Where Did All the Time Go?
December 2009 Issue
"So much time, and so little to do! Strike that—reverse it."—Roald Dahl
When I first began the St. Petersburg College (SPC) O&P program, I seemed to have a lot of free time to get to know my new classmates and get ahead on my assigned reading. However, that once-plentiful free time has now dwindled down significantly—reversed even—and the reason is all of the writing that I am doing this semester. In addition to various assignments and exams, I'm working on a large project in which I have to write a paper and present a critical analysis of a research study related to O&P. I also have a large transfemoral-prosthetics project in which I have to compare and contrast past and current prosthetic-socket designs—which doesn't sound too difficult, but will most likely be more difficult to write than it sounds.
With the added demands on my time, applying for a residency is almost an afterthought. I had intended to start applying earlier this semester, but of course, time is flying by, and I still haven't put the final touches on my resumé or composed a cover letter.
Lab Work: The Lighter Side
On a lighter note, I have never had so much fun during my lab sessions. This semester has been wonderful in terms of challenging projects. I usually prefer lab time over the ten-hour classroom days. I'm sure many of my classmates would agree that this semester's lab assignments have been different. Naturally, the projects are slightly more challenging than in previous semesters. In Lower Extremity Orthoses II, instead of doing just foot orthoses, we are doing articulated AFOs, thermoplastic KAFOs, and metal KAFOs. This weekend, I'll experience what it feels like to wear an AFO, and instead of wearing it for just an hour like we do for most of our projects, I'll experience firsthand what it's like to wear and use a dorsiflexion-assist AFO for the entire weekend. I will, of course, closely follow the wear schedule!
In our transfemoral-prosthetics course, we have been casting, modifying casts, and fabricating transfemoral prosthetic devices, and eventually we will be mock-delivering and aligning these devices. The transfemoral-prosthetics course is more challenging than the transtibial-devices course; however, while fabricating the transtibial devices, newcomer mistakes really set me back. Now that I'm a little more experienced, the fabrication process comes much more easily, and I have had fewer major difficulties.
Having been more familiar with prosthetics than orthotics before beginning my formal education in O&P, I tend to go with the flow in my orthotics classes, but I question things that I'm unfamiliar with in prosthetics. One example is the casting jigs we've used. When casting the quad socket, we used the University of California Biomechanics Laboratory (UCBL) casting brim, which was new to me but really interesting, considering that it used to be the in-vogue way to create a transfemoral socket. In truth, it was a very easy way to make a relatively effective socket, especially in the most proximal region, which seems to be the most difficult when it comes to transfemoral devices.
For our ischial-containment-socket project, we used a sling that helped identify where the ramus and ischium were in the cast, which was also new to me. I had never seen a sling used for this purpose and was excited to see its effectiveness. When it came to the modification process, however, I ended up removing all of the imprints that the sling created on the cast and replaced them with the typical ischial-containment medial-proximal trim curvatures. Hopefully, that daring move will pay off!
It is exciting to be so close to completing my bachelor of applied science degree in orthotics and prosthetics, and I'm looking forward to beginning my residency and getting out into the real world. I'm already starting to think about how much I will miss my classmates and instructors that I have worked so closely with over the past four semesters, but of course if you're going to fly, you have to learn how to spread your wings.
Michael Carroll is a senior at St. Petersburg College (SPC), Florida. He will be sharing his experiences with The O&P EDGE as he completes his bachelor's degree in orthotics and prosthetics. He can be reached at