Orthotist or prosthetist

What they do

Prosthetists make and fit artificial limbs (prostheses). Orthotists design, build and fit orthopaedic braces, callipers, splints and other supportive devices (orthoses). 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.

Working conditions

Prosthetists/orthotists in Western Australia usually work in hospitals or specialist clinics in the Perth metropolitan region. 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

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.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become an orthotist or prosthetist, you usually need to study an accredited degree in prosthetics and orthotics.

There are no courses in prosthetics and orthotics available in Western Australia.

There are currently only two prosthetics and orthotics courses available in Australia. La Trobe University, in Victoria, offers a four-year combined Bachelor of Applied Science and Master of Clinical Prosthetics and Orthotics. The University of the Sunshine Coast, in Queensland, offers a three-year Bachelor of Health Science, with an extended major in prosthetics and orthotics.

Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.