Resolution of a Residency

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By Sara Pschigoda
Sara Pschigoda

The end of my orthotics residency is upon me, and I have found myself too busy tying up all of the loose ends to stop and let the reality of what happens from here hit me. These last few weeks have been filled with final fittings and follow-up appointments with the patients whom I have met and treated in my autonomy, partly to ensure the continuity of their care after my departure. This final stretch has also been filled with finalizing patient logs, putting finishing touches on my residency research paper, and making the final submission of the required documentation to NCOPE [National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education]. Of course, tying up all of these loose ends has not afforded me much time to thank and say goodbye to those whom I have grown to know as colleagues and friends this year.

At the culmination of my orthotic residency, I am inclined to look back and take stock of what I've learned and how I've grown. The worries I had at the beginning about finding a comfortable way to communicate with patients and how to work plaster seem old hat. I'm proud to report that my fittings have become easier as my molding and modifying skills have improved. I still get a little anxious when something new and different comes my way, and certainly my skills could use some more fine-tuning and practice, but I feel confident that I have a solid grasp of the foundations of orthotic practice. When contemplating my accomplishments of the last year, I would have been pleased to report to you that I made it through my last month without any minor abrasions or burns. But alas, during my marathon of afternoon fittings, I ended up having a two-Band-Aid day. This must be my reminder that there is always room for improvement and that one never stops learning—especially when a drum sander is involved.

My one request to the O&P community is that we continue to support and nurture our residents during their last year of education. Our profession serves a very interesting niche and relies upon a wealth of knowledge and breadth of practice from many different professions. Much of this knowledge is learned through clinical experience. Countless O&P practitioners give a lot of themselves to their patients both in and out of the clinic, but I would encourage you to also give back to those just entering our profession. They are the O&P practitioners of the future, and what could be a better legacy to leave than to impart your knowledge and skills to them? I know it is not always convenient to take the extra time to help, encourage, or mentor a resident, but the effort is greatly appreciated by those of us who are trying to be better clinicians. Everyone with whom I have had the chance to work has selflessly given his or her time to make me feel like part of the family and has given me that little extra help that I needed. Whether the help was a little extra instruction on plaster, a discussion about theory of practice, assistance during a difficult fitting, or that gentle push to take me outside my comfort zone, I am grateful to those who give of themselves to mentor residents. I have found that the hug or handshake I receive from a grateful patient is made that much more rewarding when accompanied by a smile and a "good job" by my supervising clinician.

When I was approached about sharing my year of residency with readers of The O&P EDGE, I was admittedly a little scared. Even though I knew that it was definitely outside of my personal parameters to be so open with the O&P community, I immediately realized it was something I had to do. Throughout the year, I've received greetings from readers all around the country—not to mention a little gentle ribbing from my own colleagues here at UMOPC [University of Michigan Orthotics & Prosthetics Center]. I hope I have provided you with interesting insights or reminders about life as a resident. While it has not always been comfortable for me to do, I have enjoyed sharing my residency with you. For those who have followed my experience this year, I thank you for reading and bid you a fond farewell.

Sara Pschigoda is a graduate of the master of science in orthotics and prosthetics program at Eastern Michigan University (EMU), Ypsilanti. She has completed her orthotic residency at the University of Michigan Orthotics & Prosthetics Center (UMOPC), Ann Arbor.