Skip navigation

Karen Edwards Blogger

Profile of Women in O&P Leadership - September 2016

Posted by Karen Edwards | September 23, 2016

​Welcome to the September edition of the ÖWLI blog. What a great month this has been! We are still pumped up from the Össur Women's Leadership Conference. What a phenomenal three days (check out the reviews at the end of this blog)! Over 30 women in the O&P profession attended, and we had a blast networking, sharing business ideas, gaining new leadership skills and preparing to lead this profession into a bright future. We came back with lots of ideas for next year's conference, and we will begin working on a date very soon. 

Speaking of events, our next webinar is just around the corner (Oct. 14). Our topic this quarter is "Personal Branding." An email with registration info will be sent out later in the week, but YOU can register today by clicking HERE. We hope you can spend your lunch hour (or close to your lunch hour) with us that day attending this educational and interactive event.

This month we continue our Profile of Women in O&P Leadership series in which we highlight a woman who is a leader in the O&P profession. This month we are pleased to highlight Nicole Soltys, CPO, Clinical Operations Manager, P&O, of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Name and current title: Nicole Soltys, ABC CPO; Clinical Operations Manager, P&O of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

Hometown: Chicago, IL

School: Northwestern University Prosthetic-Orthotic Center (NUPOC)

Number of years in O&P: 14

Current Leadership Positions:

  • Clinical Operations Manager, RIC
  • ACPOC Program Committee Member
When did you know you wanted to be a CPO? During my undergraduate studies in Biomedical Engineering at Marquette University, I heard about NUPOC from a fellow classmate who was planning to apply, I did some research into it, and decided that a career as a prosthetist would allow me to pursue my interests in math, science, and art.
What contributions have you made to the field?  The most important contribution we make is the care we provide to our patients.  I value getting to know our patients to truly understand their needs and goals.  I have received great mentoring as a resident and new clinician and enjoy paying it forward through mentoring residents and supporting my teammates through challenging patient cases.  As I moved into a leadership role, I reduced my direct patient care, but now I get to reach an even greater number of patients by supporting a whole group of dedicated prosthetists, orthotists, and technicians.
What obstacles have you overcome to achieve your success?  I wouldn't go so far as to call them obstacles, but I have three beautiful and very spunky children, Grace, Dean, and Oliver.  Throughout the past 10 years, I have navigated the details of working in O&P while pregnant, preparing for and returning from maternity leave, working a reduced schedule when my children were very young, and the ongoing challenges and worries of mothering.
What risks have you taken that have paid off?  I didn't wait until I felt "ready" to take on a leadership position.  I stretched myself outside of my comfort zone and found that with practice and support, the things that were difficult at first about leading a team got easier over time.  As things get easier, I stretch myself a bit more, set higher goals, and look for new challenges. 
How do you define success?  Success is abundant when you remember to look at the bright side of things.  Prepare for the worst but hope for the best.  Every mistake or failure is a learning opportunity.
What is the key to your success?  I work hard. I choose to spend my time with positive people whenever possible. I look for a new angle when things get rough, and I try to practice loving kindness toward difficult or negative people.
Have you used a mentor? Who helped you along the way?  I have had some great mentors, and a few really stand out:  Jon Wilson, CPO, encouraged me and welcomed me as I was looking for a place to volunteer while preparing to attend NUPOC.  He allowed me to assist in his practice with fabrication (he taught me how to mix plaster, fabricate foot orthoses, and use a trautman), allowed me to be a second set of hands for the practitioners, and let me assist in the front office.  Robert Lipschutz, CP, has been a generous clinical mentor through residency and beyond, and Walter Afable, CP, has been an invaluable leadership mentor and challenged me and supported me in taking on a leadership role.
What is your perception of being a woman in the O&P field?  I work in a large hospital where women make up the majority of the clinical staff (nurses, PTs, OTs).  Our staff in the prosthetics and orthotics department is 50/50 male/female.  Most new patients and families are accustomed to working with female healthcare professionals throughout their rehabilitation process, so they don't think twice about working with a female prosthetist.  In my day-to-day work, being a woman in O&P is no big deal, but I have noticed that the majority of business owners and executives in O&P are male and there is still a wage gap between men and women in O&P. 
How have things changed for women in the field during your career?  The number of women practitioners entering the O&P field is growing.  When I was at NUPOC, the orthotics class was 50% female and the prosthetics class was 25% female.  It seems that the number of women entering the field keeps growing so that graduating MPO classes are now pretty evenly split between men and women.
What advice would you give to a new practitioner and/or to young women entering the field? Be confident in your abilities.  If you feel that you are not strong enough to do something, ask for tips and look for a smarter way.  Your brain can more than make up for anything you lack in brawn.
What challenges do you think women face in the O&P field?  Women in O&P face the same challenges that any working woman faces: to be respected and heard.  Specifically, for working mothers, the greatest challenge is to be comfortable with the effort that you put in at home and at work and to believe that it is enough.
How can we get more women in leadership roles within O&P?  Women in leadership positions in the field should mentor those with leadership interest and potential, encouraging them to stretch beyond their comfort level and try something that they might not feel ready for yet.  Women who want to take on a leadership position should ask for feedback from a mentor they trust and take that feedback to heart.  Work to know your own weak spots and then work to improve them.
What leaders do you admire?  I admire leaders who genuinely care about those that they lead and serve, and who use that sense of caring to make the best decisions possible with the information and resources at hand.


THANK YOU to Nicole for sharing her insights with us and for being a great example of a leader in our profession! We will be highlighting one female O&P leader each quarter, so please email us names of women you think we should feature!


THE REVIEWS ARE IN and everyone who participated agreed that the Össur Women's Leadership Conference was a smashing success! We will keep you posted on details of our conference in 2017, but in the meantime, these rave reviews from this year's attendees should get you ready to pack your bags for next year:

"One of the best conferences I've attended…Our profession suffers from a lack of creativity when it comes to conferences. This event breaks that stereotype!"

"The last few days were amazing! I can't wait for the next one!"

"This was a wonderful experience…more than just a conference – it's been a joy to be empowered together!"

"Great gathering of leaders who are all engaged in moving the profession forward!"

"I was truly blessed to hear the amazing speakers and truly enjoyed the interaction with the attendees and the round table."

"It was wonderful to be a part of this meeting and spend time with such wonderful women leaders in our profession."

"It was an absolutely phenomenal conference, the best I have ever attended… The topics were unique and not ever covered in school, employer trainings, or industry conferences."

"The ÖWLI conference was created in a way to develop a supportive and collaborative environment that worked perfectly for female personalities.  The ÖWLI conference was an amazing tool to promote professional development in a novel way, as well as create connections between industry professionals."


MARK YOUR CALENDARS:  Reserve a spot on your schedule for the following upcoming ÖWLI events…

ÖWLI Quarterly Book Recommendation: Need a good book to get you revved up to take charge of your life and your career? Then check out: "You are a Badass:  How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life," by Jen Sincero. Let us know what you think by sharing your feedback on the ÖWLI Facebook page!

Oct. 14, 2016, 12-1pm:  ÖWLI Webinar Series. Our topic this quarter is "Personal Branding 101" led by Kristy Wallace, President at Ellevate Network. Personal Brands: we all have one, whether we want one or not, a digital footprint available to the world. Your individual brand is essential to your success in the workplace whether you are an entry-level beginner or a seasoned executive. Here is an opportunity to learn how to take back control and cultivate your own personal brand to ensure YOU are marketed to the maximum effect. Have your personal brand convey exactly what you want it to before someone else defines it for you. In this session you'll learn what makes a successful personal brand and how to develop yours. Register HERE today!


Thanks to all of you for supporting ÖWLI, yourself and other women in the O&P profession!

Until October,

Karen Edwards

Director, Össur Women's Leadership Initiative


ÖWLI Quote of the Month (Nicole's favorite quote):  "Be kind whenever possible.  It is always possible."  – The Dalai Lama

Talk to us!! Your feedback is welcomed and encouraged! Please let us know what you think of our initiative, share your ideas, share your victories, or just say "hi" by emailing us at And follow us on Twitter @OWLIOssur.