“One of my first patients was just two years old,” recalls BCIT alumna and Certified Prosthetist Brittany Pousett of her early days at Barber Prosthetics. “I made her first prosthesis for her, and watching her grow into a confident, rambunctious five-year old is so rewarding.”
The field of prosthetics gives Brittany the perfect blend of the things she loves most: helping people, creating things and solving problems. As a Certified Prosthetist and head of research at Barber Prosthetics, she juggles clinical days (when she meets and works with individual patients) with research days (when she’s collaborating with other researchers, attending conferences or actively collecting data for current research to help improve the field of prosthetics and patient care as a whole).
“For me, no two days are the same,” says Brittany. “On clinical days, I work with patients. Every appointment is different. Each person has different goals, and my job is to design a prosthesis to help reach those goals. I could be working with someone who has just had an amputation or following up with someone who has grown out of a prosthesis they’ve had for years.”
Brittany and the team of prosthetists and technicians design and manufacture prostheses for a range of ages, from children to the elderly. A walk through the company’s lab reveals just how vast their products are: an artificial leg, designed specifically for swimming is set up for adjustment; a prosthetic arm waits to be custom-painted with the logo of the patient’s favourite band; and a futuristic-looking c-shaped leg, made for high-performing athletes, is ready for fitting. Each prosthetic is as unique as the patient for whom the team at Barber are making it.
On days when she has her research hat on, Brittany moves her focus from the individual patient to improving treatment and technology development for patients in general by collaborating with other research groups at different organizations, including BCIT and Providence Health Care.
“There is so much technology development being done in academic settings or in R&D settings, but that technology doesn’t transition well to the clinic because patients aren’t involved from the beginning,” explains Brittany. “It’s important to bring in the patient’s values from the start so they can easily use the technology. Ultimately, we are doing this for them.”
Getting a hands-on education
Growing up, Brittany had always gravitated to science. But after she completed an undergraduate degree in biophysics in university, she realized she needed to go back to school–this time, to pursue hands-on training that would give her the opportunity to directly impact someone’s life. She says she didn’t need to think long before choosing BCIT’s Prosthetics and Orthotics program, because it gives students the opportunity to apply the skills they’ve learned to a clinical setting.
“Students of BCIT’s program must complete clinical rotations, which gives them great real-world experience,” says Brittany. “At Barber, we take a student once a week for four hours. The students rotate through different settings, including prosthetics clinics, hospitals and rehabilitation centres. After that, there is the two-year residency. Right now, we have a BCIT graduate (who hasn’t yet been certified) doing her residency with us.”
All in the family
BCIT is a bit of a tradition in Brittany’s family. Both of her siblings completed programs at BCIT and are succeeding in their chosen careers. Before them, Brittany’s father studied financial management and her mother completed BCIT’s former legal secretary program.
“Our family is proof that, when you graduate from BCIT, you can have a very meaningful career as soon as you graduate, like I did,” says Brittany proudly. “When people find out what I do, they usually say, ‘Whoa, that is the coolest job’. And I always answer, ‘Yes, it is!’”