Orthotic fabrication, often described as both an art and a science, may seem to be a challenging mission to students and novice therapists. There are so many things to consider:
- Biomechanical principles
- Clinical conditions
- Patient personalities
- Time constraints
- Thermoplastic material choices
- Orthotic designs and types
But when you look at each of these concepts in turn, and consider all of the key aspects involved, the process of applying an orthosis to a client can be made easier to understand and to fabricate. Here are additional ideas and suggestions to help you in this process.
Read online blogs and watch splinting videos
Read this blog (or others on a similar theme) to stay informed and up to date on relevant topics like “How to select the correct thermoplastic material” or “Fabrication ideas and techniques for a specific static progressive orthosis“.
Keep in mind that practice makes perfect. You can seriously improve your skills by simply practicing very often. We offer some helpful tools that guide you through the steps of orthotic fabrication and allow you to practice new designs and techniques:
- Instructional videos are great at visually explaining how to prepare, mould and finish an orthosis.
- The Splinting Guide contains numerous step-by-step tutorials that teach you how to fabricate both static and dynamic orthoses. Download the complete guide or have a look at the separate tutorials on our website.
Join relevant social media groups
Sign up for the Orfit Splinting and Rehabilitation Group on Facebook and join our community of like-minded individuals who share our passion for orthotic fabrication. There is always someone willing to help you with an orthotic pattern, photos or even offer solutions to your clinical questions.
Find a mentor
Find a colleague or mentor in your clinic/community who is willing to help you develop orthotic fabrication skills. Take scraps of thermoplastic material and practice molding on yourself or even family members. More hands-on practice will help you become more comfortable, confident and skilled at this task.
Read a valuable orthotic fabrication book
Read my new textbook, Orthotic Design and Fabrication for the Upper Extremity: A Practical Guide, co-written with my colleague, Dr. Katherine Schofield. Our textbook contains not only numerous photos and patterns of orthoses, but also multiple videos offering step-by-step instructions in all aspects of the orthotic fabrication process. You can watch each video over and over again, or just stop the video at any point to practice what you just watched.
Dr. Schofield and I both teach orthotic fabrication to Occupational Therapy Master Degree students. We recognized that if students could watch the fabrication process before coming to class, it would make it much easier for them to know what was expected of them in class and this would help them be successful. So far, this has been highly beneficial!
There are many ways for you to improve your orthotic fabrication skills and increase your level and confidence level with orthotic fabrication. Do not be afraid to take on this highly skilled yet extremely important intervention.
Written by Debby Schwartz, OTD, OTR/L, CHT
Physical Rehabilitation Product and Educational Specialist at Orfit Industries America.
Debby is a hand therapist with over 34 years of clinical experience. She completed her Doctorate of Occupational Therapy at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in 2010.
She is also an adjunct professor at the Occupational Therapy Department of Touro College in NYC and has written many articles for hand therapy journals, including the ASHT Times and the Journal of Hand Therapy.
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