November 30, 2013

To Sit or Not To Sit..

I walk into a crowded coffee shop with my laptop in hopes of getting some work done but there are no seats available. I look around and spot a square table for four in the corner of the room and briskly charge towards it before someone else calls shotgun. I'm thrilled that I found somewhere to park myself for the next few hours but wondered why no one else was sitting there before. A little symbol on the corner of the table tells me it's a handicapped accessible table. Nobody at the other tables seems to be leaving anytime soon and there aren't any other places nearby where I could steal wifi from. So, do I sit at the handicapped accessible table or not?  I look around and start wondering what people will think of me if I sat at that table. I mean, I can just get up if someone needed it, right? Then the therapist in me took over and turned around, just as a neighboring couple got up and left. For the last one hour of sitting at my new non-accessible table, I have watched at least six people walk over to that table only to walk back saying, "oh, that's a handicap table." What it is that propels the able-bodied from not sitting at that table. Again, you can just move if someone with a wheelchair came in. So, why not sit? I really wonder if it's morality taking over or the thought that other people might consider you less civil for sitting at the accessible table. If a handicap person did come in and saw me sitting at that table, would he/she mind? Mind or not, I considered the accessible-parking-spaces-rule and opted out of the seat.
What would you do?

November 28, 2013

The Future of Occupational Therapy

I went to the WESTEC conference a few weeks ago, which showcased the latest innovations in manufacturing technology and engineering. I strolled through booths displaying electric welding systems, optical communication encoders, expansion clamps, CNC machines, and all things redefining the future of manufacturing. What's this got to do with Occupational Therapy? Well, after strolling through a lane offering free candy, I came across the Additive Manufacturing, or commonly known as 3-D printing, booth. Recently, there have been a lot of advances made in the field of medicine such as targeted cancer therapies, the first full face transplant, bionic hands that position using an iPad app, bluetooth devices that coordinate motor movement, and 3-D computer models that customize eye socket design. But what really blew my mind was in a glass showcase - a 3D printed "magic arm," also known as WREX (Wilmington Robotic Exoskeleton) and a 3D printed arm cast, aka, Cortex Cast.  I had heard of 3D printed replicas of monuments, jewelry and even printed shoes! The custom made, light weight, waterproof arm cast/splint caught my interest, especially as an Occupational Therapist. The Cortex exoskeletal cast is "...fully ventilated, super light, shower friendly, hygienic, recyclable and stylish," says Jake Evill the creator and founder of Cortex Cast Systems. The system allows you to create an x-ray of the upper extremity, identifying the exact position of the fracture, then the extremity is 3D scanned to generate its exact dimensions, and finally all this information is fed into the computer and the 3D printer creates a cast molded to fit snug on the extremity. What's even better is that it is printed with support around the bony prominences and built-in fasteners to snap close (so long velcro!).

To think, that Occupational Therapists will no longer have to run around with the splint cart ricocheting around the clinic/hospital hallways, turning corners ever so carefully as not to spill the hot hot water on anyone warranting a law suit, then to manually fabricate a hand splint in a span of 30 minutes which includes: drawing a silhouette of the extremity on a napkin paper (that's what I had to use when I was working at a hospital), cutting out the figure, tracing it on the one type of splint material we were provided, cutting the splint figure, throwing it in the hot water to make it malleable, then forming a base splint shape on your own hand, heating up the splint again and manipulating the corners making sure no sharp edges are left behind, followed by structuring the splint around the patient's own hand, molding it to the approximately correct angle of the extremity, reheating once again to fine tune, re-fitting once again to ensure proper fit, re-re-heating and round out corners and edges, cutting velcro strips, attaching them on strategic spots on the splint, fitting the splint on the patients hand, and FINALLY velcro-ing them in. Oops, I forgot to write the patient's name on the splint. Oh, and still have to document it all - do I still have time?!

Granted, it took Jake Evill 3 months to make the first prototype, but with the most recent 3D printer heading to space (true story, see link at bottom of post), OTs worldwide will be churning out splints in the blink of an eye...or two. Just think, the allotted 30-40 minutes for a screen and splint would be greatly reduced to mere minutes, granting us an even bigger caseload for the day. Yes, I know, not many of you jumped out of your seat for that comment, but remember, we're doing it for the patients! The more patients we can heal and make happy, the closer we are to being better human beings, agree? I do wonder, however, will the increasing supply of 3D printers on the market and the creation of printed splints and prosthetics eventually eliminate the need for therapists? What happens to the face-to-face interactions we're taught to create client-centered interventions? We interact with our patients to learn about their life, their hobbies, their abilities and disabilities and goals to get better, but with a 3D printer in our clinics, will we need to do that anymore? Or should we just read the chart, identify the fracture and bam, here's your splint Mr. Bane.  There's probably an app for that already, though.

Disclaimer: I am neither employed or promoting any of the products or companies mentioned in this post. This writing is voluntary and not in exchange for any type of credit. This post is solely for blog purposes as I sit atop my soapbox.

October 18, 2013

October - National Awareness Month of .....

"Just before the death of the flowers, before they are buried in snow, there comes a season when nature is all aglow." - said Anonymous

Winterfylleth, the Anglo Saxon or Old English name for October, is the beginning of the cold weather, green leaves changing into hues of red and golden yellow, creating a foliage worthy of an artist's palette. Blackberries are in season, cotton scarves and knee-high boots are in fashion and everything is pumpkin flavored. It's a busy month for people decorating their windowsills and porches with ghostly decorations and rushing to find that perfect costume for the much awaited end of the month Halloween, followed by making Thanksgiving and Christmas plans.  

Yes, it's a grand month to celebrate not only the changing seasons and Halloween but it's the granddaddy of National Awareness months. Instead of creeping through the internet and walking streets on ends for those decorations and costumes, walk a mile for a cause, wear a pink ribbon or green t-shirt in support for someone who may not be able to celebrate or dress up this Halloween due to an illness or disease.

Wear Pink
Find a local race for the cure, raise awareness and funds for the breast cancer movement, celebrate survivorship and honor those that have lost their lives from the disease. 

Wear 3:21
Advocate for the inclusion and acceptance of people with Down Syndrome by participating in the National Buddy Walk Program and walking together for Down Syndrome.

1 Dollar. 1 Kit. 1 School.
The International Dyslexia Association, IDA, has created a national awareness campaign and fundraising event to encourage supporters to donate one Dyslexia resource kit to every public elementary school in the U.S. The kit is called Dyslexia in the Classroom: What Every Teacher Needs To Know. The aim is to get this kit to every elementary public school principal by November 1 in order to raise awareness, share best practices, and be used as a resource to the school's administration and staff. 

Walk-N-Roll for Spina Bifida
Celebrate the accomplishments of over 166,000 people who are living with Spina Bifida.

Wear a Green Bracelet
Join the efforts of the Little People of America to raise awareness and promote respect for the thousands of people with dwarfism across the U.S.

After a month of raising awareness, fundraising and all that walking, you've well deserved a delicious slice of greasy pizza. Of course, in honor of National Pizza Month, that is!

January 19, 2013

Sue Austin: Deep sea diving ... in a wheelchair

Sue Austin: Deep sea a wheelchair - The title will inspire you and the video will take your breath away. It's the experience of unbounded freedom and joy, as described by Sue Austin that really moved me. The wheelchair brings her freedom and is her best friend. If all wheelchair users thought this way the fear of limitations and being bound in would be eliminated.

Freedom is found by creating our own stories, by learning to take the texts of our lives as seriously as we do 'official' narratives.' --Davis 2009, TEDx Women. The following individuals have created their own stories. Aaron Fotheringham, aka "Wheelz", 21 years old, does backflips in his wheelchair. Dick and Rick Hoyt, the most inspirational father and son team have raced in the Ironman Triathlon, many times.

Aaron Fotheringham -
Dick & Rick Hoyt -

You don't have to be disabled to be inspired by what these individuals have done..

January 13, 2013

Occupational Therapy makes Headlines, yet again!

OT has graced many headlines in the past: from raising public awareness about the practice and research, bunking/debunking the Autism and vaccinations “myths”, following the successful recovery of Gabby Giffords, to discovering the Ergo Wok (see link below).

During the times when the drastically increasing unemployment rates are still plaguing the nation, one profession shows promise to those displaced workers looking for stability and higher salaries. CNN Money reports the Occupational Therapy profession as having one of the lowest unemployment rates: 2%. While nurses are waiting longer to retire resulting in longer waits for some graduates to enter the field and dental hygienists taking up to six to nine months to find work due to slacking demand, Occupational Therapy is reporting a staggering growth in the years to come. Here, just look at the following statistics:
  • In Nevada, occupational therapists can command a $95,000 mean salary, much higher than the national mean of $75,000, according to Senior Provost and CEO Michael Harter. 
  •  January 5, 2012: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health care industries added 44,500 jobs in December, including 6,800 in physicians' offices; 2,900 in outpatient care occupational therapy and physical therapy centers; and 5,400 in home health services.                  
  •  January 7, 2013: By 2032, seniors (65+ years of age) are expected to account for one quarter of Canada’s population. This aging population will mean greater demands for nurses, personal support workers, occupational therapists and medical technologists. 
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor: Employment of occupational therapists is expected to increase 33 percent from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. 
  • Best Healthcare Jobs of 2013 U.S. News: Its one of the occupations that's especially on the rise, with 33.5 percent growth expected between 2010 and 2020. 
  •  Brenda Lyman, OTR/L, program coordinator of the OTA Program at Salt Lake Community College in Utah, says her students receive offers before graduation, often as aides conditional to moving to an OTA position after becoming certified. Because state licensure restricts OTs from supervising more than two OTAs, Utah is also experiencing a shortage of OTs.
  • A look at the job market for OTs and OTAs:
  •  Occupational Therapy named one of the nation’s 150 best recession-proof jobs:
  • Occupational Therapy - One of the least stressful jobs, according to CNN Money:
  •  Workforce Trends in Occupational Therapy: