Darren Wiens: Going the Distance
It is more than 2,200 miles from Nebraska to Nicaragua, and Darren Wiens, CP, owner of OrthoMedics, Kearney, Nebraska, has gone the distance. He has been involved with prosthetic charity Step Global since its inception two years ago when it was started by Wiens' business partner, Jacob Sikes, CO, and his uncle, Doug Sikes. Wiens, like other Step Global volunteers, travels to Nicaragua with the help of the Orphan Grain Train charity. Alongside other volunteers, he has helped cast and fit prosthetic arms and legs on almost 100 Nicaraguans with amputations since June 2008. And he continues to work above and beyond for his colleagues and local clients.
1. How did you become interested in O&P?
In college, I competed in a decathlon, and one of the competitors was Jeremy Burleson, a top-ranked Paralympic pentathlete who was training for the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. I was amazed at his ability to not only compete with able-bodied athletes, but to excel. I saw O&P as a way to do something different with my life. Prosthetics and orthotics offer me a unique career path and a creative outlet that allows me to work with different materials and ever-improving technology.
2. How has your career progressed?
I finished my master's degree in exercise science in 2002 and went through the technician and practitioner programs at Century College, White Bear Lake, Minnesota. During that time, I volunteered at the Shriners Hospitals in Minneapolis, which turned into a job as a prosthetic technician, and then a prosthetic residency in 2005-2006. I'm originally from Kansas, so after finishing my residency, I moved to Kearney, Nebraska, to be closer to home. I met Jacob when we worked at a competing O&P facility until we both realized we wanted to be on our own.... We started OrthoMedics in 2007, and it has been quite a ride ever since.
3. Please describe what your company does.
At OrthoMedics, we specialize in prosthetics, limb bracing, and spinal trauma. We take a very person-centered approach to patient care. We sit and talk with all of our patients—if you really listen to what motivates a person, it is easier to explain to them why or what we are trying to accomplish. We let our work speak for itself. We have also helped two of our colleagues—Ryan Brenden, CP, in Norfolk, Nebraska, and Jacob Keough, CO, in Omaha, Nebraska—start their own OrthoMedics facility because they share the same patient care philosophy.
4. How do you set yourself apart from competing businesses and practitioners in your area?
Regarding spinal trauma, for instance, we developed a unique way of casting and fabricating TLSOs that allows the doctor to order the brace in the emergency room in the evening and have it on the patient before they do their rounds in the morning. We also do our own custom fabrications. Many companies postpone taking measurements until the next day or will go ahead and take the measurements but send the TLSO out for fabrication.
5. What advice would you give to someone just entering the O&P profession or starting his or her own business?
Be vigilant about what you are trying to get from each of your employers. If you are starting your own business, know that it will be hard work to get it started, but it is well worth it. Do not be afraid of the big dogs—their bark is worse than their bite.