If you're looking for a career with a difference, you might want to consider becoming a Clinical Prosthetist.
The craft of prosthetics is the evaluation, fabrication and custom fitting of artificial limbs or (more correctly) prostheses. The profession uniquely combines art with science and is rewarding because of the personal satisfaction that comes with improving the quality of life for amputees.
Clinical Prosthetists are part of the clinical team that provides rehabilitation services for amputees (the other team members being a consulting Orthopaedic Surgeon and a Physiotherapist). They are responsible for taking measurements and casts of the patient's residual limb, designing the artificial limb to best suit the amputee's needs, selecting components and fitting the specially-made limb.
There are currently no prosthetics courses available in New Zealand, but La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia has a 4 year Bachelor of Health Sciences and Master of Clinical Prosthetics and Orthotics and have a range of scholarships available for international students. More information can be found by visiting their website.
It takes more than an education to be a good Prosthetist. Other qualities include:
- practical ability such as manual dexterity and the creativity of a craftsman
- a commitment to continuing professional development where technology and techniques are constantly evolving
- empathy and understanding of a patient's needs and challenges
- background knowledge of anatomy and physiology to know how the prosthesis will fit the patient's residual limb and best meet their needs
- an understanding of mechanics and engineering for fabrication of the prosthesis
Otto Schutte is a Clinical Prosthetist at the Wellington Artificial Limb Centre. He has been working in the field for 38 years:
My training was the old style apprenticeship. I have spent many years making and fitting prosthetics. The remarkable bond and friendship that has developed with many of the amputees within the region has made the career option very rewarding.
To have watched children with congenital limb deficiencies grow and meet the challenges that life presents, with some that required much lateral thought on behalf of the Limb Centre staff, has developed respect at the tenacity of human nature.
To also have witnessed the progression of the elderly amputee from wheelchair-dependent to walking in under their own steam is inspiring.
~ Otto Schutte