Helping to make a difference
A prosthetics orthotist (P&O) designs artificial limbs or other devices, such as braces or splints, to support body parts and improve mobility. A P&O needs to have good hand-eye co-ordination because they may have to do a lot of adjustments to a device after testing it on a patient. Also, a P&O has to be very tolerant and caring, because some handicapped people may suffer from emotional problems.
A bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering - a three-year programme offered only by the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. After one year of basic studies, students can choose to become a P&O or join the biomedical engineering stream for designing medical devices.
The starting salary of a P&O is around HK$18,000. A senior P&O can make more than HK$30,000.
P&Os deal with handicapped people or those suffering from arm, leg or back pain. They design suitable devices for their patients, depending on their condition.
P&Os will ask the patients about their medical history in order to get a clear picture of their requirements. They also need to know the difficulties their patients encounter in daily life.
Each individual has a different body structure. So each artificial limb or brace is designed to fit a certain person. Usually, a patient can try out the device two weeks after the first consultation. The person will return three weeks later for further adjustments, if there are any. This is the normal routine for patients who require simpler devices such as foot pads.
But more work is involved for devices such as artificial legs or arms. For example, a patient may have to visit the P&O several times to test an artificial leg. It could take between six weeks and three months before the patient receives the device.
Most devices cannot be used for a long time. Hence, P&Os have to remind their patients to get a new one after one or two years.
P&Os should also be aware of their patients' attitude. Most people who have lost an arm or leg may suffer from emotional problems. So P&Os should be polite and helpful, and show they care about their patients.
In addition, P&Os have to keep up with the latest technology in biomedical engineering.
Usually, P&Os cannot expect promotions, but with more experience, they can enhance their reputation and attract more clients.
Where to apply
The Hospital Authority, health products companies or those that manufacture shoe pads.
A day at work
Since the design of artificial limbs and other devices is not urgent, P&Os do not have shift duty or work on holidays.
They work five to five-and-a-half days a week. Their working hours are usually from 8.30am to 5.30pm. They may have to do overtime if the workload is heavy.