Is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine an MD?
An osteopathic doctor or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine is a doctor of medicine who practices a “whole person” approach when it comes to health care and medical treatment. Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, or D.O.s, are qualified to perform surgery, prescribe medication, and treat patients just as a doctor of allopathic medicine (or M.D.) does. An osteopathic doctor focuses on treating the body as a whole, rather than emphasizing specific areas for treatment.
The tasks of a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
The daily tasks of a doctor of osteopathic medicine can be nearly identical to that of a doctor of allopathic medicine. A doctor of osteopathic medicine may work in a private office, a hospital, a clinic, an emergency room or in a variety of medical settings where physicians may be needed. A doctor of osteopathic medicine may also have a specialty and area of focus, in addition to their osteopathic approach to health and wellness. A doctor of osteopathic medicine will typically see a number of patients each day, and need to deal with updating patient files, diagnostics, treatment, and aftercare.
Some people liken the philosophy of osteopathic medicine to holistic medicine, which promotes treating the mind as well as the body. Although they share similar beliefs, osteopathic medicine still works within the traditional medical community, using procedures and treatments that would be considered ‘not natural’ and therefore not used within the holistic medicine community.
And although doctors of osteopathic medicine practice similar in the way a doctor of allopathic medicine would, there are some key principles that differentiate them from doctors of allopathic medicine.
Doctors of osteopathic medicine employ a whole person approach to medicine, health, and treatment. Instead of treating particular symptoms, they look at the entire body in order to treat the patient. This requires examinations that look the symptoms of a patient’s entire body, rather than simply asking the patient about one specific area.
Doctors of osteopathic medicine focus highly on preventive care rather than treatment once an illness begins. For example, instructing patients on how avoid illnesses such as the common cold by keeping their immune system strong, in order to avoid the patient (hopefully) catching the sickness—rather than simply giving out medicine whenever a patient comes in with cold symptoms. This means that their daily interaction with patients may be spent more on preventative care, rather than on treatment.
Doctors of osteopathic medicine also receive special training and study in the musculoskeletal system of the body. The musculoskeletal system is the interconnected system of nerves, bones, and muscles that actually makes up 2/3 of your entire body mass. This is part of their “whole person” approach to medicine, because this particular system can play a key role in your health. Because of their focused study on this system, their appointments with patients may involve examining the body and studying any problems with this system they may have.
Doctors of osteopathic medicine use special therapy to help diagnose and ease patient’s symptoms. This particularly unique therapy employed by doctors of osteopathic medicine is called Osteopathic Manipulation Therapy, or O.M.T. Osteopathic Manipulation Therapy is a technique taught to osteopathic medical students that relies in using the hands in order to diagnose illness and injury in a patient. O.M.T. can also be used to ease pain and increase mobility in a patient who is experiencing those systems.
Although O.M.T. is taught to all patients of osteopathic medicine, not every doctor of osteopathic medicine chooses to use it when they become employed. O.M.T. is typically regarded as something one either “gets” or doesn’t, and someone who cannot successfully employ the technique may choose to ignore it rather than employ it poorly. However, most consider it an important part of osteopathic medicine, as it focuses on using the hands first rather than going right to invasive machinery or equipment to help diagnose patients.
Although many D.O.s are primary care physicians and general practitioners, some choose to focus on particular areas of study, just as their allopathic medicine counterparts. A doctor of osteopathic medicine who focuses on one area may have a different schedule or work life than a general practitioner.
Training to work as a doctor of osteopathic medicine is almost identical to training to work as a doctor of allopathic medicine. Accredited school, both pre-medical and medical, must be attended and passed. A doctor of osteopathic medicine must complete the accredited program all physicians must pass in order to practice in the United States. Some states have particular regulations regarding physicians, so anyone interested in becoming a doctor of osteopathic medicine should always look into the specific rules of their current state or the state they intend to be employed.
A doctor of osteopathic medicine, like any doctor, must have strong interpersonal skills because they must interact with patients and fellow employees every day, sometimes in high stress situations. Critical thinking is also important because of the whole person approach of osteopathic medicine. A friendly, personal demeanor towards patients is especially helpful in this profession, because of the personal and hands-on treatment of the O.M.T. technique.
Salary & Prospective job market
Like doctors of allopathic medicine, the outlook for doctors of osteopathic medicine is very good. Job prospects are expected to rise and more and more people require medical care.
The typical salary of a doctor of osteopathic medicine varies depending on experience and location. However, after residence, the average salary is around $130,000-$200,000 per year. Doctors with more experience and an in-demand location can expect higher salaries, as can doctors with needed specialties.