Project Quantum Leap: Shaping the Future of the O&P Profession

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By Julie G. Hayes

Project Quantum Leap (PQL) is the most important initiative the Academy has undertaken in its 30-year history. It is a multi-year initiative in which the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists seeks to advance the O&P profession in several areas.  The Academy will conduct consensus conferences to document Clinical Standards of Practice for the profession, initiate public awareness programs about O&P as a career choice, ensure financial support of O&P university-based programs, and obtain funds for O&P applied research projects. The Academy will seek to raise money through contributions and/or grants from private and public venues to support PQL activities.

Documenting Professional Standards

Clinical standards of practice are needed. The opportunity to compile a collective body of knowledge from nationally recognized experts through consensus conferences on selected O&P topics will do much to establish a benchmark for care and greatly improve outcomes.

Consensus conferences analyze topics which can be considered difficult to treat or controversial in nature, as well as those where sparse literature is available to guide patient care. The resulting consensus document will be shared with other allied health organizations for endorsement as being the "recognized standard" of treatment for the particular clinical topic.

The Academy held the first Clinical Standards of Practice Consensus Conference on Orthotic Treatment of Idiopathic Scoliosis and Scheuermann's Kyphosis in February 2002. The conference identified current treatment protocols and the need for further research in the areas of early intervention, orthotic design alternatives and the appropriate timing of the safe discontinuation of the use of braces in the treatment of Idiopathic Scoliosis. Details of the conference will be reported at the Academy's 2003 Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA.  The next consensus conference will examine Post-Operative Amputation Care.

Shining A Light on the O&P Profession

Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas hosted the 2002 consensus conference on scoliosis. The conference faculty included Chairman Donald Katz, CO, FAAOP; Thomas Colburn, CO, FAAOP; Cyndi Walker, PhD; Carol Hentges, CO; Martin Carlson, CPO, FAAOP; Thomas Gavin, CO, FAAOP; Ralph Hooper, CPO; William Barringer, CO, FAAOP; and Keith Smith, CO. (Not Pictured: Gwen Monahan, RN and Stephen Richards, MD).
Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas hosted the 2002 consensus conference on scoliosis. The conference faculty included Chairman Donald Katz, CO, FAAOP; Thomas Colburn, CO, FAAOP; Cyndi Walker, PhD; Carol Hentges, CO; Martin Carlson, CPO, FAAOP; Thomas Gavin, CO, FAAOP; Ralph Hooper, CPO; William Barringer, CO, FAAOP; and Keith Smith, CO. (Not Pictured: Gwen Monahan, RN and Stephen Richards, MD).

The 2002 updated study on Issues Affecting the Future Demands for Orthotists and Prosthetists by Caroline Nielsen, PhD, summarized the workforce challenges facing the O&P profession.  "Without substantial changes in the number of educational programs, and the number of graduates becoming certified, the profession will be unable to serve the needs of a substantial percentage of the population."

It is in the best interest of the O&P profession to be able to meet these growing needs.  O&P patients deserve quality care provided by qualified professionals.  If, however, the profession cannot meet the growing demand, patients may look to alternate healthcare providers who will not fully understand the nuances of the techniques, materials or technologies available to assure quality care.  This will result in less than adequate care and draw business away from O&P manufacturers as well as patient care facilities.

To address these needs, the Academy, in support of Project Quantum Leap, is spearheading the Joint Committee on O&P Awareness efforts to develop outreach activities. The first phase of the career awareness campaign is already underway with a career brochure, one-stop website (www.opcareers.org), slide program and high school demonstration activities. Plans for a National O&P Awareness Week will be unveiled at the Academy's Meeting in San Diego, CA.

Research Urgently Needed

Complimentary copies of the O&P Career brochure are available by contacting the Academy.
Complimentary copies of the O&P Career brochure are available by contacting the Academy.

Individuals outside the field of O&P have traditionally done much of the O&P research, much of which is on a theoretical level. More emphasis must be placed on determining what constitutes appropriate care for various orthopedic impairments and neurological conditions. Applied research would focus on those aspects of O&P care where known or determined gaps in care exist. 

The O&P profession needs a national research agenda, coupled with research curricula training and infrastructure development at the schools to attract students to the field.

The Academy's Research Advisory Panel (RAP) will undergo the arduous task of prioritizing the most pressing research needs. Additionally, the Academy's Research and Development Committee has developed recommendations for conducting research and its inclusion in residency requirements (see www.oandp.org/research_guide.htm)

Take the Leap!

The goals of Project Quantum Leap are ambitious and expensive, however, PQL is a necessary and vital commitment to support the needs of Academy members, patients, practitioners and the O&P profession.  Contributions to Project Quantum Leap are collected by the O&P Education and Development Fund, a separate, nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, co-located with the Academy at 526 King St., Suite 201, Alexandria, VA 22314.

To learn more about PQL or to make a tax-deductible contribution, please contact Julie Hayes, Director of Development & Communications for the Academy, at (703) 836-0788, ext. 203 or visit the Academy's website at www.oandp.org