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Hidden Healthcare: Plaster technician breaks the mould

Friday, May 17, 2019 emergencypainrecoveryrehabilitation
Plaster technician Jason Colston's job satisfaction comes from helping people avoid the surgeon’s table

Hidden Healthcare takes a look behind the scenes at some of the health professionals powering regional Victoria's largest hospital.

Plaster technician combines art and science

Few healthcare professionals combine art and science like plaster technician Jason Colston.

Twenty-three years ago he began his Bendigo Health career as a cleaner, then he became a porter but always felt drawn toward the plaster room.

“Since my footy days I’ve had an interest in how you can fracture bones, plaster something and it just heals itself,” he said.

After a 10-day crash course and a few wobbly moments when he saw his first compound fractures, Jason developed a feel for the craft, and more importantly, the patient.

“You have to treat patients as though they are your partner or children,” he said, as he shuts down a Thomas the Tank video used to distract one of the many children that come into the plaster room.

Jason spends most of his time in the emergency department, but visits the wards when required.

Skiers, footballers, tradespeople, adventurous children or the elderly are the most common patients Jason sees, but each injury has its intricacies, he said.

“We recently had an older women come in with a fractured ankle in three places, displaced, it was a bit of a mess, but we managed to get it back in place perfectly, anatomical, it was amazing really,” he said.

Jason’s job satisfaction comes from helping people avoid the surgeon’s table.

Just last week he put a Smith’s fracture back into place by moulding the cast.

“If we can do the best we can for people to avoid surgery, then it’s a great outcome,” he said.

Incorrectly set bones can cause abnormal bone growth and ultimately, deformities, with the first 10 days considered the most crucial in recovery.

Aside from on-the-job training, Jason has completed a Certificate IV in cast technology, a qualification which he believes is becoming increasingly rare among medical practitioners.

“I suppose you could say it (plastering) is a dying art,” he said.

Melbourne-based leading plaster technician John Kinealy, who helped develop the certificate and has taught numerous PTs like Jason, said the rise of surgical intervention in the 1990s changed the role and perceived importance of the plaster technician.

“It (plastering) is a skill that if it’s lost will be a detriment to the healthcare profession,” he said.

Jason has passed his knowledge on, teaching Doctors, medical students and physios the basic principles of casting, travelling to places like Swan Hill to improve the quality of casting in more remote areas.

He has also provided expertise for a number of internal clinical training videos, which can be found here: http://www.edcentral.com.au/clinical-resources/trauma-resources/paediatric-fractures