Spotlights

Job Description

Medically speaking, our bodies are made up of systems, including major systems such as our nervous system or digestive system. But it’s our musculoskeletal system that holds everything together! When problems arise with our bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, or tendons, we need the expert help of an orthopedist doctor. And those doctors, in turn, rely on the help of Orthopedic Technicians!

Orthopedic Technicians (aka Ortho Techs) perform a variety of tasks, such as applying and taking off casts, braces, bandages, and splints, making adjustments to equipment used for patient traction, and helping out during surgical procedures. They work directly with patients, advising them about procedures as well as proper care and maintenance for casts and other things applied to their bodies. Ortho Techs also fill out patient records, order and stock medical supplies and equipment, and train new staff, as needed. 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Helping patients on their recovery journeys after injuries or surgeries 
  • Learning how the musculoskeletal system works and affects our lives 
  • Serving as a valuable member of a larger orthopedic team 
The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Orthopedic Technicians work full-time, usually in office or clinical settings. Some may work in on-call situations and must be available after normal hours. 

Typical Duties

  • Take patients’ vital signs
  • Coach patients (who may be wearing casts or braces) on the proper use of walking aids, such as canes, crutches, or walkers
  • Adjust crutch heights to better fit patients
  • Work with surgical or nonsurgical orthopedists, physician assistants, nurses, physical therapists, trainers, and other orthopedic team members, as needed
  • Prep patients for surgery and assist during surgical procedures using aseptic technique
  • Apply plaster or fiberglass casts, braces, splints, or bandages to patients. Review proper care to ensure comfort and avoidance of skin infections 
  • Set up skeletal or cervical traction mechanisms to help position bones or joints
  • Explain rehabilitation protocols and exercises to patients so they can do them at home
  • Fit patients with customized foot orthotic shoe inserts and Durable Medical Equipment
  • Perform basic wound care; remove sutures

Additional Responsibilities

  • Keep inventory of and replenish medical supplies and equipment
  • Set up clinical rooms with supplies to be used 
  • Annotate patient records
  • Work with Computer Numerical Control (CNC) machines to fabricate orthotics 
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Attention to detail
  • Independent
  • Initiative
  • Organized
  • Problem-solving
  • Reliable
  • Resourceful 
  • Safety conscious 
  • Strong communication skills 
  • Teamwork 
  • Time management

Technical Skills

  • Aseptic technique
  • Basic wound care and suture/staple removal
  • Bedside manner 
  • First Aid and CPR
  • Electronic health record software
  • Familiarity with CNC machines
  • Knowledge of cast-making, braces, splints, and bandages
  • Knowledge of Durable Medical Equipment fitting
  • Knowledge of traction equipment 
Different Types of Organizations
  • Clinics, hospitals, outpatient facilities, and private practices 
Expectations and Sacrifices

Orthopedic Technicians need to understand their duties very well and keep up with changes because patients rely on them to recover as quickly as possible. They should stay in good physical condition to help patients move around, as needed. Some techs might have to work on-call in the event of an emergency where their services are needed. To qualify for some positions, certification from a third-party organization like the American Society of Orthopedic Professionals may be needed. 

Current Trends

Outpatient ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs) are increasingly popular in recent years because they help keep patients from visiting crowded hospitals. Another trend is the growing shift to do minimally/noninvasive procedures for patients who previously might have needed more complex operations. Two exciting new solutions—Tactoset and OVOMotion—are helping patients avoid more invasive surgeries. 

The world of orthopedics is also being impacted by the rise of robotics, AI, and virtual reality tools in the operating room. For patients requiring medication for pain relief, there’s a demand for multimodal pain regimens to work as alternatives to traditional yet addictive opioid drugs. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Ortho Techs might have enjoyed biology in school, and wanted to get into a medical field when they got older. They are empathetic, compassionate, and enjoy helping others. 

Education and Training Needed

 

  • Orthopedic Technicians can often get started with just a certificate or associate’s degree
    • Zippia notes that 28.5% of workers in this field have an associate’s while 39% have a bachelor’s. The rest have either a high school diploma plus sufficient related work experience, or a certificate or master’s degree
  • Common areas of study include orthopedic technology, nursing, and medical technician training 
  • Some Ortho Techs start out in other medical roles, such as medical assistant, surgical technician, and certified nursing assistant
  • Employers may expect workers to be First Aid and CPR-certified
  • Training or experience with electronic health records is also usefully needed 
  • Technicians will generally receive at least a month of On-the-Job training to become familiar with employer practices 
  • To further boost your credentials, the National Board for Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists offers two certifications—Orthopaedic Technologist Certified and Orthopaedic Technologist-Surgery Certified
  • Workers can also apply for certification through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics or the American Society of Orthopedic Professionals
Things to look for in an University
  • Many Orthopedic Technicians start out in other medical positions and work their way into the field without getting a college degree
  • An orthopedic technology certificate or associate’s from a community college or vocational school is also often enough to get hired for entry-level roles
  • Search the web for program reviews from recent graduates and info about post-graduation job placement stats
  • Find out if the program has any partnerships with local employers 
  • Decide if you’ll attend an on-campus program, online, or hybrid (a mix of both)
  • Compare the costs of tuition and scholarship opportunities
  • Apply for federal student aid to see what kind of financial assistance offers you might get from the government and from the school itself
Things to do in High School and College
  • In high school, future Orthopedic Technician should study up on their biology, physical fitness, math, and computer science 
  • Apply for part-time jobs or internships where you can gain real-world experience in the medical field
  • Get certified in First Aid and CPR
  • Read orthopedic magazines and blogs to become familiar with the terminology and practices
  • Reach out to working a Orthopedic Technician to do an informational interview
  • Check out job postings well ahead of time, to learn about the most common application requirements
  • Decide if you want to get a related job first, then work your way into orthopedics; or, get some formal training first, then apply for Ortho Tech jobs
    • If you go for formal training, think about what’s right for you—a certificate program, associate’s, or bachelor’s degree
How to Land your 1st job
  • Scan popular job portals like Indeed.com. Upload your resume and set up notification alerts so you can hear about new postings right away
  • Review career- and industry-specific job boards, such as the National Board for Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists Inc.’s Job Bank or Health eCareers 
  • If you attend college or vocational training, look for programs featuring internships, externships, co-ops, or practicums. These offer great first-hand experience, allow for networking opportunities, and look good on resumes!
    • Don’t forget to speak with your institute’s career center. Many schools serve as pipelines to local recruiters ready to hire Ortho Techs! 
    • School career centers can also offer assistance in writing resumes and doing interview practices. They also usually have details about upcoming job fairs
  • Advertise yourself on LinkedIn as open for work and optimize your profile to showcase your academic and work experiences 
  • Consider relocating to a city that may have more Orthopedic Technician job opportunities
  • Be familiar with the clinic or hospital you interview with. Study their websites, look at their facilities and typical patient types, and imagine yourself working with the team there
  • Review Orthopedic Technician resume templates for ideas
  • Make sure to add Orthopedic Technician resume keywords and skills, to help your application get past the Applicant Tracking System software  
    • For example, orthopedics (or “orthopaedics,” which is the academic British English spelling), splint, clinic, hospital, patient care, wound care, and surgery
  • If you’ve completed First Aid and CPR training, make sure to list that
  • If eligible, try to knock out a National Board for Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists certifications for either Orthopaedic Technologist Certified or Orthopaedic Technologist-Surgery Certified for applying for jobs
    • The exams are given five times a year— in February, April, June, September, and November. The application fee is $85 and the exam fee is $450
    • The three eligibility routes are: a) having two years of work experience; b) having graduated from a structured Orthopedic Technologist program; or, c) be a Certified/Licensed Athletic Trainer
  • Talk to previous supervisors or teachers and ask if they’re willing to serve as personal references. Get their permission first before giving listing them as contacts
  • Study Orthopedic Technician sample interview questions and know your terminology
  • Make sure you are dressed appropriately for the interview
  • Be enthusiastic during interviews! Run through a few mock interviews to practice ahead of time, so you won’t be nervous! 
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Be on time, learn everything you can, and always display a professional attitude
  • Treat everyone with respect and courtesy, even if you’re having an off day
  • Provide outstanding service to the patients you assist and earn their rave reviews
  • Be a proactive problem-solver who can work independently 
  • Tell your supervisor about your long-term career goals and ask for their advice about achieving them
  • Transform yourself into an invaluable asset that staff rely on 
  • Study industry magazines and articles, attend professional events and talk to peers who work at other sites to share information and ideas
  • Consider doing optional certifications through the National Board for Certification of Orthopaedic Technologists, such as Orthopaedic Technologist Certified or Orthopaedic Technologist-Surgery Certified
  • Other certs can be earned through the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics or the American Society of Orthopedic Professionals
  • Going to college to level up your education is another way to qualify for advancement
Plan B

Working as an Orthopedic Technician can be a rewarding career for anyone who likes helping patients during their recovery journeys. For students curious about related medical career fields, below are a few similar occupations to think about!    

 

  • Dental Technician
  • Medical Appliance Technician
  • Medical Equipment Repairer
  • Ophthalmic Lab Technician
  • Respiratory Therapist

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