Learning how to splint can be difficult when you’re not doing it all the time.
Splinting material can also be costly, and most facilities wont let you practice on expensive materials. Also, you don’t really have the option of messing it up on a patient.
So how do you practice splinting and become and expert?
Start with a good pair of scissors and cardboard/cloth to learn the pattern. Practice on a friend and once you feel comfortable, experiment with a small piece of thermoplastic.
Every OT should know how to splint
Most OTs work in a setting that eventually presents a splinting problem. Maybe you work in an acute rehab, hospital, or pediatric clinic and the doctor orders a splint that isn’t available.
Or maybe you have a patient that would benefit from a splint. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to quickly make one?
I’ve seen doctors ask NICU physical therapists to provide splints for their patients, and they have no idea what to do. Splinting can feel challenging, but it really isn’t as hard as you might think.
For most, all you need is a little practice.
How to practice splinting with affordable materials
Splinting material is expensive, and eventually you’ll need it, but start with cardboard or cloth. You don’t need patterns. In fact, they will slow you down. Instead, learn the landmarks and purpose of the splint. My book covers this more in depth.
After you feel comfortable with cardboard, progress to thermoplastic. I recommend buying a small piece of thermoplastic that you can reuse. You’ll also need a splint pan, but you can use an electric skillet for much less.
Practice makes perfect
After you’ve mastered splinting with cardboard, buy a 9×6 piece of splint material and practice the 3 most common splints (wrist cockup, tip protector, and thumb spica). You should be able to make all 3 of these splints with one small piece of thermoplastic.
You can also get foam padding. It’s not necessary, but it will make your splint look better.
Another way to practice is by watching other people splint. There’s not a perfect splint pattern or method to splint, and every hand therapist has a different technique that works for them.
The more you learn from others, the more you’ll know what works for you.
How to get faster at splinting
Splinting isn’t like learning the piano that takes months or years to master. You should be able to master the 10 basic splints in a few days. I would recommend practicing 3 hours a day for 3-4 days.
Learn how to splint without patterns. I’m not just trying to advertise my book. Patterns can be good at first, but they will slow you down. Splinting without patterns will help you become more confident and efficient.
The more you practice, the more fast and confident you’ll become. If you work at an office that does splinting every day, you’ll be an expert in a week.
If you’re not confident at every splint, practice during your down time at work or visualize and practice making one splint at home everyday.
This will also help you learn a variety of different splint patterns.
You’ll also get faster at splinting if you can visualize it. There’s a great video about a rock climber who pulls off an insane flash climb by visualizing it. He doesn’t practice the climb over and over. Instead, he studies the climb and plans every move before his accent.
If you know the purpose, function, and design of the splint, you can visualize it and you won’t have to over think it.
Courses on splinting for hand therapy
There are a ton of places to learn how to splint for hand therapy. I would definitely check out my ebook to help you learn how to splint without patterns, but be sure to check out medbridge. They have a ton of information for hand therapy and you can get a pretty decent with my discount code OTFOCUS.
Let’s go over what we’ve talked about in this post.
Your splinting will improve if you can practice often. Start simple by using cardboard or cloth to cut out your splint design. Practice on a friend. Progress to thermoplastic and start splinting without using patterns.
David is the lead editor of OT Focus. He has been practicing as an Occupational Therapist since 2013. He specializes in acute care, hand therapy, and ergonomics.