Prosthetic or orthotic technicians manufacture, maintain and repair various types of prostheses or orthoses such as artificial limbs, splints, braces, or special footwear.
Prosthetic technicians manufacture artificial arms and legs for patients who have either lost a limb or were born missing a limb. Modern prostheses sometimes have a pneumatic, hydraulic or electronic mechanism to allow the limb to move.
Orthotic technicians manufacture special orthotic devices such as wrist supports, neck collars, braces and special footwear, to support a patient’s limbs or spine or to relieve pain caused by illness or injury.
You could be:
using cutting-edge tools and materials to manufacture artificial arms, legs, hands and feet from measurements and body casts done by an orthotist
using digital imaging techniques, computer-aided design (CAD) and computer-aided manufacturing (CAM) to help design orthotic devices
manufacturing orthoses such as splints, braces or special footwear, using the most suitable materials
working closely with the prosthetist or orthotist to ensure you understand the patient’s needs
working with a wide range of materials including plastic, metal, leather, carbon fibre and composites
aiming to design and create a prostheses that matches as close as possible to the patient’s missing limb
making adjustments and carrying out repairs to the prostheses or orthoses
using a range of hand tools as well as large free standing machinery including routers, sanders and bandsaws
maintaining equipment, making sure work areas are kept clean and tidy and ordering materials and equipment.
A Modern Apprentice working in the NHS earns £16,086 a year.
Under the NHS Agenda for Change, qualified technicians can expect to start on Band 4, £22,152 to £24,258 a year. With experience you may progress to Band 5, £24,670 to £30,742 a year. The current pay scales are from April 2019.
A technician working for a private company can expect to earn around £25,000 a year. Self-employed technicians can earn considerably more.
A technician would usually work within a lab based in a hospital or factory.
You may travel to different clinics to meet with patients.
Working hours are usually regular Monday to Friday.
You would usually wear protective clothing when working in the lab including googles, ear-protectors and dust mask.
You would normally complete a Modern Apprenticeship in Healthcare Support (Clinical) at SCQF Level 6 or 7, combining on the job training and part time study at college.
This is a four year apprenticeship for 16–24 year olds.
For entry to this apprenticeship, you must have at least 5 subjects at National 5 including English, Maths and a science or technological subject; or a relevant National Certificate (NC) in an engineering discipline.
Some companies take on trainees with experience in engineering or manufacturing.
You will require a satisfactory criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details on the type you would need.
Prospects for Prosthetic/orthotic technicians is very good at the moment due to an ageing workforce. You could work in the NHS or for a manufacturing company.
able to get on well with people of all backgrounds and ages
good at science
good with your hands
practical and able to solve technical problems
able to work under pressure
able to design items, many of which are made to individual requirements
able to work alone and as part of a team.
You should have:
a good eye for detail
good manual dexterity
excellent communication skills.
If you are taken on as a trainee for a manufacturing company, training will be on the job.
For the NHS apprenticeship, you would complete Scottish Vocational Qualification (SVQ) Performing Engineering Operations Level 2; NC Mechanical Engineering Systems (SCQF Level 6); SVQ Mechanical Manufacturing Engineering (Composite Manufacture Engineering Level 3; and Rehabilitation Technologies (PDA) (SCQF Level 7).
Technicians can become members of BAPO, who run courses, conferences and seminars where technicians can update their skills and learn about the latest technology and developments in this field.
You could work your way up to senior technician level.
After completing the Modern Apprenticeship, you could go on to study the degree in Prosthetics and Orthotics to become a Prosthetist or Orthotist. This is run at two universities in the UK, University of Strathclyde, and Salford University. See job profile for Prosthetist or Orthotist.
After many years’ experience you could do consultancy work or go self-employed.