Exploring the Meaning of Specialized Needs

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By Andrea Spridgen
Andrea Spridgen

As I reflected on the theme of this month's issue, "Specialized Needs and Specialized Populations," I thought a lot about the term "specialized." After all, as individuals, all O&P patients have specialized needs. That fact is at the heart of the profession's efforts to educate policymakers and third-party payers-that O&P patient care is specialized and highly individualized. A one-size-fits-all device doesn't work and neither does a one-size-fits-all approach to patient care.

Nevertheless, being able to categorize helps us make sense of the world. This skill is fundamental to our ability to problem solve. Without being able to group symptoms into categories, physicians would be unable to diagnose diseases. Indeed, all healthcare professionals must rely on certain principles that ground their approaches to patient care. Take, for example, a female patient who is five feet eight inches tall, 120 pounds, has an eight-inch residual limb, and has been prescribed a K2 transfemoral prosthesis. While it would be reductive to say that there is only one approach to providing prosthetic care for this patient, being able to categorize this patient within some common parameters gives the practitioner a starting point. So every patient is at once representative of a particular patient population and completely unique unto himself or herself.

This month's cover story, "Women with Traumatic Amputations, Prosthetic Care for a Unique Population," addresses that same dichotomy, as it examines some of the differences in the needs of female and male patients who have undergone a traumatic amputation. While practitioners may need to take those differences into consideration, it's also important to remember that ultimately the deciding factor in anyone's rehabilitation-physical and psychological-is her or his individualized circumstances. Each patient is his or her own "special population."

I'd like to wish you all a peaceful, joyous holiday season and thank you for your readership. I hope you will continue to join us in 2014 as we to strive to bring you relevant, interesting information in O&P.

Warm regards,
Andrea Spridgen