The prosthetist’s work usually begins with an examination of the patient. The prosthetist assesses the patient’s history, tests muscle strength and range of motion, and evaluates joint motion. With the use of special tools, these clinical professionals measure the residual limb (stump) as one of the first step in the design of a prosthesis. The prosthesis is created to match the unique needs of a person with limb loss. The prosthetist combines knowledge of medicine, engineering, and materials science in matching technology to enhance the lives of persons with limb loss, with particular attention to comfort, stability, and proper fit.
Similar to the scope of practice of a prosthetist, orthotists also work with physicians and other health care professionals in a clinical setting to rehabilitate the physically challenged, with a common goal of enabling individuals to function to the best of their ability. Orthotists are also employed in industry as designers, manufacturers or component suppliers, or may be involved in academia as teachers or researchers.
Professionals certified in both disciplines are called Certified Prosthetists Orthotists (CPOs). In practice, CPOs commonly lean towards providing care in a single discipline but have the knowledge to combine their training and experience in both disciplines to provide more comprehensive patient care. Prosthetists/Orthotists usually work as part of a team of health care professionals as well as prosthetic/orthotic assistants and fabrication technicians who, lead by the Prosthetist/Orthotist, also play a role in construction, fitting, and adjustment of the patient’s prosthesis or orthosis.
The prosthetist/orthotist works as a member of the patient’s rehabilitation team. Potential members of a rehabilitation team include physician, prosthetist/orthotist, nurse, physical and/or occupational therapist, dietician, social worker, vocational counselor, family members of the patient, and, most importantly, the patient. A primary responsibility for each team member is to understand the patient’s condition, prognosis, and available treatment options. In this way, each clinician can help engage the patient to become an active partners in their rehabilitation.
If you are interested in making a positive impact on people’s lives and entering a rapidly evolving unique health science career where the demand for employment is exceptional, you may want to consider the Georgia Tech Master of Science in Prosthetics and Orthotics.