Louise Bensley, CTPO
Whether she's touring around the country on her Harley Davidson or focusing on her professional life, Louise Bensley is enjoying the ride. She has parlayed a part-time, work-from-home job sewing ankle and knee brace straps for an orthotics company into a full-time position as a certified O&P technician. Today, she looks forward to projects that will keep her skills—and the profession— moving forward.
1. How did you become interested in O&P?
My husband was volunteering at Middle River Volunteer Ambulance Rescue Company, Maryland, and one of the board members posted a job opening for someone with sewing skills to work for Baltimore Orthotics, Maryland.
2. How has your career progressed?
I started in O&P 22 years ago, and like the majority of the technicians at that time, I learned on the job. There was very little about fabrication in writing, so I took notes, and any time I could get something in writing I held onto it. I worked at Baltimore Orthotics for eight years, and I've been with Dankmeyer, Linthicum, Maryland, for 14 years. For a long time I didn't know certification was a possibility, but when I found out about it, I became determined to get certified. In 2000, I went with a big toolbox in tow to take the certified orthotic technician test. I became a certified prosthetic technician in 2005. Because I started in orthotics, it's always been my favorite.
I'm a lead orthotics technician, and over the years I have helped to train many coworkers and orthotics residents. In our facility, residents work for three months in the fabrication area so they can get a better understanding of what is reasonable to ask for and build their fabrication skills. I enjoy passing my knowledge on to others.
For the past couple of years, I've worked on a committee with the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) to help revise the O&P technician's exam. I have also been asked to be on an advisory committee to review a fabrication manual that is being compiled by the Orthotic & Prosthetic Technological Association (OPTA). I'm excited to do this, as it has been a passion of mine to have a written resource to turn to that describes how to fabricate O&P devices.
3. What emerging trends or exciting advances do you see for your field?
More technological developments are becoming available to patients, like stance control and extension-assist orthoses. It's exciting to be a part of this industry at this time.
4. What are your professional motivations?
I am blessed to work in a profession where I'm able to help patients get back to a more normal life by fabricating devices that can help them have less pain. I fabricate a lot of HKAFOs and advanced reciprocating gait orthoses (ARGOs) for patients with spinal cord injuries, and it feels good to help people with such devastating injuries.
5. Do you have an exceptional story you would like to tell?
One of our practitioners had a patient who hadn't walked in four or five months because she was in a lot of pain. The practitioner had me build a PTBO for one side and an AFO for her other side. After all those months, she was able to walk wearing her orthoses. No one thought that she would be able to walk again. It definitely made my day!