and making those, trying to decipher that information as clearly as possible and providing that information for our members. So look, realistically as a member of Osteopathy Australia, we really try to be that one stop shop for you to help you progress through your career.
Danielle Weedon Excellent. Well, thanks again for your time. It has been lovely to chat. I’ve learnt a lot actually as well, so hopefully our osteo networks will give you guys a call or just reach out any time for anything they need.
Matthew Cooper Absolutely. And thanks so much for the time. It’s a really great chat.
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