Learning Has Changed, Has O&P?

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By Chris Pujol, CTO, CPed

Long gone are the days of having to go to the library or taking a night class to learn something new. Today, we can go online to access the largest library of content that has ever existed. We can research, learn, or fix anything we desire by accessing online content and tutorials. Why doesn't the same breadth of content exist for O&P?

I started my career as a back-room technician in a small mom-and-pop clinic 20 years ago. I have been fortunate to become a clinician, supervisor, manager, and business owner spanning five states and three countries. I have had the opportunity to collaborate with an eclectic group of clinicians, recently graduated residents and techs, business owners, managers, and engineers. Recently, to satisfy my needed continuing education units, I took advantage of distance learning and realized that there is not much online content related to newer techniques for fabricating O&P devices.

It seems that whether I am attending a conference or browsing content online, the O&P community is unwilling to widely share its knowledge. I feel this reluctance may be based in concern about giving away secrets and insecurity about being judged by others, which makes learning new ideas and methods difficult for everyone. It starves progress and new technologies from those who are hungry for its consumption. Whether we are in California, Florida, Germany, or Australia, we are all striving for the same thing: to better serve our patients through creative solutions that deliver a better quality of life. I would think our shared interest of patient care, profits, and company goals would naturally encourage sharing and collaboration, but I found that has not always been the case.

We live in a time where collaborating has never been easier. We have so many platforms available to us to share ideas and new technologies. We have the ability, more now than ever, to break down the walls of communication and help each other learn to make our patients' lives better. I would love to see clinicians and technicians share their new ideas and discoveries in a more open fashion. I would like to see these ideas and discoveries shared without fear of losing an edge but rather the excitement of the opportunity to gain insight, perspective, and meet like-minded individuals.

Our field is going through a transition as many veterans leave and many new clinicians and technicians enter. I hope the more experienced O&P professionals embrace this idea of sharing and collaborating through technology we have at our fingertips so that these past experiences will not be lost. We can share these ideas so easily via video, pictures, and social media with the amazing devices we carry with us every day. While we have the chance, let's get some video showing methods of prepreg, new lamination techniques, ways to use 3D printing or CAD systems, how to fabricate a socket with BOA closures, and KAFO/stance control fabrication, for example. Post these ideas on YouTube, Instagram, and other social media outlets for all to see. We are all consumers of free content every day, let's begin to contribute to this repository as creators.

If the new wave of ideas builds upon our deep knowledge base through technology, the future of our field will be limitless.

Chris Pujol, CTO, CPed, works at Newtek Fab, Ventura, California. He can be reached at cap110680@gmail.com.