Frequently asked questions about Orthotics and Prosthetics.What is Prosthetics and Orthotics? An Orthosis is… A Prosthesis is… What do Orthotists and Prosthetists do? Orthotist Prosthetist Choosing a career? How do I become a Prosthetist/Orthotist? University Training Facility Contact Details What qualifications do I need? What subjects will I learn? How do I fund my study? What are my career prospects?
Prosthetics and orthotics is a science and engineering based healthcare profession. Prosthetists and orthotists assess, diagnose and treat patients prescribing prostheses and orthoses for people with physical problems such as functional loss and/or structural deformity of the body.
Prosthetics and orthotics is an autonomous profession and practice is characterised by reflection and systematic clinical reasoning, which combine to provide a problem solving approach to patient-centred care.
Balancing knowledge and understanding of the human body with the application of forces and evaluation of mechanical components is central to both prosthetics and orthotics.
Externally applied device used to modify the structural and/or functional characteristics of the neuro-muscular and skeletal systems.
Externally applied device used to replace wholly, or in part, an absent or deficient limb.
Prosthetists and orthotists assess, diagnose, treat, and manage a broad range of problems associated in particular with the neuromuscular and musculoskeletal systems. They work collaboratively with other health-care professionals to provide integrated treatment.
Orthotists provide orthotic management for people with a wide range of conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, cerebral palsy, diabetes, and strokes. These conditions can affect all parts of the body from the feet up to the head. Orthotists assess the patient’s needs, diagnose the problem and treat the patient by prescribing the most suitable orthosis to meet these requirements.
Prosthetists provide prosthetic management for people who have an amputation or congenital loss of a limb. People can lose their limbs due to diseases such as diabetes, vascular disease, cancer or trauma. Some other people are born without a limb. Prosthetists analyse the mechanical loss and prescribe the most suitable prosthesis to meet these requirements.
Choosing a career is an important decision. It is advisable to find out as much about prosthetics and orthotics before deciding if it is the right career for you.
- A good listener
- Reliable and honest
- A good communicator
- Use your initiative
- Enjoy problem solving
- Want to make a difference
- Enjoy working with your hands
If so, you are the type of individual that enjoys working in prosthetics and orthotics.
Gaining work experience is very helpful but can be difficult to organise on your own. We recommend that you contact http://www.bapo.org/ or the universities that provide prosthetic and orthotic education who may be able to help you to organise this. Work experience will provide you with an insight into exactly what being a prosthetist/orthotist involves
There are two Universities that provide degree courses in prosthetics and orthotics. These are the University of Salford and the University of Strathclyde. Both courses are 4 years long; the first 3 years are academic and are spent on campus learning the theory and participating in supervised practical and clinical sessions. The final fourth year is spent on placement in prosthetic and orthotic clinics across the UK. It is important to realise that your placements may not be in Greater Manchester or the Glasgow area and you may need to relocate for this year.
It is worth bearing in mind the commitment you will have to make to successfully complete the programme. You must be sure that your private commitments can be managed to provide you with the necessary study time. Studying to become a prosthetist/orthotist really is a “full time” commitment.
Directorate of Prosthetics and Orthotics
School of Health Care Professions.
Faculty of Health and Social Care
University of Salford
Brian Blatchford Building
Tel: 0161 295 2270
National Centre for Training and Education in Prosthetics and Orthotics
Faculty of Engineering
University of Strathclyde
131 St. James Road
Tel: 0141 552 3294
Prosthetic and orthotic programmes need the ability to study, and to apply knowledge to problem solve. The minimum entry requirements are set by the Universities but conditional offers may be set higher than the minimum. A variety of qualifications are accepted and it is important to check these before you apply. A-levels, AS levels, Highers and the Irish Leaving certificate are all accepted as well as alternative qualifications including the Accreditation of Prior (Experiential) Learning.
As well as having the ability to cope with the demands of an honours degree admission tutors will also be looking for the following attributes.
- Communication, helping and caring skills
- Sensitivity and tolerance
- Ability to use initiative
- Reliability, honesty and trustworthiness
- Enthusiasm, dedication and determination
- Evidence of hand skills
You will also normally be asked to attend for an interview at the University with the admission tutor. The admission tutor will expect you to have researched the course, the role of the prosthetist/orthotist and to demonstrate the skills listed above.
The demands of the prosthetic and orthotic programmes are such that the student must be medically fit. Before commencement of the course you may be subject to a health assessment.
Becoming a prosthetist/orthotist involves practical and academic study. Academic components include biological sciences (anatomy, physiology, and pathology), engineering sciences (biomechanics, materials, design process), research and prosthetic and orthotic theory. During the first 3 years you will participate in clinical and practical learning sessions under supervision at the University. These sessions will involve prosthetic and orthotic service users and the practical skills needed for prosthetics and orthotics. The final year consists of 2 six month clinical placements, one in prosthetics and one in orthotics. During these placements you will be under the supervision of a registered prosthetist and orthotist gradually expanding and improving your knowledge and skills.
How do I apply?
All applications for the prosthetic and orthotic programmes must be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS) at the following address
Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (UCAS)
New Barn Lane
01242 222 444
BAPO endorses equal opportunities and welcomes applications from people irrespective of gender, age, social class, sexual orientation, disability, race, ethnicity or religious belief.
In England and Wales, funding is via a NHS means-tested bursary. Once you have been offered a place on a prosthetics and orthotics programme the university will notify the Student Grants Unit who will then send you an application form. Students who are awarded bursaries also have their course fees paid by the NHS and are eligible for a student loan.
For more details contact:
search for “bursaries”
- Scotland – contact the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) http://www.student-support-saas.gov.uk/
- Northern Ireland – contact the Department of Higher and Further Education, Training and Employment, Student support Branch, 0289025 7777
- European Union – students should apply for their fees to be paid and for a bursary.
- Overseas students (non-EU) must pay the appropriate fees to the Universities. Please contact them for further details.
Criminal record check
Because prosthetists and orthotists work with children and other vulnerable people any criminal conviction must be disclosed. The nature of certain criminal convictions will debar successful students from gaining registration with the Health Professions Council to practice as a prosthetist/orthotist. All students are subject to a criminal record check before commencing the course and again prior to registering with the Health Professions Council.
Prosthetic and orthotic graduates work mainly within the NHS. They are employed either directly by the NHS or by a company contracted to provide prosthetic and/or orthotic clinical services to the NHS. There are also opportunities for private practice.
As a graduate prosthetist/orthotist BAPO recommend that you are mentored by an experienced prosthetist/orthotist for your first year of practice. During this year you will continue to increase and improve your knowledge and skills building up a caseload.
Later on there are different routes you may take. These may involve research and education, advanced clinical work, or management.