From creative baker to creating orthoses
Paul’s journey from orthotic tech to his dream job of helping patients at Laurence and Collier O and P.
Paul was a full time assistant baker and head cake decorator in 2002. The hours were early — he remembers the alarm clock going off at 3am and thinking, is this what I want to do with my life?
In the summer of 2002, I met Bob Jensen and he hired me as an orthotic technician. The work was part time at first – after I finished my day at the bakery I would drive to Laurence Orthopedic and begin my shift modifying and fabricating custom arch supports. My background in art made this a pretty natural transition for me, and I found the job challenging but fun. After a few months, I was hired full time as an orthotic and prosthetic technician and left my job at the bakery.
I would study foot anatomy books and ask questions about everything. I really wanted to understand why I was doing what I was doing, what function did this modification serve? How does this affect how the foot orthotic feels on the patient’s foot?
Over the next few years I worked with the technicians at Laurence, learning how to fabricate AFO’s, knee braces, spine braces and prosthetics of all kinds.
I was constantly learning something new and developing my own techniques for fabricating devices. Our fabrication was pretty efficient in those days but I still thought we could to better, I created a workflow board and job tracking to get the lab more organized. With fabricating knowledge, I started shadowing the clinicians at Laurence helping with patient care. I found this was what I truly loved to do. I took a certified fitter course, took my board certification exam and became a certified orthotic fitter.
I continued to fabricate as well as see patients. Most of my time was spent seeing patients and overseeing fabrication as the lab supervisor. I still wanted more so I went back to college. Nights and weekends were spent going to class and falling asleep with books. I then went on to take my boards in 2008 to become a Certified Orthotic Assistant to further my patient care scope of practice.
At this point my focus was almost all on patient care, casting, fitting and follow up of my patients, going to clinics and assisting in the formulation of design for the devices I was providing. I was seeing a lot of people with ankle and foot dis-function — it is something that is complex and challenging. It is satisfying to me if I can help someone regain a function or reduce some pain with their daily activities.
With a lot of my focus on the foot and ankle I attended the Francis Tuttle Pedorthic Program.
In 2017 I took my board certification and became a Certified Pedorthist. I still like to fabricate but my heart is for helping people by making a small difference in someone’s life and seeing how it affects them is what drives me. I have patients that were once active; hikers, runners and even some marathon runners they have come in, now dragging their foot as they walk, hoping that anything will help. I talk to them about their goals, “What do you want this brace to do for you?” most of the time the answer is walk without stumbling. Some of those people have returned to their active lifestyle, as much as they tell me I’ve helped them it’s gratifying for me to see how much it helps them.
I look forward to working tougher cases in ankle and foot orthotics. I love to teach people what I know, so ultimately having a bigger team to teach and learn from is what I look forward to over the next few years.