An osteopathic physician, or D.O., is a board-certified physician licensed in every state and more than 65 countries worldwide. As licensed physicians, they diagnose, treat, prescribe medications and perform surgeries.
Osteopathic medicine is a special form of medical practice: it offers all the benefits of modern medicine, including prescription drugs, surgical procedures, and the use of technology to diagnose disease and evaluate injuries. It also offers the added benefit of hands-on diagnosis and treatment through a treatment system known as osteopathic manipulative medicine. Osteopathic medicine emphasizes helping each person achieve a high level of wellness by focusing on health promotion and disease prevention.
Approximately 74,000 licensed osteopathic physicians are in practice in the United States, and more than 20% of all medical students in the U.S. attend a college of osteopathic medicine to earn a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degree, reports the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM).
? Osteopaths practice the full spectrum of medicine in all specialties, from pediatrics to geriatrics, and from sports medicine to trauma surgery.
? Osteopathic physicians may choose to work as surgeons in a hospital, hospital emergency room or other hospital department, caring for patients with injuries or life-threatening conditions such as heart failure or serious illnesses like diabetes.
? In laboratories across the country, osteopathic physicians research the causes of disease and new and better treatments for all types of illnesses and injuries.
? Osteopaths also run medical centers and teach future generations of doctors and other medical professionals.
Many D.O.s also choose to work in a solo or group practice where they:
? Examine patients and take medical histories.
? Order, perform and interpret diagnostic tests.
? Prescribe and treat patients suffering from injuries or illnesses.
? Counsel patients about their health by giving advice on maintaining health, relieving symptoms of chronic diseases, improving dietary habits, and breaking bad habits such as smoking.
Most D.O.s practice general or family medicine, general internal medicine, or general pediatrics, with a particular focus on providing care in underserved rural and urban areas.
Physician and surgeon salaries are among the highest of any profession. According to the Medical Group Management Association's Physician Compensation and Production Survey, average total compensation for physicians varies depending on the type of practice they have. In 2015, physicians practicing in primary care received median annual total compensation of $251,578, and physicians practicing in medical specialties received median annual total compensation of $425,509.
Good job prospects
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook, total employment of physicians and surgeons is expected to grow 13% through 2026, faster than the average for all occupations.
The growing and aging population is expected to drive overall growth in demand for physician services. As the elderly population grows and the number of chronic conditions increases, consumers will seek a high level of care using the latest technologies, diagnostic tests and therapies, according to the BLS.
However, demand for physician services is sensitive to changes in healthcare reimbursement policies, according to the BLS. Consumers may use fewer physician services if changes in health care result in higher costs to themselves.
Job prospects are likely to be very good, as nearly all graduates of domestic medical schools obtain residency positions immediately after graduation.
Prospects are likely to be particularly good for physicians willing to practice in rural and low-income areas, since these areas generally have difficulty finding physicians. Osteopathy jobs prospects are also likely to be good for physicians in specialties that address health problems that primarily affect aging baby boomers. For example, physicians specializing in cardiology and radiology are needed because the risk of heart disease and cancer increases with age.
All states require physicians and surgeons to be licensed; requirements vary from state to state. To qualify for licensure, candidates must complete an accredited medical degree and complete a residency in their specialty.
Certification is not required for physicians and surgeons, but may increase their employment opportunities. Physicians and general practitioners seeking certification in a particular specialty may complete up to seven years of residency training; the length varies by specialty. Duration varies by specialty. To become board certified, candidates must complete a residency and pass a specialty examination before a certifying board such as the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), or the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).
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