Real-life story - Lauren Jennings
Lauren wanted to do something in healthcare and, once she found the information about prosthetics and orthotics, knew orthotist was the job for her!
How I got into the role
I didn’t want to be a doctor or nurse, but knew I wanted to do something in healthcare so I researched all the possible options. As soon as I found the information about prosthetics and orthotics, I knew it was the job for me! It’s people centred - you really get to know your patients - but it also requires a sound knowledge of biomechanics and problem solving skills.
The degree course has a nice mix of practical learning, lectures and placements and I knew I’d have a job at the end of it. After university I chose to specialise in orthotics.
What I do
I work in a small team and run general clinics as well as a specialist paediatric one. As a team we also visit the specialist schools in our area and take part in a clinic with other healthcare professionals for patients with diabetes.
I might start the day seeing a young child with cerebral palsy and, once I’ve assessed their muscle power and range of movement, I take a plaster of Paris mould of the leg set at the correct angle to maximise walking potential. At that point, an orthosis, or brace, can be designed to help support the foot and ankle.
The next patient might be an elderly gentleman with a partial foot amputation to assess how the support inside his footwear is working.
I also work on the inpatient wards with other professionals such as stroke physiotherapists or orthopaedic surgeons to get people safely moving and out of bed, or protect them from pressure ulcers.
The best bits and challenges
I love seeing children learning to walk and becoming independent, and there’s nothing better than seeing a patient walk out of clinic with a smile on their face because of something I’ve done.
One of the challenges is that some patients have very complex conditions and, just when you’ve got something right, something else can go wrong. But orthotics is an area where you can make a real difference, even a small one. Allowing a patient to stand may not appear a lot, but can make a huge difference to their overall health.
Life outside work
I enjoying reading and gardening and generally being outside. I also enjoy spending time with my family and looking after my nieces and nephew; my knowledge of current children’s TV and toys can be very useful in clinic when trying to distract the youngsters!
I enjoy crafts such as knitting, sewing and woodwork. I think it's helped me understand the manufacture of different orthotic devices and helps my prescribing because I know what’s possible and what’s not. I always have some kind of craft project on the go.
Career plans and top tips for others
I’m very early on in my career so I’m still consolidating and improving my skills. I see myself continuing in orthotics, and becoming more independent at assessing and treating the more complex patients.
It’s important to understand what prosthetics and orthotics is as a job and a profession. Everyone thinks we only deal with feet! It isn’t glamourous and it definitely isn’t easy, but it’s really rewarding. I know very few other professions where you can say “I helped a child walk today,” or “I prevented a patient from needing an amputation.”
If you’re willing to put in the hard work and engage with your patients, you can make a real difference. It’s important to have good communication and problem solving skills, and be hard working.