Final Lap

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By Michael Carroll
Michael Carroll

The spring semester tends to be my favorite one, at least so far in my college career. The semester is split in half by a nice little spring break, and summer is just around the corner. To make it even better, the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy) Annual Meeting and Scientific Symposium is held just before spring break. I love this event now more than I did while completing my prerequisite courses for the St. Petersburg College (SPC) Orthotics & Prosthetics program. It's a great event because it provides the opportunity not only to learn about all of the new products that are coming on the market and different approaches to common problems that we may face in the field, but also because it gives me the chance to meet with students from other O&P programs in the United States and Canada. It's interesting to compare what I have learned in my O&P program with other O&P degree programs.

What I'm learning in school has also begun to shift focus. Throughout the first year and a half of the O&P program, our primary focus was on the lower limbs and the spine. This semester, our focus has moved to the upper limbs, and I am currently facing the challenge of relearning upper-limb anatomy. During my first semester, I had an extensive anatomy and physiology course; however, as they say, "Use it or lose it," and after four semesters of not using it, I definitely need a refresher.

Because I'm also suffering from a mean case of "senioritis," and my residency is now within reach, school has been much more difficult to focus on, and developing the necessary understanding of the upper limb has been that much more of a challenge. Similar to a long-distance runner in the home stretch, I'm looking to the finish line and not giving as much attention to the track as I probably should be.

Though the coursework gets more and more tedious the closer I get to graduation day, my lab sessions don't feel as monotonous. Now that my classmates and I are treating new conditions, added challenges are making lab work more fun. My first upper-limb prosthetics lab project was to cast another student (and to have that student also cast me), then fabricate a conventional mock transradial prosthesis and figure-of-eight harness to suspend and control the device. It was a great project because it gave me the opportunity not only to go through the motions of creating such a device but also to discover what it would be like to use a conventional transradial prosthesis. When we were finished with the project, we were allowed to bring the devices home, minus the hook, so that we could use them in the future to promote the profession while speaking at schools.

My clinical rotations have been even more enjoyable! My clinical preceptorship site this semester is Shriners Hospital for Children, Tampa, Florida. This is the first time that I've been in an environment with a focus on pediatric care, and it's an exciting change. While the semester has just begun, I'm finding many rare and unique pathologies that I am just now seeing for the first time. It's interesting to see these various conditions and the methods used to treat them.

Another aspect of this setting that I really appreciate being exposed to is the family-care aspect of O&P. While the patient's familial unit is nearly always present in one way or another, it is much more apparent when dealing with children. Because the patient's parents are present at every appointment, the importance of caring for the entire family rather than just the patient has really been highlighted for me.

While I can't speak for the entire senior class of the SPC O&P program, I am personally so ready to graduate, begin my residency, and "get out there." I'm really enjoying my classes and everything that I'm being exposed to, and I do realize that all of this "stuff" I'm learning in school will be really important when I take the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) exam, but for me, finishing that final lap and crossing the finish line can't come soon enough.

Michael Carroll is a senior at St. Petersburg College (SPC), Florida. He will be sharing his experiences with The O&P EDGE as he completes his bachelor's degree in orthotics and prosthetics.