What Do You Need To Be Successful with Orthosis Fabrication As An Occupational Therapist? - Hand Therapy Secrets

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What Do You Need To Be Successful with Orthosis Fabrication As An Occupational Therapist?

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Are you an OT or OTA that wants to get better at creating custom-fitted orthosis?

I know I was when I first got out of graduate school. I had great internship opportunities that allowed me to practice making orthosis while I was there. I even created templates and did a lecture as my exit project for the hospital that I worked at. Who knew I would keep teaching it…

I was worried that I would lose that skill if I didn’t get the jobs that allowed me to practice. And it’s really hard just to practice when you don’t have the tools or the know-how right?

One of my first PRN jobs coming out of school was in acute care. They would train me to do wound care but didn’t want me doing orthosis. 

Do you know why? Because there was another therapist there who was very protective of her position there. Stupid…I know.

One of the things I always noticed no matter if it was while still a student or once I was already working I noticed other Occupational Therapists and Occupational Therapists Assistants saying they wanted to splint and just didn’t know how or didn’t feel comfortable.

Fast forward to now, when I look for Occupational Therapists to fill my positions at my clinic, I ask them, what custom-fitted orthosis can you make? Because let’s be honest, in a hand therapy clinic, I need someone who can make them. I can’t be the only one. And it makes me really sad when the majority of Occupational Therapists tell me they don’t know-how or they say I don’t feel confident.

I actually had an Occupational Therapists tell me she would do hands if she didn’t have to make splints. I don’t care what area you work in, mostly all of your patients have hands and at some point in your career, you should know how to make splints. 

One of the things I just love about being an OT is the splinting. It allows me to be creative even within the field that was creative by nature.

I honestly can say that splinting really propelled my career into where it is today. It’s a skill that I know you can take anywhere in any setting. I also know that it makes you a more valuable team member no matter where you are working. So if you are in an SNF or rehab or acute care setting and especially if you are in a hand therapy setting….this is THE skill that I know you can use.

So do you want to know the secret to create orthosis? It’s so simple you are going to hate me.

The secret is ….to try….that’s it. Period.

Custom fitted ones require skill and they do cost more. In general, I recommend custom-fitted splints or orthosis mainly after surgery because patients are more swollen, they are more painful, and custom-fitted ones can go around pins or other hardware to protect surgery sites for specific injuries like to the fingers, thumb, and wrist.

Custom fitted orthosis are great as well when someone doesn’t quite fit into a prefabricated one. Not everyone can go with a one size fits all. Some people come with bony changes like arthritis and they just don’t feel as comfortable. Or one specific for an injury like trigger finger. Did you know that there is a splint for trigger fingers that work great?

Let’s face it no matter if it’s custom-fitted or prefabricated, it’s got to fit well so that patients actually use it the way they are supposed to.

Besides the practice side of the course, which is what we all need,  get our hands on the material and get comfortable. We need to also know the critical thinking aspects of WHY we are doing what we are doing and WHAT is the purpose so that we can better explain to our patients and to the doctors that may have to write the orders.

Being able to create custom-fitted orthosis is key in any hand therapy clinic. It’s what we can do to help our patients after surgery, avoid surgery, and help them progress towards their goals.

When you are able to make custom-fitted orthosis – you make yourself more marketable. That means you add value to anywhere you go, clinic, hospital, and any setting. It means you can advance your career. Get the job in the setting that you want. Ask for a raise in your position because you can prove that you can bring more money into the clinic.

It’s something that I always look for when hiring a new therapist. And I know if you are applying for a job, knowing how to create custom-fitted orthoses – you will have an advantage over someone who says they don’t know and don’t want to go the extra mile to practice.

If you are someone who’s not sure about your skills, want to learn and practice, want to develop that skill…I’ve created Orthosis 101 with you in mind. I guarantee this course is going to be as fun as you make it and a great opportunity for you to get your hands on different thermoplastic materials. Learn the basic principles AND how to apply them to different conditions and cases. It’s a very interactive course that will enhance your skills as a therapist to help you start or sharpen your skills in custom-fitted orthosis. 
Click here for a teaser video on How to Splint- Cutting Skills from my Youtube Channel.

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Hoang Tran

“I help Occupational Therapists develop their skills and grow their confidence in Hand Therapy. No matter where you are on your journey, build a happy and fulfilling career of your dreams. I’ll help you.”