Most countries have a nationwide governing body that sets the guidelines for osteopathic practice. For example in Britain, Osteopathy is regulated by the General Osteopathic Council (GOsC) and only people who graduate from schools accredited from this council are able to call themselves Osteopaths. This type of organization is the case for many European countries as well as Australia and New Zealand. Osteopaths in these countries are all exclusively manually trained with high standards of clinical skills in diagnosis and treatment of neuro-musculo-skeletal problems.
To explain the current situation it is useful to take a brief look at the history of Osteopathy in Canada. As there were (and still are) no schools teaching Osteopathic Physicians in Canada the Osteopathic Physicians worked hard to get medical practice rights for physicians that have graduated from U.S medical schools approved by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). The Osteopathic Physicians were striving for recognition long before osteopathic manual therapists became a significant part of the therapeutic community.
At that time, in Canada, there was no need to make a distinction between the two branches, therefore to protect themselves and the public they lobbied hard for protection of the title Osteopath. So far, in most provinces, these laws have not been changed and it is still illegal to call yourself an Osteopath unless you have been trained at a medical school in the U.S. Despite this there are a number of successful schools that teach osteopathic manual therapy in Canada. The entry requirements for these schools are that the students must have a previous qualification in manual therapy, like physiotherapy or athletic therapy. The courses are generally 5 years long and as a result they produce highly trained manual practitioners.
The numbers of graduates grow every year and at present osteopathic manual therapists far out number the Osteopathic Physicians in nearly all provinces. Students who meet the World Health Organization’s benchmark standards for education in osteopathic therapy are eligible to join one of these provincial associations:
In 2011 the New Medical Act (Bill 55) was passed in which it states that in Section 22 (A) (31) “… no person shall use the title “Doctor Of Osteopathy” or abbreviations or derivations thereof or the title “Osteopathic Physician”…”. The NSAO is currently working with The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia (CPSNS) and the provincial government to seek legislation for osteopaths that are non physicians. This wording allows for the development of legislation in Nova Scotia regarding manual practice osteopaths, as well as other health professions, but does not presuppose which designations will be authorized in legislation. Titles that are authorized for use in the legislation of any profession will not contravene the Medical Act. For this reason members of the NSAO use refer to themselves as osteopathic manual practitioner.
The NSAO is a member of the Canadian Federation of Osteopathy (CFO) www.osteopathy.ca . The CFO was formed to unite manual Osteopaths across Canada. Membership is open to provincial associations only. The CFO provides voluntary guidelines on education and best practice enabling Canada to come inline with other countries and have Osteopathic manual therapy as a regulated health profession alongside the medically trained Osteopathic Physicians.
This NSAO is a first step in the organization and regulation of Osteopathic Manual Therapists in Nova Scotia. In order to support both these organizations and further this profession in Canada, the NSAO will be taking all the steps necessary to get Osteopathic Manual Therapy recognized and protected both nationally and provincially.