What does a prosthetist and orthotist do?
A prosthesis is a device that replaces a missing body part. Prosthetists design and fit artificial limbs (prostheses) to replace those lost through amputation or limbs missing at birth.
An orthosis is fitted to an existing body part. Orthotists design and fit surgical appliances (orthoses), such as braces, callipers, neck collars and splints. These can be used to support limbs or the spine to relieve pain, aid movement or prevent physical conditions getting worse. Orthoses may be worn permanently by the patient or used temporarily.
Prosthetists and orthotists work with people recovering from a stroke, those with rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or cerebral palsy. Their main duties would usually include:
- assessing a patient's needs before they have an artificial limb or appliance fitted
- taking measurements and using computer modelling to produce a design of the prostheses or orthoses
- explaining a finished design to a technician, who will produce the final product
- carrying out follow-up checks with patients to see how they are coping with their device
- making sure the appliance or limb is functioning properly, and is comfortable
- carrying out adjustments or repairs if needed
This role would involve working alongside other healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists, who would oversee the patient's exercise regime; and occupational therapists who would train the patient in how to perform daily activities with the device.
What do I need to do to become a prosthetist and orthotist?
You will need to take a three- or four-year BSc (Hons) degree in prosthetics and orthotics, approved by the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists and the Health and Care Professions Council. The approved degree course is available at two universities in the UK:
- University of Salford – School of Health Sciences
- University of Strathclyde – The National Centre for Training and Education in Prosthetics and Orthotics
To get on to a degree you will usually need at least five GCSEs (A-C), including English, maths and a science-based subject, as well as three A levels, including maths and either biology, physics or chemistry.
Check with course providers for exact entry details because alternative qualifications may also be accepted. For example, if you do not have qualifications in science you may be able to take a foundation year.
If you are a UK resident you will have your tuition fees paid for you and you may also be able to get a grant, depending on your financial circumstances. For more information, go to the NHS Business Services Authority website.
- Five GCSEs (A-C), including English, maths and a science-based subject
- Three A levels, including maths and either biology, physics or chemistry
- Three- or four-year BSc (Hons) degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics, approved by the British Association of Prosthetists and Orthotists and the Health and Care Professions Council
Where to find out more
Where could I be working?
You would work within hospitals, clinics and health centres. You might also need to visit patients in their own homes.