How Prosthetists Piece Together a New Normal for Amputees
Education & Research The ultimate goal of the prosthetist is to restore people to as normal and active a lifestyle as possible. Achieving this entails a high degree of collaboration, built upon extensive training.
A prosthetist is a health care professional that is uniquely qualified to help persons with amputations return to a functional status through the delivery of comprehensive prosthetic care.
The training required to provide that care includes two years of specialized, post-graduate classroom education, clinical rotations and a post-graduate prosthetics residency.
The minimum entry-level educational requirement to enter the profession is a master’s degree in orthotics and prosthetics. These rigorous academic and clinical standards are the prerequisites required to sit for a board exam leading to national certification or state licensure as a qualified prosthetist. Without such standing, individuals are not allowed to practice in licensure states.
While prosthetists have historically been labeled as “limb makers,” they are highly educated and trained healthcare professionals. Their knowledge of anatomy, physiology, physics, pathology, biomechanics and other areas forms the broad foundation upon which their areas of responsibility are based. The prosthetist’s primary responsibilities are to evaluate, design, fabricate, fit, and deliver an artificial limb or prosthesis.
The prosthetist also provides follow-up care once the prosthesis has been delivered. All of these important functions contribute to a patient’s functional outcome. The quality of every step a person takes with a lower-limb prosthesis, for example, can be linked to the skill and expertise of the prosthetist who designed and fit the individual with a prosthesis.
Because prostheses are custom-designed and fabricated, their cost varies depending on the components and care that are indicated to help each individual arrive at an optimal outcome. In most cases, third-party payers dictate the reimbursement — not the prosthetist. The type and level of the amputation; the specific design of the prosthesis; the labor involved in the fitting and fabrication processes; the specific materials and components used; the required training for appropriate prosthesis application, care, and use; and the necessary follow-up visits to ensure long-term success, all factor into the cost.
It is important to recognize, however, that the prosthesis itself is not the end product. Rather, it is a part of an overall treatment plan that represents the culmination of planning and execution designed specifically to maximize the functional potential of the person for whom it was designed. It is the realization of that goal that provides the prosthetist with the greatest satisfaction.