What if you wake up one day and find a body part missing? Won’t it be hard to live a normal life from there? I know the image that pops up in your head is scary. Our body is a perfectly designed machine and all body parts work in tandem to keep our physical systems in balance. If one part goes missing, the damage it can cause to our life is beyond imagination.
But what if I tell you that so many people in the world face such situations in real life while you are reading this. Make a visit to the nearby medical college, you will find people who suffer from limb malfunctions, physical abnormalities, loss of body parts, etc. I can understand that you’re sympathetic towards them. But that’s not what they need. Maybe you can help them. If you are up for it, a career in prosthetics and orthotics is something you should think about.
Prosthetics and orthotics
Prosthetics and orthotics (BPO) is a paramedical profession that combines knowledge from medicine and engineering. This academic discipline deals with the rehabilitation of differently-abled people. Combining technology with medical practices, prosthetics and orthotics professionals develop techniques and instruments that can help in the restoration and recovery of people who are suffering from limb malfunctions, abnormalities or loss of limbs or any other body part. This includes making materials that can replace amputated or improper body parts, developing technologies that can help with abnormality correction, etc. Thereby, prosthetics and orthotics professionals help these individuals who suffer from neuromotor or musculoskeletal diseases to lead a normal life.
Actually, prosthetics and orthotics are two different fields. But due to their extensively overlapping goals, the academic sphere has combined both these streams together. Now, let’s try to understand what each of them is.
What is prosthetics?
You must have seen people who have lost their body parts due to accidents, diseases or genetic issues using artificial limbs in the place of their lost or missing body part. This is what prosthetics is all about. As a paramedical discipline, it involves the use of prostheses or artificial body parts to improve the physical abilities of people suffering from the absence of any body part. The job role of professionals who are into prosthetics include assessment of needs, designing the artificial body part or prosthesis, constructing the prosthetics using the right technology and materials, helping the patient get used to the new body part, etc.
Wait, that’s not as easy as it sounds. It involves complex procedures and techniques. The needs are person-specific. A prosthetics professional should take into consideration various issues such as stability in standing and walking, shock absorption, energy storage and return, cosmetic appearance, extraordinary functional needs associated with running, jumping, and other athletic activities, requirements while reaching out and grasping, specific occupational challenges such as hammering, painting, or weight lifting, and activities of daily living such as eating, writing, dressing, etc. Scared? Yeah, that happens.
What is orthotics?
Sometimes, doctors make people who have spine injuries or issues wear correction braces. Do you know what those things are called? Orthosis. They support or control the injured, weakened or deformed parts of an individual’s body to overcome the physical inability or pain. And the academic discipline that covers the design, manufacture, and use of orthosis to deal with medical issues is called orthotics. It is an academic discipline that involves the provision and use of correctional devices such as splints and braces to help a patient cope up with a physical deformity or injury. Orthotics professionals are involved in designing and fabrication of external orthoses as a part of a patient’s treatment.
Orthoses can be used on various areas of the body including the upper and lower limbs, cranium, spine, etc. The most common medical interventions using orthotics techniques are spinal orthoses for scoliosis, HALOs used in life-threatening neck injuries, ankle-foot orthoses used in the rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy, etc. Unlike prosthetics, orthotics do not replace a body part, but assists it’s functioning.
Now how to make a career in Prosthetics and Orthotics?
Step 1: HSE
As I already said, it is a paramedical profession that requires an individual to borrow knowledge from the technology field. The first step towards becoming an orthotics and prosthetics practitioner starts at the HSE level. Like most other medical, paramedical or technical fields, you’ve to take up the science stream with physics, chemistry, biology, and maths as compulsory subjects for your higher secondary education. This will qualify you to apply for undergraduate courses in prosthetics and orthotics.
Step 2: Professional course
Once you’re done with your higher secondary education, you should take up professional courses in Prosthetics and Orthotics. Both undergraduate degree and diploma courses are available in India. Let’s look at these courses.
Bachelor of Prosthetics and Orthotics (BPO): Duration, syllabus, the course fee
This is the most popular route towards becoming a prosthetics and orthotics professional. Bachelor of prosthetics and orthotics (BPO) is a four and a half year undergraduate course that trains students in the field of prosthetics and orthotics. As the stream is about using technology to help in the field of health care, the course covers subjects from both medical and technical fields. The subjects taught during these 4 and a half years include Anatomy, Physiology, workshop technology, material science, applied mechanics, biomechanics, prosthetic science, orthotics science, orthopedics, mobility and rehabilitation aid, Amputation surgery and imaging science, computer science and graphical communication, assistive technology, etc. Apart from the theory papers, the curriculum also includes extensive clinical experience and lab work to make candidates competitive in the field.
Students will spend most of the first four years of the course inside the college and the remaining 6 months is spent on internship. Three months of this internship will be in prosthetics and the remaining three months will be in orthotics. Herby, the curriculum makes sure that the student has gained relevant clinical experience in both fields. You will get your graduate certificate only after the successful completion of the internship program.
Unlike MBBS or other medical courses, you don’t have to spend too much while taking up paramedical courses. Though the course fee for Bachelor of prosthetics and orthotics vary from institution to institution, it won’t break your bank. The course fee in the state or central government institution ranges from Rs 50, 000 to 1 lakh. If you are going for private institutions, the course fee can go up to 2 lakhs. This is still a small amount when compared to the money you’ve to spend on medical courses like MBBS.
Many reputed institutions in the country offer Bachelor of Prosthetics and Orthotics (BPO) programs. This includes both government-run and private institutions. The admissions to most of the institutions are based on merit. Some reputed institutions also conduct entrance tests for admissions to Bachelor of Prosthetics and Orthotics (BPO) course. Here is a list of few institutions that offer the program in India
- Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Health Sciences, Bengaluru
- All India Institute of physical medicine and rehabilitation, Mumbai
- Government Prosthetics and Orthotics college, Ahmedabad
- National Institute of Locomotor Disabilities, Divyangjan
- ISHWAR Institute of Prosthetics and Orthotics, Chennai
- National Institute of Rehabilitation Training and Research, Cuttack
- Christian medical college, Vellore
Step 3: Register with Rehabilitation Council of India (RCI)
One can’t directly start practicing after completing the BPO course. One has to register under the Rehabilitation council of India. RCI is a government organization that is in charge of development, standardization, and regulation of training programs and courses at various levels in the field of Rehabilitation and Special Education.
Diploma in Prosthetics and Orthotics (DPO)
If you don’t want to enroll for Bachelor of Prosthetics and Orthotics (BPO) course, Diploma in Prosthetics and Orthotics is another program that can offer you a career in this field. This is a two-year diploma course that trains an individual in the field of prosthetics and orthotics. Though not mandatory, it is recommended to take up the science stream for your HSE if you are preparing to enroll for Diploma in Prosthetics and Orthotics (DPO) course. As the subjects covered during the course are mostly from science and technology stream, students from non-science streams will find it difficult. The course curriculum covers subjects such as anatomy, physiology, orthotics science, prosthetics science, computer technology, etc. But the program won’t make an individual eligible to practice prosthetics and orthotics. They can work as technicians who assist the graduates in this field.
Career in Prosthetics and orthotics: Scope, Jobs, Salary
O & T professionals are usually hired by hospitals and rehabilitation centers. They join such institutions as a part of clinical teams that include physicians, orthopedics, nurses and other health professionals. Their job role involves assessing the patients, taking measurements, making detailed reports, designing prostheses and orthoses, etc. These professionals usually start their careers with a basic salary of more than Rs 10,000. With relevant experience, they can earn more than Rs 50000 in India.
A career in prosthetics and orthotics is all about helping people who suffer from physical abnormalities, loss of body parts or limb malfunctions. Professionals in the field either develop artificial body parts that can take over the role of the lost body part or design equipment that can fix the abnormal or malfunctioning body part. We hope the illustrated analysis has powered up your insights and widened your perspectives about a career in prosthetics and orthotics. Always remember that you make your own destiny. Make sure that you invest time and thought before making your life-changing decisions.