How to Develop and Host a Patient Event

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By Libby Johnston

The prosthetics team at De La Torre Orthotics & Prosthetics, headquartered in Pittsburgh, meets on Monday mornings. The meeting includes prosthetists, technicians, billing and administrative staff, department heads, the business development director, and members of the marketing and patient services departments.

Part of each meeting is spent discussing upcoming local events for people with amputations and what our involvement will be. We support events held by other organizations by advertising them to our patients and sending speakers, but last year we decided it was time to hold our own event. In early summer 2016, inspired by specialty leadership events for women in O&P, we began planning our first Women's Amputee Event, which was held November 8, 2016.

Four of our prosthetists, Kathryn "Kate" Shipley, CP; Lauren Wyrostek, CP; Rachel Schmidt, CP; and Tiffany Koehler, CPO, developed content for two workshops that we felt would be valuable: Appearance and Work, and Activities and Support. We asked Charissa "Chris" Doerger, CP, PT, who was the Southeast regional clinical manager at Össur Americas, Winter Garden, Florida, at that time, to be our keynote speaker and discuss how O&P manufacturers are addressing women-specific prosthetic needs.

We decided that fall, with its more temperate weather, was the ideal time for the event. To promote it, we sent personal invitations, by mail or email, to our female prosthetics patients. Each patient's clinician followed up with a phone call as well. Two months prior to the event, we contacted prosthetics manufacturers to contribute to gift bags for the attendees.

Responses indicated that 35 patients and caregivers were planning to attend, so we decided to host the event at one of our offices. We brought in extra chairs and ordered healthy food that could be eaten easily from plates placed on laps.

On the day of the event, we made sure that the signage to our building was easily visible. Our female prosthetics team members greeted our 30 guests and made sure they were comfortable. The number of attendees in power and manual wheelchairs, which required more space than we had anticipated, presented a challenge. Taking that into consideration, we plan to host our next event at a bigger location.

We divided the attendees into two groups to allow better management of the discussions, and presented each workshop two times. At the end of the event, we asked them to fill out evaluation forms. We found the remarks encouraging, and will use the feedback and our experience to help us plan our next event.

Making it specific to women allowed them to speak freely about their personal challenges and successes. Our team discovered that many women didn't know of the resources available to them. Hearing how other women used the resources made the many options seem more accessible.

Attendees made connections among themselves that we couldn't have anticipated. A book club has sprung up from the event, and one attendee was surprised to see a woman she met in her surgeon's office shortly after her amputation surgery many years ago, and was able to thank her for her help.

We are planning a similar event in the spring, for men and women, and our second Women's Amputee Event is scheduled for this fall.

Libby Johnston is the clinical relations representative at De La Torre Orthotics & Prosthetics, headquartered in Pittsburgh. She can be contacted at .