Finding Myself in the Eye of the Storm

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By Stephanie LeGare

As I am sitting here pondering a topic for this article, I am curious to discover that I have hit a bit of a lull in my residency. I don't mean a lack of things to do or people to see, but rather a mental lull. I am far enough into my residency to have a handle on the L-Codes and the ICD-9s, breeze through paperwork, and know the answers to the basic questions that go with the day-to-day work of seeing patients. I am even getting to the point where, much to one mom's amazement, I can successfully fit a cranial-remolding helmet to a screaming baby while maintaining relative calm and poise. Granted, I still call in my fellow practitioners when a complicated case walks in, but I no longer fret over this. Asking for and receiving help is the point of residency, and I'm far enough along to realize that even my experienced co-workers pick orthotic designs that make them purse their lips and cross their fingers before strolling into the patient room with a confident air.

I am not, however, quite far enough into my residency to be scrambling to complete paperwork and research reports and case studies, nor am I frantically studying to pass the orthotic exams. Although I spend time working on those things, the deadline does not yet feel imminent.

I suppose this lull may be the "eye of the storm"—a bit of quiet calm between the initial turmoil of being new to everything and the ending turmoil of getting ready to prove that I am good enough to treat patients on my own. I'm thinking that perhaps I've hit the best part of my residency.

For me, this is a perfect time to re-establish communication with my O&P friends. Most of us recovered from the holiday hubbub but didn't have time over the holidays to keep in touch as we all had promised. I can contact my fellow classmates and be encouraged that they all have experienced the same dilemmas I have. I've heard from friends in the graduating class before mine that life after residency does exist and can be even better than residency. Some of my classmates from the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), Atlanta, who came in the year after I did are starting to search for residencies and have contacted me for advice. All of a sudden, I am in a position to help them using my experience as a resident. Residents do make a difference in the O&P profession!

I was encouraged this month when an undergraduate student interested in O&P contacted me. More than a year ago, I gave a presentation about our profession at my alma mater. Many students were interested in the profession, but most hadn't decided on a career path. The student who contacted me was inquiring about applying to O&P schools and meeting the prerequisites! Most of us realize that the O&P profession is very small, but this proves that when we reach out to mentor someone, it makes a difference.

We recently all "reconnected" at the annual Academy meeting. Now is the perfect time to reach out to someone in the O&P profession who is just one step behind you in the learning process. Encouraging a resident, mentoring a high school student, or giving out those secret tips and tricks to the person just learning a new vacuum-suction system is enough to make a difference. Contact a long-lost O&P friend and meet up, e-mail, or call for an update. The O&P profession is small enough that the best practitioners are known everywhere by name, and I'm guessing that they didn't become so well known by keeping to themselves. I am learning that it's best to reach out now because if the rest of life is anything like my residency, time flies!

Stephanie LeGare is a graduate of the master of science in prosthetics and orthotics program at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech), Atlanta. She is a resident at the National Orthotics and Prosthetics Company (NOPCO), Boston, Massachusetts, and will be sharing her experiences as she completes her first year as an orthotic resident.