Archive for February, 2008

Splints I have Fabricated

Here’s a list of some of the splints I have either fabricated myself or got assistance in fabricating:

  • Several below knee amputation splints
  • Resting hand splints (actually, these are pre-fabricated)
  • Humeral fracture brace (two pieces; protects the humerus from getting bumped by others; limits some shoulder range of motion if the doctor chooses)
  • Several posterior gutter splints (usually for protection of an elbow status post ORIF; often, the splint starts along the forearm and extends down to the carpals)
  • Yesterday, I helped with two splints (both on the same person, one for each hand): Ulnar gutter splint that involved providing slight MCP flexion for the 4th and 5th digits; and a resting hand splint that only provided ‘rest’ for the index finger through the MCP, but allowed for free range of motion of the PIP and DIP, and the rest of the fingers.

Sometimes the orders can be very complicated and specific, such as the ones highlighted in the last bullet above.  But I really enjoy making the splints, and am more and more strongly considering to specialize in splinting.


February 21, 2008 at 10:05 pm 6 comments

Studying Abroad

One of my former professors recently had an article featured in OT Practice.  The article is called “Learn To Communicate
With Your Spanish-Speaking Clients; Study Abroad!” by Sonia Lawson.

If you are an AOTA member, you can access the article here, on page nine.

February 21, 2008 at 8:14 pm 1 comment

Educating Patients with Amputations

Aside from educating an amputee about phantom limb pain, what else do occupational therapists have to teach patients?  The things I can think of are: skin checks, wound care, ace wrapping, and splint education.  Anything else?

(My question refers to on top of the usual ADL training that we would do)

February 13, 2008 at 9:28 pm 11 comments

Acute Care is Intense

I started working in acute care as a student on my Level II fieldwork, so I never realized just how intensive it can be. I recently had a friend of mine who is an OT express interest in working in acute care. She wanted to follow me for a few hours to see how my day was.

Here is how I do a typical chart review before seeing a patient for the first time:

  • Go on the computer
    • Check out the therapy orders, as well as their activity orders (out of bed, ambulate with assistive device, etc.) I also check what other services have been consulted. Is physical therapy on board? Social work? Rehabilitation? etc.
    • See what diagnostic tests have been ordered. A CT scan of the thorax may be ordered to rule out pulmonary emboli, ultrasound may be ordered to rule out DVT, x-ray to rule out fracture, etc.
    • Check on specific patient care orders – do they need a brace when out of bed? how many liters of oxygen should they be on?
    • Patient alerts – What kind of precautions are they on? Contact isolation? Are they on aspiration, neutropenic, or seizure precautions?
    • Diet – Are they NPO?  Stage I, II, III, or IV diet?  Knowing a patient’s diet can help with the education part of what they can and cannot do in the hospital
    • Code status – Are they DNR? Some patients have specific instructions as to whether or not they can be intubated
    • Lab values – The most common things I look for are hematocrit, hemoglobin, potassium, sodium, creatinine, PT/INR. Are the lab values high? low? Which way are they trending? All these are factors into whether or not a patient should be on hold. For example, if a patient has a hemoglobin of 7.5 and a hematocrit of 22.6, I would probably not see the patient, since they are below critical and are probably going to be too weak to see me anyway.
    • Vital signs – Check the latest blood pressure readings, heart rate, temperature, and sometimes the respiratory rate.
  • Next, I check the physical chart:
    • I first go through the History of Present Illness section to see what led up to the hospitalization. Often times, I’ll find most of the patient’s past medical history.
    • Then, I check the consultation section to see what medical services have looked at the patient. This can include Medicine, Neurology, Orthopedics, Nephrology, Infectious Disease, Oncology, Cardiology, Pulmonary, and more. This section helps give a nice, complete picture of what is going on with the patient.
    • Next, I look throughout all the notes that everyone wrote. This includes mostly nursing notes, but also notes from doctors and from any of the above mentioned services giving updates. You see a progression of status as you read the notes.

I am only comfortable going into a patients room when I’m done looking up everything mentioned above. And now that I typed it all up, I can see why my friend who was shadowing for a few hours was so overwhelmed when she left! Working in acute care is intense; there is no question about it. But since I was brought in as a student and learned things slowly at a pace that a student would learn, I have no problem doing it today.

One of the great things with acute care (which others may specifically not like) is the fast pace. Going in to work, you never know who your new patients will be, making each and every day very unique. Often times, there are lots of new evaluations that need to be completed, so just the rush of trying to get everyone done makes the day go by very fast.

Acute care is definitely not for everyone, but if you can handle some of the minor stresses and be willing to learn a LOT about anything medical related, then it is for you!

February 11, 2008 at 4:29 pm 53 comments

Continuing Education links

I found a great post by OT in Egypt that has a huge number of links for continuing education credits, for those in need.

Here’s the link:

February 10, 2008 at 11:46 pm Leave a comment

Open Heart Surgery

I really want to see an open heart surgery. Until that happens, I’ll have to be happy with treating patients that have had open heart surgery; the most common of which I see is coronary artery bypass grafts (CABG).

Patients undergoing CABG usually have complicated heart problems and arteries that are blocked. The procedure basically reroutes some of the blood vessels, thus enabling better blood flow to the heart. Chest pain is also reduced.

As occupational therapists, one of the big things we do with open heart patients is review sternal precautions (I just wrote that paragraph on the precautions for this blog post – yay for Wikipedia!). It is amazing how people are so different in this area. For some people, after hearing the precautions once, they automatically start following the precautions with no difficulty. These patients tend to recover much more quickly than patients who do not (that isn’t scientific, just something I’ve picked up on. Then, there are patients who no matter how many times you go over the precautions, they still don’t follow them. It can be very frustrating at times.

While writing this, I was struck by an interesting thought. When working with hip replacements, I almost never have a problem with people not following their precautions. I have the most difficulty with sternal precautions. People with spinal precautions tend to be very good about their precautions, unless they’ve had a minor spinal surgery, such as a laminectomy. If I had to guess, I’d say the reason is that with hip and spine surgeries, doing the things that you’re not supposed to do directly impacts the joint/vertebrae, and is therefore a lot more painful, which is why they usually adhere to the precautions. However, with sternal precautions, patients do not necessarily feel anything wrong with what they are doing, so they’ll be more likely to not adhere to the precautions.

Addendum: Here is the paragraph I wrote on Wikipedia:

Patients undergoing coronary artery bypass surgery will have to avoid certain things to avoid opening the incision. These are called sternal precautions. First, patients need to avoid using their arms excessively, such as pushing themselves out of a chair or reaching back before sitting down. To avoid this, patients are encouraged to build up momentum by rocking several times in their chair before standing up. Second, patients should avoid lifting anything in excess of 5-10 pounds. A gallon of milk weighs approximately 8.5 pounds, and is a good reference point for weight limitations. Finally, patients should avoid overhead activities with their hands, such as reaching for sweaters from the top shelf of a closet or reaching for plates or cups from the cupboard.

February 10, 2008 at 4:29 pm 23 comments

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