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Orthopaedic Technologist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an orthopaedic technologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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Orthopaedic technologists help orthopaedic surgeons, who are physicians trained to treat and operate on the skeletal system. Orthopaedic technologists assist with patient care and may also be responsible for paperwork. These technologists typically need at least an associate's degree before entering the field, and they must obtain certification before beginning work.

Essential Information

Orthopaedic technologists act as assistants to orthopaedic surgeons, caring for patients by applying and removing devices such as casts, braces and splints. Orthopaedic technicians typically complete an associate's degree program or vocational schooling before attaining the required certification by passing the Orthopaedic Technologist Certified (or OTC) exam.

Required Education Associate's degree or vocational training
Other Requirements Certification
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 11% (all medical appliance technicians)
Average Salary (2015)* $45,730 (all non-categorized health technologists and technicians), $47,030 (all non-categorized health technologists and technicians employed by medical and surgical hospitals)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties

Orthopaedic technologists are expected to have an understanding of anatomical and medical terms, as well as an expert knowledge of devices used to treat patients' injuries, such as plaster casts and immobilizing splints. The NAOT specifies guidelines for orthopaedic technologists, including productivity standards, ethical boundaries regarding patients' confidentiality, and proper application of aseptic (sterile) procedures or codes.

On a day-to-day basis, an orthopaedic technologist deals with patients and paperwork. The ability to evaluate different situations and implement the method that will best serve the patient is a large part of an orthopaedic technologist's job. Communication skills are also important in this position, as is the ability to deal with people - especially those who may be in distress or immense pain.

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Requirements

Although it is an important part of career advancement, becoming an orthopaedic technologist requires more than job experience. A vocational education or associate's degree program is an excellent start, because it introduces the specific skills needed by orthopaedic technologists in a classroom environment; such programs typically combine this classroom work with hands-on practice.

To be entrusted with the care of a patient in need, technologists should obtain certification to verify their knowledge and skills by a recognized organization. The OTC exam, mentioned earlier, is the first step in the certification process and is administered by the National Board for Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists, Inc (NBCOT).

Most important to career success, however, an orthopaedic technologist must possess good communication skills. Working closely with orthopaedic surgeons and dealing with patients necessitates that an orthopaedic technologist must be able to clearly deliver the necessary information while comforting a patient in distress.

Salary

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information specific to orthopaedic technologists, it does report salary information for health technologists and technicians who aren't specifically categorized. In May 2015, the median annual salary earned among such technologists and technicians was $41,260. Those employed by general and surgical hospitals earned an average of $47,030 a year.

Orthopaedic technologists must have knowledge of anatomy, medical terms, and patient care, as they assist orthopedic surgeons and help care for patients in a variety of ways. Communication skills are important. An associate's degree is a typical requirement, while a professional certification is also required and involves passing an exam.

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