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Practical or MechanicalHelping or advisingAnalytic or ScientificSkill Level 5

Prosthetists make and fit artificial limbs (prostheses).

Orthotists design, build and fit orthopaedic braces, callipers, splints and other supportive devices (orthoses).  Future Growth Very Strong

It is possible for these two roles to be performed by the same person, though it's common to specialise in just one field.

Prosthetists/orthotists consult closely with patients to build customised devices, specially designed for the patient's individual needs. Once the prosthesis or orthosis has been fitted, the prosthetist/orthotist provides training to the patient in how to use and maintain the device.

These workers must continually update their knowledge to stay current with advances in technology which may allow lighter, stronger and more naturally functioning devices to be built.

Alternative names: Orthotist

Old devices.
Read the story of an Australian at the forefront of developing new technologies

Knowledge, skills and attributes

A prosthetist/orthotist needs:

  • excellent communication skills

  • the ability to empathise with patients and their families

  • excellent problem solving skills

  • an interest in anatomy, physiology and biomechanics

  • creativity to design and produce devices

  • to enjoy and have an aptitude for technical, practical and mechanical work

Did You Know?

24 October 2018, Richard Fidler interviewed Dave Henson

Conversations with Richard Fidler

Listen to his story

Dave served as an officer with the British Army's Royal Engineers in Afghanistan from 2008.

He volunteered to lead a unit in the dangerous, painstaking work of IED detection.

In 2011, an explosion took both Dave’s legs, along with his army career.

Dave made an astonishingly fast recovery, using competitive sport as a means of focus.

Within a year of being injured he'd taken up swimming and sitting volleyball; and discovered a talent for blade running.

As a runner, Dave’s won numerous world championship medals, and bronze at the Rio Paralympics in the T42 category.

In parallel with his physical recovery, Dave returned to his first career, as an engineer.

He devoted himself to his studies, gaining a Masters, then a PhD in amputee biomechanics.

Through his work at the Royal British Legion Centre for Blast Injury Studies (at Imperial College London), Dave brings his engineer’s mind and veteran’s sensibility to the advancement of prosthetics.

He has since triumphed as a competitor, been UK Team Captain, and become a Trustee for the Invictus Games.

(Source: ABC Conversations)

Duties and Tasks

  • Examines the patient and takes the necessary measurements to create an artificial limb, brace, splint or other related appliance

  • Reads prescriptions for limbs and other related devices

  • Makes a plaster cast of the limb or abnormality

  • Designs limbs or related appliances

  • Makes the device or limb and supervises its construction or selects a commercially-made product and adjusts it to fit the patient

  • Fits the device or limb to the patient

  • Instructs the patient on the use and care of the device or limb

  • Carries out repairs and follow-ups with the patient to evaluate the effectiveness of an artificial limb or device.

Working conditions

Prosthetists/orthotists usually work in hospitals or specialist clinics. They split their time between working with patients in an office or clinic setting, and building devices in a laboratory or workshop.

It is common for prosthetists/orthostists to work closely with other medical professionals, including doctors, nurses, orthopaedic surgeons, podiatrists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists. They generally work regular business hours during the week, though this may vary depending on the employer.

Tools and technologies

Walking Prosthetists/orthotists use a wide variety of materials to construct devices, including wood, plaster, steel, plastic, rubber and carbon.

Plaster may also be used to take casts and make moulds of the area the prosthesis or orthosis is to be fitted.

They may use hand and power tools, as well as heavy machinery, including grinding machines and welding equipment,to shape and construct these devices. Much of the design work is done on computer, using computer-assisted design (CAD) software.

Education and training/entrance requirements

To become an orthotist or prosthetist, you need to study prosthetics and orthotics to postgraduate level.

There is currently only one prosthetics and orthotics course available in Australia. La Trobe University in Victoria offers a four year combined Bachelor of Applied Science and Master of Clinical Prosthetics and Orthotics. Contact the university for more information.

La Trobe

Did You Know?

There are different types of prosthesis that you will be making throughout your career.

Here are the three kinds of prosthesis:

Arm prosthesis – These are artificial limbs created to substitute a part of the arm. There are two main kinds of arm prosthesis: Trans-radial and trans-humeral prosthesis. Trans-radial limbs substitute the missing part of the arm below the elbow while trans-radial prosthesis replaces the missing part of the upper arm. These arm prostheses function according to the movement of the opposite arm.

Leg prosthesis – These are artificial limbs made to replace a missing leg. The foot-ankle assembly, shank, socket, and suspension are the different components that make up a leg prosthesis. The two kinds of leg prosthesis are trans-tibial and trans-femoral prosthesis. Trans-tibial limbs substitute missing parts below the knee, while trans-femoral limbs replace missing parts above the knee with the use of an artificial knee joint.

Joint prosthesis – Joint prosthesis replace damaged joint caused by wear-down of cartilage. It comes in different forms: Ball and socket joints are used for the replacement of joints in the shoulders and hips. On the other hand, a spacer is applied to replace joints in the knees.

(Source: Choosing a Career of a Prosthetist)

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