A growing patient needs their artificial leg refitted so they can keep on the move. A patient diagnosed with cerebral palsy needs a brace to stop them moving uncontrollably and hurting themselves. Another patient injured on the road won’t feel right until they’re able to play the guitar again.
As a prosthetist and orthotist, you could help them all.
What do prosthetists and orthotists do?
Prosthetists and orthotists design, fit, adjust and maintain mechanical devices that attach to patients’ bodies to help them move or to treat an issue.
Prosthetists work with prostheses – artificial limbs. A patient might need a prosthesis if they were born without a limb, or after an accident or trauma. Many prosthetics patients are veterans.
Orthotists work with orthoses – devices like splints, braces or insoles that work like scaffolding for part of the patient’s body. A patient might see an orthotist if they have diabetes, arthritis, cerebral palsy, spina bifida or sports injuries, among many others.
A technician usually takes care of building the device, but prosthetists and orthotists do everything else, including taking casts or scans of the patient, working out what the device needs to do, custom-designing it to fit the patient exactly, and helping them adapt to using it.
What’s the work like?
- Prosthetics and orthotics involve a unique mix of healthcare, engineering and creativity, with a healthy dose of practical problem-solving. No two days are the same, because no two patients are the same.
- Prosthetists and orthotists can work in the NHS or in private practice.
- You’ll work with a team of other health professionals, including technicians, physiotherapists, nurses and doctors.
- Most prosthetists and orthotists work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, and earn good salaries.
What makes a good prosthetist and orthotist?
- Caring. Wanting to help people, to relieve their pain and strain and help them live fuller lives, is the most important quality you need to study and work as a prosthetist and orthotist.
- Interest in health and engineering subjects. As a prosthetics and orthotics student, you’ll study mechanics and materials science alongside anatomy and physiology, learning to be a mechanic for the human body.
- Problem-solving. Prosthetists and orthotists often need to design creative solutions to unique challenges. If you enjoy thinking your way out of boxes, then chances are you’ve got the right kind of brain for the job.