Career Satisfaction: Tips for Balancing Work & Life

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There are an estimated 6,500 orthotists and prosthetists certified by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) and/or the Board for Certification/Accreditation, International (BOC). When adding certified pedorthists, that number climbs north of 8,500. (Editor’s note: These numbers are estimates only and do not account for overlap of dual-certified individuals.)

Industry professionals may, at some point in their careers, experience burnout, depression, and job dissatisfaction. However, this is often tempered with tremendous career satisfaction. Most O&P practitioners understand there must be a balance between work and play, and work and family life. Achieving that balance can make the difference between simply having a job and enjoying a lifelong career.

Alexander Lyons, CPO

Lyons

“I love what I do,” says Alexander Lyons, CPO, owner of Lyons Prosthetics & Orthotics, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “For me to impact a patient’s life in a positive way is rewarding. Every day we work with people who are at a very vulnerable position in life. At first impression it would seem depressing, but I find it’s a great opportunity to help someone.

“I consider it a great responsibility to leave work at work,” Lyons continues. “I choose not to burden my wife and kids with work stuff in the evenings. I try to make family time just as important as work time. I don’t claim to be great at balancing these out, but I try my best.”

Before Donald Dotter, BOCP, COF, leaves Antelope Valley Orthotics and Prosthetics, Palmdale, California, for the day, he tries to compartmentalize work and other parts of his day.

“Sports have helped me to do that,” says Dotter, who plays basketball and volleyball. “Losing a game had a way of carrying over to other parts of my day in a negative manner. With practice, I have learned to leave the loss on the court and the work day at work.”

Since O&P practitioners work so closely with their patients, it can be a challenge not to become overly attached—and that can also contribute to depression. Dotter says that this was difficult for him when he started in the O&P field in 2003. “Working with prosthetic patients primarily can be a roller coaster of emotions,” he says.

Donald Dotter, BOCP, COF

Dotter

Like Lyons, Dotter also points out the bright side. “Every time an unfortunate situation for a patient crosses my path, there’s an inspiring patient or story after.”

Craig R. DeCamp, BOCPO, CO, owner of Mobile Limb & Brace, West Lafayette, Indiana, works with the geriatric population in skilled nursing facilities as well as in their homes. “Depression can be a key part of the day-to-day workplace,” he says. “Seeing what [patients] have to deal with every day can weigh on you, and you begin to dwell on ‘this is how it’s going to be when I reach their age.’”

DeCamp says it helps that he sees his geriatric patients no more than an hour or two a day, which also helps to make his interactions with his patients enjoyable. “The smiles on their faces when I am visiting make it all worthwhile,” he says.

Effectively managing workplace stress is integral to achieving workplace satisfaction. Setting goals helps DeCamp manage stress during his workday. “If you don’t have goals, you don’t know where you’re going or where you’ve been,” he says. “Short-term and long-term goals help guide…your decisions.”

Craig R. DeCamp, BOCPO, CO

DeCamp

Lyons keeps stress to a minimum by beginning his workday with a Bible study. “Faith plays a huge part of how I live my life,” says Lyons, who started in the O&P profession in 1993. “I do a Bible study over the phone with another leader in the O&P community. It reminds me that I’m not in control.”

Having a “fun and relaxed” work environment also helps keep stress out of the workplace for Lyons and his four full-time and two part-time employees. “This is important to business because it reflects on how our patients feel here,” he says. “We try to reduce the stress by operating as close as possible to a schedule.” A change of scenery can go a long way toward keeping employees refreshed and focused, so Lyons encourages his employees to leave the office for a short time during the workday and to take a scheduled vacation. When all else fails, he says, “There’s always the squeeze-therapy stress balls.”

Dotter says he avoids burnout by varying his job situation. His day includes a little bit of patient contact, fabrication time, and, of course, paperwork. “I enjoy seeing my fabrication skills directly affect a patient during my patient contact,” he says. “The personal satisfaction of seeing a device created with your hands to help provide mobility to a patient [is] a continuing motivation for me.”

Michael Mangino, CPO, BOCPO, LPO, CPed, president and director of Bay Orthopedic & Rehabilitation Supply, headquartered in Huntington Station, New York, has been in the O&P profession for more than 30 years and is a member of the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (the Academy) and the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA). He and his wife, Carol Mangino, CO, employ more than 40 individuals through the six O&P facilities and the central fabrication company they own. Mangino is also president and cofounder of New Jersey-based Prosthetic & Orthotic Management Associates Corp. (POMAC), a multi-state O&P managed care network with more than 120 member facilities. The Manginos are active practitioners with a large caseload but manage to take six weeks of vacation and attend between two and three O&P conferences each year.

Michael Mangino, CPO, BOCPO, LPO, CPed

Mangino

“Attending conferences serves me well,” Mangino says. “New products are almost always presented by manufacturers at conferences before they embark in journal advertising and other forms of marketing. The sooner you see a new product, the faster you can present it to your patients and referral sources.”

A number of O&P practitioners report that staying physically fit and working out are great ways to relieve stress and avoid burnout. Dotter rides his bicycle after work, and Lyons works out daily. Mangino advises planning time off to do something enjoyable, even if it’s just for a few hours.

“There is nothing wrong with taking a morning off and playing nine holes of golf and then coming in late,” he says. “You don’t have to take a week off to stay refreshed.”

Despite the stress that can often accompany the profession, most find it deeply satisfying. Though Lyons loves working with prosthetic and orthotic patients, he says he prefers working with prosthetic patients.

“A prosthetic by design is made to substitute for that missing body part,” he says. “This process of designing and implementing the prosthesis provides a patient with a huge quality-of-life improvement that’s seen by the clinical staff and others, including the family.” If someone needs a prosthesis, they are usually only limited by their amputation diagnosis, compared with a patient with a drop foot condition due to a stroke, Lyons says.

Mangino adds that when he gets patient referrals, they have already hit bottom—their physician has informed them that they are temporarily or permanently disabled. “With our help, they always leave our facility in better shape, with a brighter future,” he says. “Our accomplishments are beneficial to the patients as well as ourselves. We are almost always the first healthcare professional to see the patient walk again or feel less pain in a limb or the spine. We do make a difference in the quality of life of everyone we see. As technology improves, so do our outcomes.”

In 2009, Dotter was diagnosed with cancer. It was during his treatment that he knew O&P was his calling.

“I couldn’t just stay at home with chemo-head,” says Dotter, now celebrating life as a cancer survivor. “I would come and work in the fabrication lab as much as my body would allow. I wanted to give back as much as I could. I know this low in my life has made me appreciate my ability to help others with my expertise and work.”

Betta Ferrendelli can be reached at

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