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academic clinician Paul orrock

From Surfer to Scholar: How Osteopath Paul Orrock Manages His Clinical And Academic Career

Paul Orrock is a clinician, academic, and registered osteopath. He currently practices part-time at an integrated medical clinic, and also works part-time as an Associate Professor at Southern Cross University Faculty of Health. We contacted Paul recently to get a better idea of what a typical day is like for someone who combines clinical practice and academic research.


What does a typical day involve?

I’ve had a full career combining private practice with academia, developing courses in universities and teaching, and gradually progressed to adding research skills by completing a Masters of Applied Science in research and a PhD. It’s been a full and engaging career, especially when all of these aspects are combined in the same day or week!

There are many days when I’ll drive to campus and run problem-based tutorials for osteopathy Masters students, grab a sandwich and then drive to my clinic and see patients all afternoon, and afterwards come home to analyse data from a research project readying for publication. The secret for me is to be highly interested in each of these activities (I love both my profession and teaching it), and to link them somehow. I have an interest in clinical reasoning, so I teach it, practice it and research it! Simple.


What first attracted you to your profession?

I discovered osteopathy as a registered nurse and student of natural medicine in the 1980s when there were barely 200 registered osteopaths in Australia. It was fortuitous, as it linked directly to my philosophical search for a practice that was direct to the patient, using natural healing and not dependent on technology and products. The whole idea of osteopathy is to use manual therapy and exercise/lifestyle interventions to enhance the patient’s physiology. It’s a true health-oriented practice that grabbed hold of me then, and still does. I wish everyone could discover their dream occupation that gets their mojo going like I did—I am forever grateful.

I see myself as a mainstream health practitioner and therefore support the scientific underpinning of healthcare.

Research is vital in a predominantly clinical discipline like osteopathy, and I have focused on establishing the characteristics of the practice and exploring clinical reasoning and how best to teach and assess it.


How did COVID impact on your role if at all?

During the pandemic my clinic was disrupted a few times. I practice with a team of general practitioners who see more acutely ill patients, and could do telehealth and practice outside the building in an annex. We negotiated a way to isolate my part of the building to protect staff and practitioners while my patients could enter and leave my practice, so I continued for most of the time using precautions.


What kinds of clients do you work with?

I see patients who have chronic pain and haven’t reached their medium and long-term expectations of health. This is because, as my research shows, people commonly only find their way to an osteopath after seeing medical practitioners, physiotherapists and also chiropractors. We are very much at the end of a pathway for people, which is frustrating. It means they may have significant barriers to healing or are well down the degenerative path, and could have come earlier. There is good work being done by other practitioners managing people in pain, but I do think osteopathy with its strong holistic and biopsychosocial approach suits the management of people with chronic pain and could be accessed earlier.


What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

I have enjoyed riding the wave of growth in the osteopathic profession and played many roles in creating/generating that wave. I have been fortunate and taken opportunities and challenges as they have emerged. To be of service to people with health problems, to my profession and also to students of healthcare has fulfilled all my expectations, and does so every day of my life.


Paul Orrock, thank you so much for sharing these fascinating insights into your career.


View Paul Orrock’s published research here. | Connect with Paul on LinkedIn. | View Paul’s Southern Cross University profile.

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