I began hearing of the Academy of Physical Medicine from friends about two years ago; I seemed to be the only osteopath who wasn’t on their email list. I took a quick look at their website but didn’t sign up as I already had plenty of CPD hours. But when I saw the chance to watch a free, live programme on the contentious issue of advertising, featuring several key players, including the regulators plus a woman from the ASA itself, I jumped, along with hundreds of other people. It was fun to watch and enlightening, I felt I learnt more than I would have simply by reading text. I wrote a blog about it. You can read it here. Not long after, Steven Bruce, the man behind the operation, invited me to come and see a broadcast. Just to ensure that osteofm maintains a balance, though, I must stress that the CPD market is becoming quite a full, if not crowded, field these days, and amongst numerous CPD providers, a very similar outfit to APM has recently begun dropping emails into my inbox. That one is called Osteo Owl Online CPD, and is run by Pindy. (And there are probably more.)
The USP of these two is that they supply live ‘learning with others’ CPD, yet without having to grudgingly hand over your hard earned cash to Southern Rail, organize childcare, or drag your luggage to a claustrophic, chain hotel room with a shower room made entirely of one moulded piece of plastic and marginally dodgy bacon at breakfast. Yes of course it is nice to meet real people and interact in the flesh, but for those osteopaths who are breastfeeding, or don’t live in a metropolis, or have much spare cash, it can be tough. There’s been a need for live online CPD ever since the mandatory 15 hours “learning with others” category was introduced, and Steven Bruce was responding to that need way back in June 2014 when they first went to air. The new CPD scheme was merely a twinkle in the regulator’s eye.
APM membership costs £24 a month. You do actually have to log in live to get your certificate, but there are plenty of opportunities. I think they are always at the convenient time of around seven pm, midweek, and happen once a fortnight. They have also recently introduced case-based discussions at lunchtimes. The subject matter would be interesting to most manual therapists but physios don’t have the “learning with others” stipulation as part of their CPD, maybe because they don’t tend to be quite as isolated in practice as osteopaths and chiropractors.
The broadcast I saw was being made from a room in Pax Lodge, a lovely, leafy hostel in affluent Belsize Park. The broadcasts are made from various places though, governed in large part by proximity to the location of the speaker. (The speakers get paid for their time, but I suppose also get great publicity). In this case, the speaker was Phil Parker, an osteopath who designed the “Lightning Process”. Years ago, I’d heard a radio 2 phone-in on M.E; a caller was positively evangelizing about the benefits of the Lightning Process for their teenage child, and I’d always wanted to find out more, so this timing was a happy coincidence.
I turned up early and saw a formidable array of cameras, computers and leads. This is a highly technical outfit, and they literally set up a BBC-standard studio for the filming. This is, Steven explained, how the APM is different from your average webinar-based CPD offering. It’s a live, interactive chat show, not a bunch of power point slides with a voiceover. The technical side, with the need for live streaming know-how, and bandwidth expertise, has been a huge challenge/headache, and I heard tales of streams dying minutes before a broadcast, and the difficult hunt for live streaming experts, chiefly found now in the gaming industry. These broadcasts are neither cheap nor easy to produce, and it sounds like Steven has been working his socks off now for a few years, wanting to produce something of a high standard.
They have been producing a broadcast most fortnights for over three years, so now have a substantial back catalogue which you can watch at your convenience. I must be one of the few osteopaths who has no idea what Laurie Hartman looks like, or Leon Chaitow, and I could catch up with both of them here. And it’s definitely not just osteopaths. Scanning the list I see Chris Worsfold, “neck physio”, who doesn’t live far down the road from me, but whose courses always seem to be at least six counties away. I haven’t signed up yet, but I almost certainly will soon. Always a sucker for a bargain, I nearly did it before I renewed my insurance, seeing as one of the perks of APM membership is about £30 off with Balen’s. There are other attractive benefits advertised on their website. It seems like membership is pretty good value if you’re going to make use of it.
So who is Steven Bruce? He was in the marines for 28 years, and left one step short of Colonel to train as an osteopath at the College of Osteopaths, where he met his wife, Claire Short. She is Director of APM, practising osteopath, camera waggler, general question handler and sometime prompter on set. I think Steven’s only presenting experience was in his previous life when he had a couple of days of media training during the deployment of Green Goddesses during a fire fighter strike. He sounds like he has a pretty full schedule – the day following the broadcast he was due to spend about 4 hours editing. Plus he has evidently been doing lots of marketing. Although it has been hard work, Steven certainly seems to have been on a huge learning curve – and he must be one of the more informed people in the profession now, having interviewed everyone from the regulator to leading technique experts, to marketing guru Gilly Woodhouse, to spinal consultants, hypnotherapists, surgeons, cryotherapists, taping experts and more. Yes if you look through the list of broadcasts, it is a cornucopia of CPD. If you like learning in bite-sized chunks, preferably on your own sofa with your feet up and a glass of wine in hand, you’ll feel like a kid in a sweet shop.
As for sitting on the panel, well, it was great fun for me. I got to meet the lovely Gilly Woodhouse, (currently tweeting from conference in New Zealand), and I got to feel the thrill of sitting in on a live show. Knowing what to ask was difficult – I’d done a bit of research on the Lightning Process, enough to ask lots of questions, but wasn’t quite sure if I was meant to be there in a polite, supportive, interested capacity, or examining the Lightning Process like a skeptical, interrogative journalist. Steven seemed to tread the perfect line. Fortunately questions came in from those at home watching, largely the one I kept wanting to ask, which was “What exactly do you do, though?” (Another morning off like this, and I might get a Lightning Process sister blog out soon.)
In summary, having previously felt that the APM was surplus to my requirements, now I am simply waiting for the right moment to sign up. I can’t get out so much to see the movers and shakers of the manual therapy world right now, so I’ll have them delivered live to my home once a fortnight.
It’s a bit like Graham Norton. L to R: Steven Bruce, Phil Parker, me, Gilly Woodhouse