Prosthetist-orthotists design and custom fit prostheses and orthoses for individuals who are missing a limb from accident, disease, or congenital conditions or for individuals who have impairments, deficiencies, or weaknesses due to injury, pathology, or congenital malformation. They mix patient care with the design and fabrication of these devices to address their patients’ needs.
Prosthetist-orthotists typically do the following:
- assess patients’ needs before an artificial device is made or fitted
- discuss treatment plans with health professionals like physiotherapists and surgeons
- take measurements and use computer modelling to produce prosthetic or orthotic designs
- work with technicians to make the final product
- fit surgical appliances (orthoses) like braces, blades or special footwear
- check that the appliance or limb is comfortable and working properly
- make adjustments or repairs
- follow-up on patients to see how they are coping with their device
The following job titles also refer to prosthetist-orthotist:
artificial limb technician
technologist in prosthetics
Orthotists and prosthetists who fabricate orthotics and prosthetics may be exposed to health or safety hazards when handling certain materials, but there is little risk of injury if workers follow proper procedures, such as wearing goggles, gloves, and masks.
Prosthetists and orthoptists must complete a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics. These programs include courses in upper and lower extremity orthotics and prosthetics, spinal orthotics, and plastics and other materials used for fabrication. In addition, orthotics and prosthetics programs have a clinical component in which the student works under the direction of an orthotist or prosthetist.
ISCO skill level
ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:
- the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
- the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
- the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.
Prosthetist-orthotist is a Skill level 3 occupation.
Prosthetist-orthotist career path
These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to prosthetist-orthotist.
Long term prospects
These occupations require some skills and knowledge of prosthetist-orthotist. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of prosthetist-orthotist with a significant experience and/or extensive training.
Essential knowledge and skills
This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of prosthetist-orthotist.
- Kinetics: The study of movement and its causes.
- Prosthetic devices: The various artificial replacements of body parts or limbs, which were lost during a trauma, disease or an accident.
- Rehabilitation: The methods and procedures used to help an ill or injured person restore lost skills and regain self-sufficiency and control.
- Biomechanics: The use of mechanical means to understand the function and structure of biological organisms.
- Human anatomy: The dynamic relationship of human structure and function and the muscosceletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, endocrine, urinary, reproductive, integumentary and nervous systems; normal and altered anatomy and physiology throughout the human lifespan.
Essential skills and competences
These skills are necessary for the role of prosthetist-orthotist.
- Contribute to continuity of health care: Contribute to the delivery of coordinated and continuous healthcare.
- Archive healthcare users’ records: Properly store the health records of healthcare users, including test results and case notes so that they are easily retrieved when required.
- Record healthcare users’ progress related to treatment: Record the healthcare user’s progress in response to treatment by observing, listening and measuring outcomes.
- Answer patients’ questions: Respond in a friendly and professional manner to all inquiries from current or potential patients, and their families, of a healthcare establishment.
- Contribute to the rehabilitation process: Contribute to the rehabilitation process to enhance activity, functioning and participation using a person-centered and evidence-based approach.
- Communicate effectively in healthcare: Communicate effectively with patients, families and other caregivers, health care professionals, and community partners.
- Collect healthcare user’s general data: Collect qualitative and quantitative data related to the healthcare user’s anagraphic data and provide support on filling out the present and past history questionnaire and record the measures/tests performed by the practitioner.
- Comply with quality standards related to healthcare practice: Apply quality standards related to risk management, safety procedures, patients feedback, screening and medical devices in daily practice, as they are recognized by the national professional associations and authorities.
- Comply with legislation related to health care: Comply with the regional and national legislation that is relevant to one`s work and apply it in practice.
- Listen actively: Give attention to what other people say, patiently understand points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times; able to listen carefully the needs of customers, clients, passengers, service users or others, and provide solutions accordingly.
- Apply health sciences: Apply a broad range of bio-medical, psycho-social, organisational, educational, and societal aspects of health, disease, and healthcare to improve healthcare services and to improve quality of life.
- Adhere to organisational guidelines: Adhere to organisational or department specific standards and guidelines. Understand the motives of the organisation and the common agreements and act accordingly.
- Create lifecasts: Use specialised products such as silicones to create moulds of a person’s hand, face, or other body parts in a process called lifecasting. Use moulds or other materials to create medical devices in the prosthetic and orthotic field.
- Design medical supportive devices: Compose, create and evaluate orthopaedic and prosthetic devices after consulting with physicians, examining and measuring the patient in order to determine the size of the artificial limb.
- Interact with healthcare users: Communicate with clients and their carer’s, with the patient’s permission, to keep them informed about the clients’ and patients’ progress and safeguarding confidentiality.
- Advise on rehabilitation exercises: Educate and advise on rehabilitation exercises to aid long-term recovery, teaching the appropriate techniques to ensure health is maintained.
- Modify lifecasts: Fix and appropriately modify lifecasts to ensure their accuracy.
- Ensure safety of healthcare users: Make sure that healthcare users are being treated professionally, effectively and safe from harm, adapting techniques and procedures according to the person’s needs, abilities or the prevailing conditions.
- Instruct patients on supportive devices: Inform patients on the utilisation and care of orthoses and protheses.
Optional knowledge and skills
This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of prosthetist-orthotist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Hygiene in a health care setting: The procedures related to maintaining a hygienic environment within a health care setting such as hospitals and clinics. It can range from hand washing to cleaning and disinfection of medical equipment used and infection control methods.
- Medical terminology: The meaning of medical terms and abbreviations, of medical prescriptions and various medical specialties and when to use it correctly.
- Orthopaedics: Orthopaedics is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
- Orthopaedic goods industry: The characteristics of devices and suppliers in the orthopaedic devices field.
- Human physiology: The science that studies the human organs and its interactions and mechanisms.
- Orthotics: The manufacture and design of devices used to modify structural functions of the skeletal system.
- Pedorthics: Conditions that affect the feet and lower limbs, and the modification of footwear and supportive devices used to help fix these issues.
- Medical informatics: The processes and tools used for the analysis and dissemination of medical data through computerized systems.
- Orthopaedic conditions: The physiology, pathophysiology, pathology, and natural history of common orthopaedic conditions and injuries.
- Types of orthopedic supplies: Various types of orthopaedic supplies such as braces and arm supports, used for physical therapy or physical rehabilitation.
- Pathology: The components of a disease, the cause, mechanisms of development, morphologic changes, and the clinical consequences of those changes.
- Prosthetic-orthotic device materials: The materials used to create prosthetic-orthotic devices such as polymers, thermoplastic and thermosetting materials, metal alloys and leather. In the choice of materials, attention must be paid to medical regulations, cost and biocompatibility.
- First aid: The emergency treatment given to a sick or injured person in the case of circulatory and/or respiratory failure, unconsciousness, wounds, bleeding, shock or poisoning.
Optional skills and competences
These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of prosthetist-orthotist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.
- Place orders for orthopedic products: Order specialised orthopaedic materials and supplies for the store; maintain the company stock.
- Respond to changing situations in health care: Cope with pressure and respond appropriately and in time to unexpected and rapidly changing situations in healthcare.
- Use e-health and mobile health technologies: Use mobile health technologies and e-health (online applications and services) in order to enhance the provided healthcare.
- Manipulate plastic: Manipulate the properties, shape and size of plastic.
- Assist patients with rehabilitation: Assist to develop and restore patient`s body systems, their neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular and respiratory systems, helping them in the rehabilitation process.
- Recommend orthotic devices: Suggest patients to use tailor-made insoles, padding and arch supports to relieve feet pain.
- Manipulate wood: Manipulate the properties, shape and size of wood.
- Repair prosthetic-orthotic devices: Perform repairs, fix and modify prosthetic-orthotic devices according to the specifications.
- Manipulate prosthetic-orthotic device materials: Alter the materials used for prosthetic-orthotic devices such as metal alloys, stainless steel, composites or polymer glass.
- Provide health education: Provide evidence based strategies to promote healthy living, disease prevention and management.
- Develop therapeutic relationships: Maintain the individual therapeutic relationship to engage the individual’s innate healing capacities, to achieve active collaboration in the health education and healing process and to maximise the potential of healthy change.
- Finish prosthetic-orthotic devices: Complete the manufacturing of prosthetic and orthotic devices by sanding, smoothing, applying paint or lacquer layers, stuffing and covering some parts with leather or textiles.
- Record data from biomedical tests: Use information technology to accurately record and analyse data from biomedical tests, writing reports on the data and sharing results with the appropriate persons.
- Recommend orthopedic goods to customers depending on their condition: Recommend and provide advice on orthopaedic goods and pieces of equipment such as braces, slings or elbow supports. Provide individual advice depending on customer’s specific condition and needs.
- Perform a prosthetic examination of the patient: Examine, interview and measure patients to determine the kind and size of prosthetic and orthotic devices that have to be made.
- Identify patients’ medical records: Locate, retrieve and present medical records, as requested by authorized medical personnel.
- Maintain prosthetic-orthotic devices: Ensure that all prosthetic-orthotic devices are properly stored and taken care of so they maintain their functionality and appearance.
- Test prosthetic-orthotic devices: Ensure that the prosthetic-orthotic devices fit the patient according to specifications. Test and evaluate them to ensure that they work as intended. Make adjustments to ensure proper fit, function and comfort.
- Work in multidisciplinary health teams: Participate in the delivery of multidisciplinary health care, and understand the rules and competences of other healthcare related professions.
- Repair orthopedic goods: Replace and repair orthopaedic material such as prostheses, technical supports and rehabilitation aids.
- Modify casts for prostheses: Fabricate and fit casts for prostheses for patients with partial or total absence of limb; measure, model and produce casts for prostheses and evaluate their fit on the patient.
- Educate patient’s relations on care: Educate patient`s caregivers, family, or employer on how to accommodate and care for the patient.
ISCO group and title
3214 – Medical and dental prosthetic technicians
- Prosthetist-orthotist – ESCO
- Orthotists and Prosthetists : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Prosthetist-orthotist | Explore careers – National Careers Service
- Featured image: By Kelvin Haukila – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0