Jenna Holz is braced to offer her support to the Annapolis Valley with from her new orthotics clinic in Kentville.
The certified orthotist has opened Brackish Biomechanical Bracing in Kentville, where she designs and builds orthoses – externally-applied braces that affect a body part or joint’s movement or positioning – covering a long list of patient needs.
Holz says this career choice is a combination of her passion for art, people and science, and was an answer to her search for a job that felt important.
“That was the thing – I needed to do something I felt would benefit humanity. It’s important things like providing an orthosis for a kid to take their first steps, or to somebody looking to keep living independently. That’s enormous,” says Holz.
Holz’s process begins, like the filling of most medical prescriptions, with a doctor’s referral.
From there, she designs and creates a custom orthosis for each patient beginning with an assessment of their medical condition and unique needs – everything from footwear preferences to lifestyle and hobbies.
“We ask if people do things like gardening, or have kids, because these things can seem small but really determine how they move,” she says.
This assessment is followed by the creation of a treatment plan, payment details, and then the shaping and design of the device. This is where patients get to choose specific details, like patterns and colours, to personalize their device – anything from camouflage patterns to sail boats on a device for a 90-year-old patient.
Holz says her ultimate goal is to create a device her patients are physically and personally comfortable with, and that can adapt to their evolving needs.
“We build adjustability into the design, so we can adjust it as they change, for better or for worse. It’s one of the few products these days that is meant to be repaired and meant to be reserviced – it’s not meant to self-implode or break,” she says.
Her clinic includes a workshop space where she, along with her business and life partner Robert Giles, build the orthoses from scratch and repair existing devices.
It’s also where they make adjustments during the fitting process that follows, where even a few millimetres of adjusting can mean a huge difference in comfort.
“Following up is one of the hallmarks of being an orthotist. We don’t just fit the brace, or the orthosis – everything we do is super tailored to their needs. When you follow up, you can spot small problems and fix them before they get worse,” says Holz.
A career that matters
Holz, who is originally from Renfrew, Ont., says designing and building orthotics is a career that makes sense for her given her interests.
She says her new Kentville clinic made sense because she and Giles have fallen in love with Annapolis Valley life, but also because of a gap that, she says, exists outside the Halifax area, where patients can access orthoses services connected to the city’s hospitals.
She is among a small number of certified orthotists in the province, and says working in a rural area to help those unable to travel to the city was her main priority when selecting where to set up her own clinic.
“Rural patients are just as complex as any urban population, but with the added difficulty of geographic isolation and travel constraints. And because travel is such a barrier, it’s possible it just hasn’t been on anybody’s radar as an option,” she says.
Holz hopes to grow her business through continued connections with general practitioners in the province’s southwestern region and aims to offer satellite services in the future as her patient numbers increase.
She says tailoring her care and treatment to specific rural needs – whether that be crafting extra supplies to someone on Brier Island or designing an orthosis for someone living on North Mountain – will remain a pillar of her work.
“I’m looking forward to providing better access to care for rural Nova Scotians. I’m excited for more people to be able to get the care they need without having to face as many barriers to accessing that care,” she says.
Brackish Biomechanical Bracing is located at 10 Webster Street, Unit 204 in Kentville. For more information, visit the new clinic’s Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/Brackish/.