A Non-Traditional O&P Student View: Putting It All Together

Home > Articles > A Non-Traditional O&P Student View: Putting It All Together
By Rick E. Sevier
Yolanda and Rick Sevier
Yolanda and Rick Sevier

In today's varying economy, many individuals in well-established companies are being faced with layoffs that force them into reevaluating their initial choice of careers. Many of these people use this time to their advantage to return to college. These "older" or non-traditional students bring a unique mix of knowledge and skills to any field of study they choose to pursue.

I am one of those non-traditional students. I am enrolled in the Oklahoma State University-Okmulgee AAS O&P Practitioner Assistant Program. The following diatribe is a look at how all of the pieces are-and hopefully will continue-to come together.

Looking Back

As a child, I had grown up spending weekends and summers in a physician's office in which my mother worked, as the hopeful MD groomed me to someday become a doctor. Later, I worked for nearly 12 years in the world of both electrical and mechanical engineering design. After that, came a faculty position at the community college teaching computer-aided design (CAD) for seven years. The most recent eight years have been spent running my own computer business.

Why O&P?

Now I find myself surrounded by routers, ovens, and plaster traps that need constant attention. I often get asked, "Why did you give up your career to do this?" The answer is simple, yet complex. The simple answer is that I have always seen it as my responsibility as an inhabitant of this planet to help others in any way I possibly can. O&P allows me to fulfill this mission with great accuracy and in a one-on-one way. The not-so-simple answer lies in the area of where the past touches the present.

Old Skills, New Applications

As a child in that small clinic, I developed a love and respect for healthcare. Helping the MD wrap casts and develop X-rays gave me an early understanding that the body itself was a finely tuned apparatus. During my career in engineering design, I learned that some materials had properties that were good for specific applications, and that some were not suitable. The world of CAD allows the user to visualize mechanisms and relationships once only visible in the mind's eye. Finally, the world of computers could lift many of the burdens from humanity and place them in a very minute space.

I am not leaving these old skills and tools behind. Rather, I have the advantage of already having these tools in my toolbox to use in a whole new application. I simply must learn how my old and trusty utensils can be used to create a different product.

The Age Issue

For the longest time, I saw my age of 42 as being a disadvantage in the world of O&P. I was sure that my fellow students would look at me as though I were the odd one out. But, to my surprise and pleasure, the inverse is true. The younger students actively seek out the older students-who comprise about one-quarter of the class-to ask for their input in nearly all phases of their college experience. Our previous experience in the workforce is respected and admired.

Family and Finances

As with many other non-traditional students, I have a family. My five children are making sacrifices in both the time and financial arenas. Through federal financial aid and a few student loans, both my wife and I are able to attend school full-time and work very part-time. This allows us to concentrate on school during the day, family in the evening, and homework at night. Work is done on the weekends. All of these things balance precariously on the family day planner.

Looking Ahead

With luck and a swift GPA wind at our backs, my wife of 22 years-who was so impressed by the O&P AAS Practitioner Assistant Program at OSU-Okmulgee that she gave up an 18-year career as an LPN and enrolled with me-and I will graduate in about a year from now and be eligible to sit for the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC) registered assistant exams for both orthotics and prosthetics. We are both doing our clinical rotation with a major O&P service provider. We are planning on working as associates until our youngest is out of the nest, while continuing work part-time on our baccalaureate degrees. Once finished, we will proceed to Northwestern and cap our careers by becoming ABC-certified prosthetists/orthotists.

It is our dream to one day go and provide free services to the many unfortunate landmine victims of Eastern Europe and Asia. Once there, our mission will be truly complete.