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Orthopedic Technician: Job Description & Career Information

Orthopedic technicians (sometimes called orthopedic technologists) assist orthopedic surgeons in caring for patients with injured joints and bones. Principally, orthopedic technicians are responsible for applying casts, splints and braces. Read further to learn more about the requirements and benefits of this profession.

Career Definition for an Orthopedic Technician

Orthopedic technicians work directly with orthopedic doctors and surgeons in the treatment of bone and joint injuries. Principally, orthopedic technology involves the application and removal of casts, splints and braces; however, an orthopedic technician must also instruct patients in caring for their injuries, understand and adjust traction equipment and be able to adjust crutches, walkers and other aids and provide instructions to patients in their use. Some orthopedic technicians also assist orthopedic surgeons in the operating room, in the setting of broken bones and the fitting of prosthetic limbs. The National Board for Certification of Orthopedic Technologists (NBCOT) and the National Association of Orthopedic Technologists (NAOT) are attempting to standardize testing and certification for the profession under the job title of orthopedic technologist. However, other training programs are available, which use the name orthopedic technician.

Education High school diploma and training program required; associate degrees available
Certification Credentials available through the NAOT
Job Skills Knowledge of anatomy and medical terms, cast application and removal, sterilization, infection protocol
Median Salary (2017)* $41,800 for health technologists and technicians
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 20% for health technologists and technicians

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A high school diploma is required, followed by a training program available through a hospital, community college, technical school or the military. Some colleges offer an Associate of Applied Science in Orthopedic Technology degree. The NBCOT oversees the certification of orthopedic technologists; however, the NAOT sets the educational requirements that need to be satisfied before the certification test may be taken.

Certification

The surest way to certification is probably through one of seven NAOT-approved programs or through the military. It is also possible to qualify to take the certification exam after two years of full-time on-the-job training working directly with an orthopedic surgeon. To become certified the prospective orthopedic technologist must pass a 150-question examination covering the assessment of patients; applying casts, splints and braces; applying and adjusting traction; and surgical procedures and protocols.

Skills Required

Orthopedic technologists must have strong knowledge of anatomy, physiology and medical terminology, in addition to being experts in the different materials and equipment involved in applying and removing casts, splints and braces. They must also have good people skills for working with patients and instructing them in caring for their injuries. If an orthopedic technician is to assist orthopedic surgeons in the operating room, he or she must be well-trained in sterilization and infection protocols.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job prospects for health technologists and technicians in general are expected to grow faster than the average, at 20% between 2016 and 2026. The BLS also reported that the annual median salary for health technologists and technicians in 2017 was $41,800.

Alternate Career Options

Check out these other choices for careers in lab and medical support:

Biological Technician

With a bachelor's degree in biology or a similar field, says the BLS, these techs can pursue employment assisting medical and biological scientists in their lab experiments and tests, while expecting faster than average employment growth of 10% during the decade from 2016-2026. Also according to the BLS, biological technicians earned an annual median salary of $43,800 in 2017.

Chemical Technician

Normally having an associate's degree in chemical technology or applied science, these techs then receive training while on the job in the use of special methods and instruments in the assistance of chemical engineers and chemists in chemical research and development. The BLS forecasts slower-than-average job growth of 4% for these techs through 2026 and reports a median wage of $47,280 per year in 2017.


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