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A prosthetic technician is a professional who is skilled in creating customized prosthetic limbs and devices for patients out of material including wood, metal, and plastic using machinery and computer equipment. The professional’s job entails making the artificial devices look as realistic as possible. Also, the technician typically works for a prosthetist and is responsible for testing the prosthetic devices and to make corrections when needed. A prosthetic technician may work in a variety of settings, including private clinics, ambulatory care services, and rehabilitation departments. Generally, at least a two-year college degree is needed to become a prosthetic technician.
Much of the duty of the technician includes building prosthetic devices according to specific specifications provided by a prosthetist in a laboratory or workbench. Upon receiving a prescription, the technician designs sketches or models from plaster casts using drawings and measurements. The technician may make devices from wax or plastic impressions of a person’s amputated area.
Artificial devices are created by sawing, carving, and grinding plastic, wood, or metal. A prosthetic technician will glue, bolt, or sew parts together so they adhere to one another. Also, the technician adds a layer of padding to fit over the device, which is typically made from fiberglass or leather. To make the device as lifelike as possible, the technician will polish and paint the device to match a patient’s pigment.
A prosthetic technician may be responsible for taking measurements of a patient and generally will conduct tests to make sure the built device is mobile and stable. Often times, he will be responsible for fitting the created device on a patient. Also, he will instruct the patient about using the newly created device. The technician provides support for the patient by servicing and repairing prosthetic devices when needed.
Types of prosthesis devices designed by a technician will vary. A technician may be responsible for designing artificial ears, noses, or hands that may have been lost due to a serious injury or disease. Some designs may be as complicated as building a prosthetic device that contains electrodes that allow the patient to move a hand. Some technicians even specialize in designing oral prosthesis devices including dentures, bridges, and crowns.
To be successful as a prosthetic technician, an individual typically needs to be skilled at using power tools, which requires extreme hand-eye coordination. A technician is required to follow specific instructions and designs, which requires good time management and communication skills. On the way to a career as a prosthetic technician, a person usually earns a physical therapy or medical assistant degree. Educational paths may vary, but a person can gain valuable skills at a two-year college program that offers prosthetics or orthotics, followed by one or two years of directed practical training. Also, a person can gain experience right out of high school doing a four-year apprenticeship working for a certified prosthetist.