Orthotics and prosthetics are the rapidly changing
fields involving orthopedic braces
and artificial limbs. The industry provides a vital service to the rehabilitation
medicine community and to individuals with disabilities.
Orthotics is the designing, fitting and manufacturing of orthopedic braces for individuals
with disabling conditions of the spine and extremities. Prosthetics is the designing,
fitting and manufacturing of artificial limbs for people with limb loss. These individual
disciplines are traditionally combined as a single industry because they share similar
scientific background and manufacturing processes.
Technicians in the industry work with plastic, metal, wood, plaster and leather
to fabricate orthotic and prosthetic devices. They fabricate artificial limbs and
braces according to measurements and prescription requirements under the supervision
of a certified prosthetist or a certified orthotist. They also repair orthotic and
prosthetic appliances and make orthopedic shoe modifications. The work includes
routine maintenance and repair of prostheses and orthoses, maintaining equipment,
and assisting in the design of complex devices. Technicians experience satisfaction
on the job because they play a vital role in helping people become independent and
reach their full potential. The work is relatively clean and does not involve much
heavy lifting, however, it requires a person to be on their feet all day, moving
at a fast pace. With few exceptions the hours and workdays are "regular"
(nine to five, Monday through Friday).
Successful technicians must have good manual dexterity, and be able to use their
upper extremities in a wide range of motions, which include pushing, pulling, bending,
stretching, grasping, etc. An artistic perception, good communication skills, the
ability to use power tools and be able to adapt to constantly changing situations
are also desirable traits. Technician students must also develop a working knowledge
of measurements, basic mathematics and human anatomy.