Prosthetists design and fit artificial limbs (prostheses) to replace limbs that have either been lost through amputation or which were missing at birth.
Orthotists design and fit surgical appliances (orthoses) such as braces, callipers, neck collars and splints, which support the patient’s limbs or spine to relieve pain, aid movement or prevent the worsening of physical deformities. The orthoses may be worn permanently by the patient or used temporarily until they no longer need them.
They begin by assessing the patient to see how much they are able or unable to do. After detailed measurements are taken they may take a plaster cast of the user’s limb or torso to which the prosthesis or orthosis would be fitted, or use shape sensing tracings to produce a cast. Using their knowledge of anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, materials and technology, they can design a suitable device. Once they have designed the finished product they give instructions to the technician, who manufactures it.
They work as part of the clinical team, liaising with the physiotherapist overseeing the user’s exercise regime, the occupational therapist training the user how to perform daily activities with the device, and a consultant.
They carry out follow up checks on the user to see how they are coping with their device and make sure that it is functioning well. Any necessary adjustments and repairs can then be made.
Prosthetists/orthotists usually work Monday to Friday, 37 to 40 hours a week. It may be possible to work some overtime or extra hours. Part-time or flexible hours may also be available.
They are usually based within a specialised centre of a hospital dedicated to the rehabilitation of patients.
There may be some fumes and dirt created during the manufacturing process.
As a prosthetist/orthotist you will need:
Prosthetists and orthotists usually work for commercial orthotic or prosthetic service manufacturing companies contracted to the NHS, although there are an increasing number of opportunities for employment within the NHS.
Opportunities exist to work abroad with, for example, overseas health organisations and manufacturing and servicing companies; British companies with overseas bases; and voluntary organisations such as the Red Cross.
Demand for prosthetists and orthotists in the UK may increase. There is a world-wide shortage of graduate prosthetists and orthotists. UK courses have an internationally renowned reputation.
With experience, they may be able to progress to senior and managerial posts. Other opportunities include research and development.
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