You can think of a medical appliance technician like a mechanic, but for medical support devices. These technicians create, repair, and even fit medical support devices like braces and other prosthetics. They work with a combination of hand tools, power tools, and even computers since they often may use software programs to design devices.
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How to Become a Medical Appliance Technician
You might find it a challenge to discover a local college or vocation school that offers courses to become a medical appliance technician. You might be able to enter this field with a high school diploma and then gain on-the-job experience. Taking college or high school courses in anatomy, science, math, and shop (such as woodworking and mechanics) are helpful.
According to O*Net Online, medical appliance technicians are almost evenly divided between having a high school diploma, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree.
Job Description of a Medical Appliance Technician
This is an interesting field as technicians may find themselves using Computer-Aided Design (CAD) software in the morning to design a device. Then, in the afternoon they could be using hand or power tools to drill or weld parts together or work with material such as leather or fabric to cover a device. These technicians are also detail-oriented as they read the specifications needed for a device and they may even receive a cast of a patient’s body part to use to assist in fine-tuning those specifications. This information assists the medical appliance technician to design a functional device for a patient.
Medical Appliance Technician Career Video Transcript
Medical appliance technicians combine a knowledge of human anatomy with math and power tools to create artificial limbs and braces. Their work supports other medical experts who use devices to help patients overcome a physical limitation. These technicians read prescriptions and detailed information about what a patient needs. They often work from a cast or impression, measuring with precision instruments, and then creating an appliance or new limb with the help of design software.
Typically, technicians use hand or power tools to cut and shape the new limbs. They glue, rivet, or weld the parts together. However, the use of 3D printer technology is growing rapidly, allowing for better fit and function than traditional prostheses. In either case, the final steps include smoothing the surfaces, and padding or covering them. Devices are then tested, adjusted, and eventually, repaired and maintained.
Requirements vary from high school or equivalent to vocational training or an associate’s degree. While there are few courses available in the field of orthotic and prosthetic technicians, classes in shop, math, science and anatomy are helpful. Most learn technical skills on the job. Appliance technicians are medical mechanics. The appliances they build help people achieve physical function and form, as well as independence and productivity.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Dental and Ophthalmic Laboratory Technicians and Medical Appliance Technicians.
National Center for O*NET Development. 51-9082.00. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.