Since graduating from the ESO in 2013, Katie Johnston has balanced her passion for osteopathic practice with her interest in chronic pain research, leading to professional accolades and an internship at Queens Medical Centre, Nottingham. Alongside private practice, Kate works within a GP surgery as part of their complementary health team
What was your background and what made you decide to become an osteopath?
I came to study osteopathy after leaving sixth form where I’d studied sciences and mathematics. Osteopathy appealed to me as I wanted to do something science orientated, but also to work with people. I thought it sounded like a career without some of the downsides of other medical professions (no shifts, emergencies, being able to choose where you work), and osteopaths I’d spoken to were all passionate about their jobs, so I thought I’d give it a go! The ESO was recommended to me by working osteopaths who I admired. The curriculum seemed to cover a lot of depth and the clinic seemed well set up.
When did your interest in pain research start?
As part of my M.Ost degree, I conducted a study looking at quality of life in individuals with jaw pain, using ultrasound scanning to diagnose jaw dysfunction. I presented the results at a Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Physiotherapy Conference and was invited to present the results at the conference of the British Medical Ultrasound Society. They subsequently published my work in their journal and it was given the award for the best research published by a graduate student that year.
How have you developed your career since then?
After graduation I started working in a couple of clinics as an associate osteopath and this allowed me to develop my clinical skills. Alongside working with patients (which I love) I have managed to carry out clinic-based research; this has included auditing my patients and recruiting patients for studies led by Arthritis Research UK. I am a member of the local NCOR (National Council for Osteopathic Research) research hub and Vice Chair of Bristol Osteopathic Society. I find this allows me to keep on learning and enriches my practice, giving my patients better results and providing referral options for complex cases.
I was also fortunate to spend 6 months undertaking an internship at the Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham; QMC is a hospital with an osteopathic department within a specialist spinal unit. The internship enabled me to spend time with leading spinal, maxillofacial and pain specialists and I studied for modules in research and chronic pain. My time was across many different departments, understanding the NHS approach to treating patients with chronic complaints. I wrote about my experience and this was published in an osteopathy magazine. The internship is organised each year by the Institute of Osteopathy, who interview and select applicants. The osteopathic team at Queens organise the placement, so you can mould your visits to departments surrounding your interests. I would certainly recommend it – I learnt a lot from it and it has opened doors for me to have more involvement with providing NHS care, and to do more research.
In 2018, I started working at a GP practice in a complementary health clinic (Wellspring Healthy Living Centre). The clinic was set up in 2004 as part of an initiative between doctors and local residents to improve health in an area of high inequality; I stepped into the shoes of a retiring osteopath who did the role before me.. The GP surgery has a large focus on complementary healthcare, social prescribing and community unity. I work in an acute pain team, meaning I should see patients who have had their pain between 1 month and 6 months, but in reality I see more chronic patients too. Patients all have musculoskeletal pain from all sorts of joints. I treat in the same way as I do in private practice and have 40 minute appointments. The main difference is the variety of backgrounds I see patients from. I find I treat more manual workers, and more individuals who are signed off work or on disability benefits. These patients have many co-mobidities, making them interesting to work with, it is also a great result when you can help a patient back to work!
Has your career met your expectations?
I am lucky to have a career that I really enjoy; I love helping people to have a better quality of life, but I also have a career that allows me to have an academic aspect, which helps people on a wider scale. I’ve had lots of opportunities and have met some fantastic people!
If you’re a graduate of the ESO and would like to share your experience of practice life, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we’d love to hear from you.