O&P Technician Education & Training
By Ruthie H. Dearing, MHSA, JD
Enter the O&P lab at Spokane Falls Community College (SFCC) and you instantly realize this is not your typical classroom. Individual work benches, strewn with tools of the trade, reveal that each student is diligently crafting some phase of a brace or prosthetic limb. With students enrolling every quarter, there are six different student cohorts operating at varying stages of training.
While all of the action may appear disorganized, you quickly recognize that the orchestration of the faculty, coupled with the shared assistance among students, creates a robust learning environment.
Throughout the lab, students are refining their skills. Prosthetic technician students are fabricating transtibial prostheses, while orthotic technician students are finishing thoracolumbosacral orthoses. In the sanding room, a student uses a Trautman router to buff and smooth the socket he is customizing. In the plastic room, the instructor demonstrates how to pull plastic to create an ankle-foot orthosis.
Eight hours a day at SFCC, students practice and problem solve, create, and customize in preparation for their future work in the orthotic and prosthetic profession.
Students in the technician programs at SFCC benefit from a rigorous and comprehensive educational training experience. The programs are competency based, where each task must be successfully demonstrated to meet industry standards, before the student is challenged by the completion of more complex tasks. Each course builds upon the previous course to promote solid foundational knowledge of the tools, terminology, materials, and techniques used every day in O&P practices and facilities.
Amidst this hub of activity, it is obvious the students are proud of their work and the career they’ve chosen—confident that the knowledge and skills they’re acquiring will serve them well and benefit future patients.
Ruthie H. Dearing, MHSA, JD, is program coordinator at the Spokane Falls Community College O&P Technology Program.