Orthopedic assistants are commonly referred to as orthopedic technicians or orthopedic technologists. Students who aspire to become orthopedic assistants should earn a certificate or associate's degree in orthopedic technology, although they might also enroll in programs that are designed for physical therapy assistants. A certificate program in orthopedic technology prepares students to perform routine procedures and assist orthopedic surgeons and many programs may require practical experience or an internship. An associate's degree also qualifies graduates to take the certification exam through the National Board of Certified Orthopedic Technologists.
Certificate for Orthopedic Assistants
Some technical and community colleges offer programs leading to a certificate in orthopedic technology. This assistance generally includes applying casts and splints as well as assisting orthopedic physicians in surgeries.
An orthopedic assistant works under the supervision of an orthopedic surgeon to provide rehabilitative services to patients who have physical disabilities. The curriculum for an orthopedic assistant certificate program combines science and medical courses with classes that concentrate 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.
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. 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 that 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.
Popular Career Options
Those holding a certificate in orthopedic technology could be prepared to work as orthopedic assistants in:
- Private orthopedic surgeon practices
- Home health care centers
- Residential care facilities
- Physical therapy centers
Salary Info and Employment Outlook
No information about the employment outlook specifically for orthopedic assistants is currently available. The most closely related field is that of physical therapy assistants, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), www.bls.org, reported job growth in that field was projected to be 40% between 2014 and 2024. The BLS additionally listed the mean annual salary for physical therapy assistants as $55,250 in 2015.
Orthopedic assistants typically earn either certificates or associate's degrees to work in settings such as hospitals, home health care centers and residential care facilities. Both of these programs combine academic work with hands-on training.