Spotlight on Walter A. Nance, BOCO, OTC
Weinberg Family Cerebral Palsy Center Provider Spotlight
Walter A. Nance, BOCO, OTC, is a Board Certified Orthotist from East Coast Orthotic & Prosthetic Corp and provides on-site orthotic solutions for the WFCPC patients. Many of our families will have seen Walter over the years working closely with our Orthopedics, Rehabilitation Medicine and Neurology specialists to design and fabricate custom orthotic devices. Walter has been in the field of orthotics for over 40 years, with half of those years working with families living with CP.
We caught up with Walter to learn more about his path to becoming an orthotist and his holistic approach to supporting families and individuals living with cerebral palsy.
1. Walter, tell us your path in becoming an orthotist.
I didn’t follow the traditional path to become an orthotist. In 1982, I joined the United States Navy as a certified orthopedic technician and got trained in the field of orthopedics. I stayed in the Navy for six years till 1988, then to the VA (Veterans Affairs), and then Washington University in St. Louis, all that time working as an orthopedic technologist. By 2005 I realized that I wanted another challenge. That’s when I saw an opportunity to join this O&P (orthotics and prosthetics) company in New York to train and become certified as an orthotist. That year, I moved to New York and joined East Coast O&P. I've worked with orthotists all through my career as an orthopedic technologist, so I was very familiar with what they do and what their mission is. So after I received the training in New York, I challenged and passed the certification test. In 2010 I became a certified orthotist.
2. When did you start working with people with cerebral palsy?
I was working with a lot of trauma patients in St. Louis and had some patients with cerebral palsy, but it wasn’t until I got here in 2005 that I started working with and making orthotics for people with CP. So, I’ve been working with people with CP for nearly 20 years.
3. How have you seen your CP patients evolve over these years with their orthotics?
I've seen kids from infancy to young teenagers, and some to adults now. Some kids graduate from their orthotics, and some don’t. Whatever the condition or circumstance, I want to remind our families that when they come and see us, they’re in a better place than they would be if they didn’t. Every person with CP is different, and regardless of their function, when they come here, we are here to help them live the best life they can. Some orthotics improve function, some prevent contractures, but at the end of the day, the goal is to improve their quality of life. Quality of life not just for the patient, but for their caregivers too.
4. Can you share your approach to improving the quality of life for someone with CP with orthotics?
When I make orthotics, my goal is to create something that makes life easier not just for the wearer of the braces, but the person who is caring for the wearer. When I fill a prescription, I’m thinking about the social aspects and what effect it might have on the patient and the parent or the caregiver. So I ask a lot of questions when I first see somebody, not just about the physical needs like their body or the fit, but also the physical world in which they operate at home. For instance, “What do you do daily?”, “What's their activity level?”. These are important because we want to make sure it's easy to apply and take off any device. If they can't do it themselves and somebody else is doing it for them, you have to take that into consideration. The social angle needs to be taken into consideration when you're supporting patients with CP because in many situations, somebody is caring for them.
5. What do you hope to see in the future of orthotics?
Many people don’t see the progress in orthotics over the years, but there have been many changes. In the past, we used metal and leather, then there was plastic. So the materials became lighter without compromising on function. Now we use carbon fiber which is even lighter than plastic. Also available now are foam braces for the arms which are much more comfortable for the wearer since there is no contact with the plastic. It can still hold the limb in place, but its more comfortable. Improving comfort, function and quality of life are what I look for in bracing. Without those factors, the wearer will not be compliant, and the bracing will go to waste.
6. What do you listen to when you are fabricating the orthotics in your workshop?
John Mayer, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton. I’m a guitar player, so I love all guitar music. There are too many to name!