What is an Orthotist and What do they do?
Orthotists are healthcare professionals that work to design, fabricate, and fit orthoses or braces for people with disabilities. They diagnose the patient’s disability then use their expertise in designing aids to correct deficiencies in movement, posture, balance, or other functional limitations. Orthotists have a range of skills including the ability to assess patients, create custom-fit braces or prostheses, and manufacture orthoses.
They may either work in a lab or with other healthcare personnel to fabricate or adjust the orthotic devices.
These professionals create a custom fit for the patient by utilizing their knowledge of anatomy and biomechanics. Orthotists are also skilled at problem-solving and detail-oriented work. Another vital role of the orthotist is to communicate effectively with patients and healthcare professionals.
“Orthotists” can complete their training through a variety of post-secondary institutions. They can earn a bachelor’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics, complete a certified orthotic training program, or earn a master of science in orthotics and prosthetics.
The National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE) organizes standards for orthotic and prosthetic education.
They are both artisans and craftsmen. The orthotist is the person who will place the patient in a mold to take an impression of their body to be used as the pattern. They will then fit the orthosis to the patient using the mold.
Orthotists are employed by hospitals, clinics, and rehabilitation centers. A podiatrist, or a shoe and ankle specialist, can be an orthotist.
These professionals are often found working in hospitals, private practice, or in other medical facilities.
Orthotists may use a variety of materials to create the devices they make. Some examples of these devices include:
Orthoses are used to reduce pain and stiffness in areas like the knees, elbows, or hips when they have been injured. These orthoses restore flexibility and function to the joints.
Orthotists usually work in supervision with a physician, an occupational therapist, or a physical therapist. They work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, rehab centers, and private practice. While orthotists spend the most time in their offices, they may spend time working in a laboratory or manufacturing facility. Some may occasionally visit the home of their patients.
Education requirements vary by state but all states require some type of specific education and/or experience before orthotist can practice.
What is a Prosthetic Technician and What do They Do?
A prosthetic technician (sometimes called an orthotic technician) is a highly-skilled technician who has chosen to work in the field of prosthetics and orthotics.
A prosthetic technician works with people who have suffered physical damage to body parts like arms, legs, hands, feet, and faces. A prosthetic technician is a highly trained individual who works in a clinic and uses the latest technology and tools to design and produce a variety of prostheses that fit the patient’s specific needs.
Prosthetic or Orthotic Technicians are professionals who work closely with doctors and patients, helping to fit and fabricate custom-fitted prosthetic and orthotic limbs, braces, and devices. These can range in complexity, from crutches and splints to artificial legs, arms, and even fingers, toes, and ears.
Prosthetics can be used during the process of healing, as in the case of a cast, or permanently.
A prosthetic technician, or prosthetist, helps amputees learn to use and care for their prostheses in order to maintain the best quality of life possible.
A prosthetic technician works closely with an amputee, their family, and their physician to ensure the prosthetic fits and is functioning properly.
Prosthetic Technician vs Assistant
The role of a prosthetic technician is to create prostheses that can help or replace natural limbs. They have the skillset to design, create and fit orthopedic devices for people with disabilities.
A prosthetic assistant works alongside a technician and can also help create artificial limbs but their work is more constrained to administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments, taking measurements, and billing.
Prosthetic Technician Job Description
The Prosthetic Technician is responsible for assisting the Prosthetic Technologist by performing tasks related to the application of prostheses. This includes having the ability to work with patients who have limited or no use of their limbs, and may also include assisting the Prosthetic Technologist in assembling and fitting prostheses.
- Assist in preparing the patient for fitting of a prosthesis
- Assist in fitting and adjusting prosthesis for the patient
- Assist with the fabrication of various components needed for a prosthesis (elbows, knees, etc)
- Assist with dressing changes as needed
- Assist with cleaning and disinfecting equipment as needed
- Assist with inventory control, ordering supplies as needed
- Minimum of 2 years experience as a Prosthetic Technician or similar role – Demonstrated success working with patients who have limited or no use of their limbs – Excellent written and verbal communication skills – Ability to work well under pressure.
How to Become a Prosthetic Technician?
Once you are ready to begin your career, you will have to decide whether you want to pursue an apprenticeship or a certification program.
In some states, a certification is required to work independently. If you are asked to take a certification exam and you don’t pass, you will be required to complete an apprenticeship.
An apprenticeship allows you to work with a prosthetist for a minimum of two years under their supervision. In most cases, students complete an accredited program to become a prosthetic tech but in select instances you may find an available apprenticeship.
In order to become a professional prosthetic technician, most will need to attend a prosthetics course from an accredited institution. There are a few different types of courses you can choose from. In a modular course, you will take one course at a time. In a fully accredited course, you will take a series of courses that will prepare you for a career in the prosthetics profession.
Education and Degree Requirements for Prosthetic Technician Programs
The National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE), in partnership with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), serves as the CoA for orthotist/prosthetist, orthotic/prosthetic technician, orthotic/prosthetic assistant and pedorthic education.
The standard education requirements for a prosthetic technician are an associate degree or vocational degree. For certain positions, some employers may require a bachelor’s degree.
The typical curriculum for a prosthetic technician program covers anatomy, physiology, drafting, blueprint reading, hand-sketching, construction math, computer-assisted design (CAD), moldmaking, construction/shop work, and more.
Coursework might also include material on CNC machines and robotics, microcomputers, and worker safety. Students also learn how to handle materials from vinyl to fiberglass to polyethylene.
Many programs offer extensive laboratory work including hands-on modeling, casting and fitting, and in some cases, working with patients.
As a prosthetics technician, you’ll work in a hospital setting, a rehabilitation clinic, a prosthetics clinic, or a private practice.
Those who want to work in an orthopedic setting will learn how all the parts of a body work, as well as how to use various tools to create artificial limbs and body parts. Prosthetic technicians also learn to fit a patient with an artificial limb.
In a prosthetics lab, the technicians build the artificial limbs from wire, fiberglass, plastic, wood, and rubber. It’s a highly technical process, which involves computer-aided design and blueprints.
“It’s more than just getting a cast on a person and building them a limb.
While prosthetic technician certification is voluntary, many employers prefer to hire certified technicians because they may have better job prospects.
A prosthetic technician or assistant is an excellent gateway and starting point in the orthotist and prosthetist industry. If you love the challenge and its rewards, you may want to begin your education. Click the blue Find Schools button to compare orthotist and prosthetic technician programs online and nearby.