Orthopedic Assistant School and College Program Overviews
An orthopedic assistant works under the supervision of an orthopedic surgeon to provide rehabilitative services to patients with physical disabilities. Orthopedic assistants are commonly referred to as orthopedic technicians or orthopedic technologists. Students seeking to become orthopedic assistants should earn a certificate or associate's degree in orthopedic technology, though might also enroll in programs designed for physical therapy assistants.
Certificate for Orthopedic Assistants
Some technical and community colleges offer programs leading to a certificate in orthopedic technology. A certificate program in orthopedic technology prepares students to perform routine procedures and assist orthopedic surgeons. This assistance generally includes applying casts and splints, as well as assisting orthopedic physicians in surgery.
The curriculum for an orthopedic assistant certificate program combines science and medical courses with classes concentrating on orthopedic topics. Program coursework may include:
- Orthopedic techniques and technology
- Orthopedic radiology
- Medical terminology
- Anatomy and physiology
Some certificate programs might include a clinical practice in addition to classroom instruction.
Popular Career Options
Those holding a certificate in orthopedic technology will be prepared for work as orthopedic assistants in:
- Private orthopedic surgeon practices
- Home health care centers
- Residential care facilities
- Physical therapy centers
Associate's Degree for Orthopedic Assistants
A 2-year degree in orthopedic technology prepares students for surgical and non-surgical careers in the orthopedic field. Career areas include sports medicine, in- or out-patient hospital care and emergency orthopedic care. An associate's degree also qualifies graduates to take the certification exam from National Board of Certified Orthopedic Technologists. Prerequisites often include a GED or high school diploma as well as qualifying SAT or ACT scores.
Many of the courses contained in an associate's degree program in orthopedic technology are the same, or at least similar to, those found in a certificate program. In many cases, however, the courses in an associate's degree program will be more advanced. Some courses one might expect to take in this program include:
- Advanced orthopedic physiology and anatomy
- Orthopedic surgical techniques
- Orthopedic anatomy and physiology
- Introduction to health care
- Introduction to microcomputers
As in certificate programs, a practicum or internship in orthopedic technology is part of the associate's degree curriculum.
Salary Info and Employment Outlook
No information about the employment outlook specifically for orthopedic assistants is currently available. The most related field is that of physical therapy assistants, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.org, reports job growth in that field is projected to be 46% between 2010 and 2020. The BLS additionally listed the average hourly pay rate for physical therapy assistants as $25.15 in 2012.
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