In this podcast, we talk with Rachael Snodgrass, Assistant Director of Admissions at Salus University. She talks to us about the Orthotics and Prosthetics (O&P) program and tips and tricks for applying.
Q: What is there to expect from the O&P program?
Snodgrass: The O&P program at Salus is a new program that we have here. We are excited to kick it off with our first cohort of students and faculty. There's definitely a hands-on learning experience with new lab spaces and learning tools that we have, all for the O&P students.
We have a passionate team of faculty and staff that work with the smaller cohort of students and there's a lot of support and guidance from the team to the students [to] the lab spaces, state-of-the-art learning equipment that they have, brand new, right on campus. So, some exciting things for the new program.
Q: What is the curriculum like within the program?
Snodgrass: The O&P program is broken up into two developmental phases. The first one is a 16-month didactic phase, and that focuses on all of the criteria needed to become an orthotist/prosthetist. Building on foundational knowledge, technical skills and clinical abilities, all of the learning that they need to be done on campus is in that 16-month, first developmental phase.
The second phase is an 18-month clinical residency that is broken down into three, six-month residencies. Students are able to get an in-depth knowledge at each residency, for a full six months to build rapport, in each area. That ultimately helps them to find a job, too, when they leave campus because they're able to build strong relationships and rapport, and ultimately find an area and a sector that aligns with them upon graduation. It's not something they have to seek out themselves. It's integrated right into the curriculum, so it makes it pretty seamless for them.
Q: What is the academic timeline of the program?
Snodgrass: Like I was mentioning, the curriculum is split up in those two phases. The 16-month didactic and the 18-month residency. It makes the program a total of 34 months long.
Q: Can you go into a little bit more of what on-campus facilities this program can use?
Snodgrass: We were fortunate and honored to be given a grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). We were given $750,000 exclusively for this program and to build these lab spaces and to have all this awesome new technology for our students to use. We have ovens, we have machine shops for sanding and cutting. We have also a tinker lab, a lab for students specifically to get their hands on some of the tools that they're using. So, they can be curious with it, they can learn about it, they can literally feel it out before utilizing it on a patient. It just fosters their curiosity and their learning and gets them excited to be able to use some of the new tools that they will be using with patients.
Q: What is student life like for these students that come into the program?
Snodgrass: For all the students at Salus, we encourage being a part of the University, not just within your program, but also being involved in other sectors. We have other University groups, like student ambassadors. We have different volunteer groups that we encourage students to be a part of. That helps build relationships with individuals from other programs too, but specifically with the O&P program.
We have the goal to keep these cohort sizes pretty small. This first cohort size is eight students. We are looking to have no more than 24 to cover all of the cohorts to come. We want to keep it pretty small and close-knit, and that gives the students the ability to build relationships with one another. Not only do they have that support system while they're going through the program, but they also can build relationships with one another so they can get together, they can do other things outside of school together. They can go into the city and go and explore different areas together. It gives them the opportunity to again, just build those relationships with each other, not just as peers, but they become close as friends within the program too.
Q: What are some of the admissions requirements and tips for the O&P program?
Snodgrass: At Salus, we work with OPCAS, the Orthotics and Prosthetics Centralized Application System. It's essentially one application that candidates can fill out and it can be sent to multiple O&P schools. The application cycle opens in July one year prior to the year of desired enrollments, then it closes on May 1 of the year of desired enrollment.
We recommend candidates apply in the earlier end of the admissions cycle because we work on a rolling admissions basis, meaning that we start to review applications and process applications and invite candidates to interview on the earlier end in the cycle, and then we start to fill the class as we roll through the admission cycle.
In terms of some of the requirements for the program, we do require a bachelor's degree and a C- or higher in all of the prerequisite requirements. These are listed on our website as well, and they're updated on there, but just the lecture for anatomy and physiology, biology or life science, chemistry, physics, statistics, and psychology. We also require two letters of recommendation, one coming from the teaching faculty, the other can come from anybody in some sort of authority to the candidates, and GRE scores are optional. We require 40 hours of observation experience, and that's with a Certified Orthotist/Prosthetist (CPO), and we also encourage shadowing in other disciplines as well, like occupational therapy or physical therapy, to get an idea of what the whole rehabilitative team looks like.
We also want to mention that in order to be a competitive qualified candidate, we always recommend candidates go above and beyond the minimum requirements. Even though our minimum requirement is a C- or higher, a competitive candidate will go above and beyond that in the prerequisite courses, and instead of just the minimum of 40 hours of required observation, a more competitive candidate could go upwards of 80 to 100 hours of diverse O&P observation experience. That's what we would recommend to be a qualified and a competitive candidate for the O&P program.
Q: Once students have applied to the program, what is the evaluation process like?
Snodgrass: When we are looking at applications for the O&P program, we take a very holistic view. Something that shines brightly is if students have a major that might be in exercise science or rehab science or kinesiology. That looks really, really great. However, we will consider any candidate coming from any background into the program.
That's when the other piece comes in with the experience within the field. We feel like that's something that can give candidates who want a great view of what the field looks like, but also when they're speaking about the field, they can speak about what's up to date, what's currently going on, and the area that they're observing and maybe how that looks different from other areas that they've observed.
The ability to speak about the field shines brightly. So, I think that comes into play. Then also, just speaking about their motivation and enthusiasm to get into the field, and that could come within a personal statement. Then when it comes time for the admissions interview, speaking about those experiences can shine brightly too.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about the program?
Snodgrass: This is a really exciting field that is up and coming and it's growing and we are so excited to be a pivotal factor in the profession and producing these clinicians here at Salus. If you are considering if O&P is a good choice for you, I would say if you're interested in being hands-on, tactile with your learning and crafting and being creative and also being part of, again, that rehabilitative team, I think O&P could be a great option to pursue. Definitely reach out to Admissions if you are looking forward to looking at the lab spaces and what the new spaces look like and how you could see yourself in it, we'd be happy to coordinate that and bring you to campus and show you around.
For more information about the program, you can visit Salus.edu/OP.