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How to Become an Orthopedic Technologist

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Orthopedic Technologist.

What orthopedic technologists do

Orthopedic technologists and technicians have specialized training in the medical field of orthopedics, which focuses on the correction of skeletal and related disorders. According to the National Association of Orthopaedic Technologists (NAOT), these technicians provide support for orthopedic surgeons in the medical environment, assisting in the care of sick and disabled persons. Orthopedic technologists (OTs) have a wide range of potential responsibilities, for example:

  • Perform routine office and departmental procedures and certain basic nursing functions
  • Apply and remove casts
  • Help in preparing and adjusting setup for traction
  • Prep for surgical procedures and assist surgeons in the operating room
  • Fit and adjust walking aids such as canes, crutches and walkers
  • Apply simple braces and perform basic repairs on this type of medical equipment
  • Advise patients on the care of casts and other devices

The duties of OTs overlap with those of surgical technologists and assistants, orthopedic physician's assistants and nurses, athletic trainers, occupational and physical therapists, medical assistants, and certain other health care professionals, according to the Virginia Department of Health Professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov, 2012) classifies orthopedic technicians in the general category of health technologists and technicians who share the basic role of performing technological functions in medicine and related fields.

How to become an orthopedic technologist

Aspiring health care professionals need interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with patients who may be in pain or under stress.

NAOT Recognized Schools and Programs have requirements for associate degrees or certificates in orthopedic technology: at least 450 hours of instruction, including classroom lectures and practical laboratory instruction, plus at least 200 hours of field experience through a clinical rotation or externship. Graduates of NAOT recognized programs can take the certification examination of the National Board for Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists, and they may be excused from the qualifying requirement of two years of full time on-the-job training. Certification is also available from organizations such as The American Society of Orthopedic Professionals, which offers an online exam for Registered Orthopedic Technologists; certification also requires specified work experience or training.

While the process may vary, the path to becoming an orthopedic technologist may include some or all of these steps that are typical for would-be surgical technologists (BLS):

  • Earn a high school diploma or GED
  • Attend and successfully complete a post-secondary training program
  • Consider examinations for professional certification (requirements vary according to state and local requirements)
  • Apply for employment

Orthopedic technologists' duties may overlap to some extent with those of surgical technologists, and the BLS notes that surgical technologists need to be detail oriented, manually dexterous, able to stand for long periods of time and capable of managing stress (BLS). Surgical technologists generally require a postsecondary certificate or an associate degree, and certain states have regulations for this occupation, the BLS notes. Training programs offer courses like anatomy, biology and medical terminology as well as specific surgical and medical techniques (BLS).

Additional certification, training, education and professional experience may be required for employment.

Career outlook for orthopedic technologists

The BLS doesn't provide a career outlook for orthopedic technologists but does have data for surgical technologists. Employment of surgical technologists in the U.S. is expected to increase by up to 19 percent from 2010 to 2020, about as fast as the average for all occupations in the U.S. (BLS). Employment opportunities should be strongest for candidates with training from an accredited education program and professional certification (BLS).

According to the Occupational Information Network (O*NET OnLine), general health technologists and technicians should see faster than average job growth nationally between 2010 and 2010, with an increase of up to 20 to 28 percent.

As of May 2011, health technologists and technicians earned an annual median wage of $38,080 nationally, with the lowest 10 percent earning $25,540 nationally and the highest-paid 10 percent earning up to $62,530 nationally (BLS). The highest levels of employment for this occupation were seen in settings such as general medical and surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers, offices of physicians, and offices of other health practitioners. In 2011, the states with the highest employment levels of health technologists and technicians included California, Texas, Ohio, Illinois and New York (BLS).

Quick Facts: Health Technologists and Technicians
*All Facts from BLS.gov*

2011 National Median Pay

$38,080 per year; $18.31 per hour

Number of Jobs, 2011

103,120

Job Outlook, 2010-2020

20% to 28% nationally (Faster than avg national growth)

Employment Change, 2010-2020

40,400

Quick Facts: Surgical Technologists
*All facts from BLS.gov*

2011 National Median Pay

$40,950 per year; $19.69 per hour

Entry Level Education

Postsecondary non-degree award

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

None

On-the-job Training

None

Number of Jobs, 2011

94,490

Job Outlook, 2010-2020

19% (Average job growth)

Employment Change, 2010-2020

17,700

Sources

The American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics, "Certified O and P Technician," 2012, http://www.abcop.org/certification/OrthotistsProsthetists/Pages/Default.aspx

The American Society of Orthopedic Professionals, Registered Orthopedic Technologist ("ROT") Certification, 2010, www.asop.org/rot-here/

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Surgical Technologists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/surgical-technologists.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011: 29-2799 Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other*, updated 2012, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292799.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2011: 29-2055 Surgical Technologists, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes292055.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Classification System Manual, A208 Health Technologists and Technicians, October 2001, http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ocs/ocsm/comA208.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Classification System Manual (Orthopedic technician), October 2001, http://www.bls.gov/ncs/ocs/ocsm/como.htm

National Association of Orthopaedic Technologists, "What is an Orthopaedic Technologist?", 2010, http://www.naot.org/sections/about.orthotics.php

National Board for Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists, http://www.nbcot.net/, 2010

Occupational Information Network (O*NET OnLine), Summary Report for: 29-2099.00 - Health Technologists and Technicians, All Other, 2011, http://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/29-2099.00

Virginia Department of Health Professions, "Study into the Need to Regulate Orthopedic Technologists and Orthopedic Physician's Assistants," 2008, http://www.dhp.virginia.gov/ (downloadable file)

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