5. Mentoring

The mentoring project aims to develop a suitable professional support framework for osteopaths at an early stage in their careers, which will support them in the development of a successful practice.

Why is a mentoring scheme for osteopathy important?

Mentoring is a formal, structured personal development relationship that can help to guide learning needs and is about an ongoing relationship of learning, dialogue and challenge.

Many newly graduated osteopaths suggest that they struggle with the transition between their undergraduate training environment and professional practice. Developing a culture of mentoring within the profession will encourage experienced osteopaths to pass on their learning to the next generation of osteopath. It will reduce the risk of professional isolation and encourage unity within the profession.

Project background


All new registrants graduate as clinically safe and competent practitioners. However, research commissioned by the GOsC (New Graduates’ Preparedness to Practise, Freeth et al, 2012) has shown that they often encounter difficulties in accessing high-quality professional support once they leave the relatively supportive environment of their osteopathic educational institution. This and the lack of a professional career structure in osteopathy have always made the transition to postgraduate practice challenging and these difficulties are particularly acute among (but are not limited to) new registrants who go into sole practice early in their professional lives, because of the potential for professional isolation. Freeth et al stated that participants in their study commonly reported gaps in business and entrepreneurial skills, patient management skills and interpersonal and communication skills.

Mentoring is a formal, structured personal developmental relationship in which a person is guided by a more experienced or knowledgeable person, often in the same field. It can help to guide learning needs and is guided by the agenda of the mentee. Mentoring is a recognised method of enhancing knowledge and skills in professionals at all levels of achievement and experience.

The focus of this project is to research how best to incorporate mentoring into osteopathy so that new practitioners have the opportunity to access high-quality mentoring, ensuring that they can develop and sustain themselves in practice and reducing the risks associated with professional isolation.

The project will investigate the mechanisms already in place, determine the most suitable approaches for mentoring recent graduates, and is currently piloting a programme that can be integrated into the profession.

Initial research phase


The project team interviewed for and appointed an independent external consultant (Health Academix) with experience in mentoring, to research how best to integrate mentoring into the profession and assure maximum benefit for osteopaths at all levels of practice.

The initial research phase took place in February 2015 and included a literature review of published research, unpublished ‘grey’ literature and key reports made available to the research team. In addition, 16 semi-structured interviews were completed with people who have an interest in mentoring (having been mentored, mentored others, or set up mentoring projects or research). A focus group of key opinion leaders took place in May 2015. Questions about current mentoring arrangements in osteopathy were added to the 2014 iO census and these were also included in the findings. Osteopaths were invited to take part in an online survey to capture their current mentoring activity and opinions on the support needed to develop a suitable mentoring scheme for the profession between July – September 2015. The project team consulted with the Regional Communications Network (a regional societies meeting hosted by GOsC) in November 2014 and the ODG board throughout the development of this project. The project team then analysed these data.

One of the recommendations of the research was to develop a training guide to teach osteopathic practice principals mentoring skills so that they could better support their newly graduated osteopathic associates. These resources were developed and a pilot is currently underway to test the acceptability and utility of these resources and is expected to finish in Spring 2018.

Project team

The project team includes representatives from the Institute of Osteopathy (Matthew Rogers), the General Osteopathic Council (Tim Walker), and osteopathic educational institutions (Ollie Thomson, Lucy Mackay-Tumber).


Matthew Rogers: matthew@iosteopathy.org

Get involved

As the research stage of the project comes to an end, we will ask for volunteers to take part (as mentors or mentees) in a mentoring pilot. Contact Matthew Rogers – matthew@iosteopathy.org for more information.