Orthotics is a branch of health sciences that deals with the rehabilitation of the handicapped people by evaluating their orthopedic requirements such as orthopedic braces, splinters, special footwear or sometimes requirements for artificial palms, hands, feet or legs.
Though the subject of orthotics covers major aspects about the manufacturing, customization, fabrication and fitting of orthosis devices including artificial legs and hands, more specialized knowledge on artificial limbs is dealt under the subject of prosthetics. Orthotics profession uses both medical and engineering principles for the successful rehabilitation of the patients.
Who is an Orthotist?
A professionally qualified person in the field of orthotics is called as an orthotist. More precisely, an orthotist is a highly trained healthcare professional concerned with the manufacturing and custom fitting of orthosis. Profession of an orthotist is a highly prestigious health profession with varied responsibilities for the overall rehabilitation and well being of the patients, mostly accident victims whose legs or hands are amputated.
A profession as an orthotist is considered to be the most rewarding career of all health professions because an orthotist is there to make a difference in the lives of so many people who had to lose a leg or a hand or toes or fingers or other body parts in horrible accidents or some other mishaps. Orthotics practitioners also help people who are suffering from limb abnormalities or malfunctions. Orthotics principles are also applied for the rehabilitation of the patients who had to lose their limbs owing to diseases such as diabetes, cancer, polio or muscular degeneration.
What is an Orthosis?
An orthosis is a medical device that is used to assist human movement or to support weak limbs artificially in cases of limb amputation, limb malfunctioning or limb deformities. Various orthosis devices include orthopedic braces, splints, special footwear and artificial limbs.
Career Options in Orthotics
A number of exciting job opportunities are available for qualified orthotists in the healthcare industry. Major careers are as professional orthotists or orthotics practitioners; fitter-artificial limbs; orthotist assistants; and orthotics technicians. Experienced orthotics practitioners may set up own private practice servicing private clients.
Orthotists or Orthotics Practitioners
To begin a career as a practicing orthotist one need to have at least a post graduate level qualification in orthotics and prosthetics. A professional orthotist leads a well experienced and well equipped orthotics team in order to perform various professional functions. He interacts with a patient and assesses his rehabilitation requirements before finalizing a custom-made rehabilitation program.
He supervises whether the recommended rehabilitation program is carried out efficiently by his team and if necessary guides them to perform their professional duties. As an orthotist, a practitioner in orthotics is responsible for assisting patients suffering from muscular, locomotor or skeletal disorders to come back to the normalcy of daily life by using their professional knowledge in orthotics and advanced orthotics technologies.
To begin a career as orthotics-fitter, one needs to have at least a graduation in orthotics and prosthetics. Major career responsibility of a fitter is to ensure the custom fitting of the artificial limbs to the maximum patient satisfaction. A fitter takes the measurements of the artificial limbs to be manufactured, evaluates the patient requirements, and fabricates the patient requirements before finally custom-fitting the manufactured artificial limbs to the patient’s body.
They are responsible to provide clerical support to the practicing orthotists. They also help the patients with various orthotics therapy practices such as helping them to move around in their newly fitted artificial limbs.
Orthotics Technicians are responsible for the efficient handling of various orthosis medical devices such as orthosis braces, orthosis splinters, orthosis footwear and artificial limbs. Orthotics technicians maintain and test various orthotics equipments and systems for safety and comfort able usage.
Orthotics practitioners are employed by multi-specialty hospitals; rehabilitation centers; specialty clinics and health centers; nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.
Academic Qualifications Required
Aspiring orthotics practitioners must have at least a Bachelor’s degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics to begin a career in the field of orthotics. Post graduates in orthotics and prosthetics are sometimes preferred by large multi-specialty hospitals and health care facilities.
Graduate and post graduate programs in orthotics and prosthetics are offered by many colleges and universities in the United States of America. After the successful completion of a higher secondary qualification, career aspirants may directly apply to any of the universities or colleges for admission into an Honors program in orthotics. Admission standards may vary from institution to institution.
Professional Certifications Required
Practicing orthotists are recommended to have a membership with the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA). It is always an added advantage to get a professional certification from the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthics.
Compensation package of a professional working in the field of orthotics varies widely depending on the qualifications, professional experience and location of practice. According to AOPA, Entry level annual salary of a resident orthotics practitioner with less than a year of professional experience was $37,007 in the year 2009.
An ABC certified Orthotist or Orthotics Practitioner with an average of 15 years of professional experience earned an annual salary of $95,667 in the year 2009. An ABC certified orthotics technician with 11 years of professional experience earned an annual salary of $48,214 while fitter-artificial limbs with 6 years of experience earned $38,581 in the same year.
Personal Qualities Required
Career aspirants in the field of orthotics must have a genuine interest to support people who are handicapped and mentally distressed. They must have a pleasant personality and strong empathy. They should make sure that their patients get the most of their services and their goal should be to make a marked difference in the lives of the handicapped people.
A sound professional knowledge is a mandatory requirement for a practicing orthotist. Orthotists generally work in a team of multi-skilled healthcare professionals and hence good communication and team management skills are necessary. An orthotist must also have good interpersonal skills as his profession requires interacting with the patients and their families on daily basis.