A Conversation With Molly McCoy, L/CPO

In this issue, O&P News poses five questions to Molly McCoy, L/CPO.

McCoy is a Washington state licensed, certified prosthetist/orthotist with 20 years of experience in O&P.

After graduating from the University of Washington, she completed her residencies at an independent practice in Kentucky. She then worked in both Kentucky and Indiana as a practitioner in settings ranging from rural clinics, to level 1 trauma hospitals, to Shriners Hospital. McCoy also worked as director of clinical and technical services for SPS, providing clinical education courses before returning to O&P practice in Washington and teaching lower extremity prosthetics at the University of Washington.

Currently, McCoy is the manager of clinical education for SPS. She aims to provide current information on documentation practices that help practitioners care for their patients.

Understanding the challenges of daily clinic life for prosthetists and orthotists, McCoy’s goal is to bring needed information to practitioners in a format that is quick and easy to absorb with as little disruption to busy practices as possible. She is a member of the O&P News 175.

O&P News: What are your hobbies outside of work?

McCoy: I have two kids aged 10 years and 12 years who take up most of my non-work time. I volunteer as a board member for the Arc of King County, an organization that supports community integration for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I also sew as a way to clear my mind and increase creativity.

O&P News: Who has had the greatest influence on your career?

McCoy: In 1994, a man, who shall remain nameless, owned an O&P shop that I visited when I was 18 years old in order to learn more about the field. He had a huge impact on me. I was thinking about being an O&P technician or nurse. I called ahead and explained that I wanted to learn more about being a technician and asked if I could come see how their company operated and what their technicians did on a daily basis.

When I got there, he took me back to the shop, showed me around, answered my questions, then he said “Sweetie, as you can see, this is a job for men. Maybe you would do better as an O&P secretary?” I was so furious, I decided right then that I would become a practitioner just to spite him. Luckily, it turned out I enjoyed the work and that is the reason I stayed.

Another person who influenced me was my first boss in the O&P shop I worked in as a technician assistant during college. He told me from day one, “You do not stop until you have completed your degree and have become certified in both prosthetics and orthotics. This way, you will be able to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way and have a long career in this field. We need more women in O&P.”

Molly McCoy, L/CPO

I started in O&P when it was just 9% female and have been thrilled to watch that number grow to almost 50/50. During the last 20 plus years, there have been many more supporters than detractors on my path, but that first encounter was a moment I look back on with gratitude for the kick-start it provided.

O&P News: What advice would you offer to O&P students today?

McCoy: Do not listen to the “chicken littles” of our field who say the whole thing is crashing down around us and O&P will not be around much longer. This message seems so pervasive lately and the “doom and gloom” can be truly depressing for new graduates who have just spent years getting a master’s degree.

The field is changing rapidly and it is difficult to keep up, but new O&P graduates have the advantage of not being stuck in the old ways of doing things. Recognize that, like any job, there are super fun parts like patient care and hands-on creation of prostheses and orthoses, and there are less glamorous parts, too.

Documentation, technical writing and insurance policy knowledge, are all huge and important parts of being a practitioner now. Learn how to document effectively and efficiently. Understand payer policies and keep up to date on them. Those are the best ways to ensure balance between the administrative side of being a practitioner and the hands-on side.

It is not easy to run a business in this new health care environment, but it is possible and in my opinion, current students and recent graduates have the best chance to be successful.

O&P News: Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to have been part of medical history in the making?

McCoy: When I was working at the University of Washington, I was surrounded by medical innovation and research. I had the great fortune to work with a physical therapist and his lab team who research brain computer interfaces to speed recovery from spinal cord injury. They fully welcomed me into their lab, where I was able to watch brain implant surgeries, participate in their monthly literature review discussion sessions and help train lab rats during rehab. We talked about cutting-edge medical science research, like gaming for rehabilitation and how it might be used to help people with amputation learn to use their prostheses quicker. The idea that humans are only a few years away from functional brain-computer interfacing feels much like medical history in the making to me. The fact that those interfaces will someday have an impact on O&P just makes it that much more exciting.

O&P News: What is up next for you?

McCoy: I do not know and I love that. I have worked in almost every position possible in O&P, from floor sweeper to filing clerk, practitioner to college level instructor and everything in between. O&P has been good to me, giving me opportunities to explore all my varied interests and learn something new every day. I love what I am doing now and I am excited to find out what the next adventure will be.

Bottom line is, within the O&P family of patients, manufacturers and practitioners, I have found my “tribe,” so whatever I end up doing next is bound to be joyful.

Disclosure: McCoy reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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