Students compete in "Splint Off"

Posted by ASHT on 03/06/2014

Students from the College of Mount St. Joseph’s physical therapy, Xavier University’s occupational therapy and the University of Cincinnati’s physical therapy programs recently competed in the third annual Crosstown Splint Off – a competition that challenges students to use three different splint materials and no more than four non-splint components to create a sculpture that represents a current or emerging area of therapy practice.
“Many of these students have no idea how to use splinting materials when they start helping patients,” said ASHT member Meg Robinson, OTR/L, CHT, of St. Elizabeth Hand Therapy Center. “This friendly competition will give them a chance to feel comfortable with the material before having to put it on a person.”

Robinson, who has worked in hand therapy for 28 years and taught for 20, created the competition when she noticed how nervous therapy students were just to handle the splint material, let alone create a splint for a patient. The Splint Off process begins with a hands-on introductory lecture/lab where Robinson teaches the properties, handling techniques and uses of the three basic materials (Polyform, Aquaplast, Ezeform) used in common splinting practice.
“The ultimate goal of this event is to help students feel more comfortable with splinting, learn the basic qualities of various splint materials and have fun,” said Robinson. “It’s also is a nice collaboration between OTs and PTs, students and professionals and the different schools.”
The students are divided into teams of three and four. They research their topics, construct and name their sculptures and then give a short presentation about their topic and structure, as well as what they learned in the process.
The structures are judged on uniqueness and originality, aesthetic and professional quality (smoothness, neatness, craftsmanship), materials selection, complexity and intricacy. The panel includes two judges from each school, two guests (usually a hospital administrator and a surgeon) and two hand therapists. The winning team returns to their school with Crosstown Splint Off trophy and from there keeps it until next year's challenge.
The 2014 winner was a team of OT students from Xavier University. The sculpture was called “The Road to the Centennial Vision.”

This year, Robinson and the clinical advisors from the three schools involved gathered some data with a pre-test and two post-tests that address the students' comfort level with splinting in general. They have not yet tallied the data, but are planning to release the results in the future.
“It seems to be working,” said Robinson of the competition. “The sculptures get better and better each year and when I've had a student on a clinical, they are much more comfortable trying to splint. They also do much better during their wrist cock-up lab that I give after they have worked on or completed their sculptures.”
Robinson said organizers are planning to expand the competition to other therapy schools, and hoping to make it a regional – and someday national – competition.
“For now, we are growing and learning and it has been a great learning experience for the students, as well,” she said.