Prosthetic Technicians work under the direction of the Clinical Prosthetist and share responsibilities for the manufacture of artificial limbs. They may also be assigned repair and maintenance work. Prosthetic Technicians don't usually have direct contact with patients.
Prosthetic Technicians need to be competent in the handling of tools and specialised machines used in the manufacture of artificial limbs (prostheses). The Prosthetic Technician manufactures the artificial limb from the cast, technical prescription and measurements taken by the Clinical Prosthetist. Prosthetic Technicians use many different techniques and a wide variety of materials, such as thermosetting and thermoforming plastics, metal, fabrics and leather.
This career choice would appeal to individuals with good manual skills and a strong background in maths and health sciences.
There are currently no courses available to train as a Prosthetic Technician in New Zealand. However, the following universities do offer degree courses in Bachelor of Health Science (BHSc) – Auckland University of Technology and Massey University.
Carein Chan - Prosthetic Technician at Hamilton Limb Centre - describes her career to date:
At the age of 18 in 1991, I was introduced to the world of prosthetics, through a family friend who worked in the industry. My mum and I came to have a look around the centre as she was interested in what they did and she took me along.
The Manager told me there was a course the following year and he felt I was the right type of person they would be looking for even though I had only two of the four requirements to enter the course, but luckily they accepted my application. I was the only person from outside Christchurch, there were four of us in total and I was the only female. Three of us are still in the industry.
I spent the next 18 months at Christchurch Polytechnic (with a six month placement in Hamilton to finish my training) learning how to be a Prosthetic Technician, which involves making the limb but no patient contact.
I got my first job as a Prosthetic Technician in Dunedin in 1996 and worked there for two and a half years before coming back to Hamilton Centre in 2000 where I still work.
We get opportunities to attend short courses to continue our training within New Zealand and some of the lucky ones even get to attend overseas conferences. I have been fortunate enough to attend two held in Australia. I have also been trained in the superskin spray technique - a special cover for limbs - and I get to apply this technique to artificial legs from all over the country.
It is an amazing feeling to know that you are part of a team that gets people back on their feet and on with their lives. I have been lucky enough to have been involved with a handful of patients and watch them progress through the different stages of rehabilitation.
Up until the last couple of years I was the only female Technician in the country. This has been helpful in assisting the Prosthetists at Hamilton centre with female patients, especially those with above knee amputations.
My job can vary from day to day and you never know what each day holds for you.
~ Carein Chan