St. Petersburg College now offers a two-year associate in science degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics Technology.
PINELLAS PARK – St. Petersburg College, a national leader in orthotics and prosthetics training, now is accepting applications for its new two-year associate in science degree in Orthotics and Prosthetics Technology, the first and only associate degree for orthotic and prosthetic technicians in Florida.
The coursework, offered at SPC’s $11 million J.E. Hanger College of Orthotics and Prosthetics at the Health Education Center, meets a growing demand for certified technicians who can fabricate, repair and maintain quality orthotics and prosthetics under the direction of certified orthotists and prosthetists. The college has had a bachelor’s degree program in orthotics and prosthetics since 2005. This associate’s degree expands the options for students.
“St. Petersburg College is the only educational institution in the United States to offer orthotic and prosthetic education of all levels and scopes,” said Program Director Arlene Gillis. “Our Comprehensive Innovation Center houses O&P continuing education courses, certificate classes, an associate degree, bachelor’s degree and master’s level education. Having a complete orthotic and prosthetic career ladder means that SPC is a ‘one-stop shop’ for O&P education and students can enter the field in a variety of ways, adding to their credentials if they choose to continue their education.”
Orthotics and Prosthetics is an expanding healthcare field that involves evaluating, fabricating and custom fitting artificial limbs and orthopedic braces to help rehabilitate patients with disabling conditions. Demand for O&P professionals who can treat conditions brought on by age and rising rates of obesity and diabetes continues to grow, as do the educational requirements.
A recent study by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education estimates that without an increase in O&P graduates, the number of practicing orthotists can serve just 61 percent of patients who need them. The study also projects the number of people using prostheses to increase by 50 percent. Currently, more than 54 million people experience functional limitations due to impairment or health conditions.
Careers in orthotics and prosthetics include practitioners (certified orthotists and certified prosthetists), pedorthists, assistants, fitters and technicians. The practitioner level provides comprehensive care, including assessment, treatment plans and practice management, and requires a master’s degree. Those who assist practitioners at various levels need post-secondary training and certifications.
Last year, SPC received part of an $11-million federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant aimed at expanding the number of trained, certified health care workers with expertise in orthotics and prosthetics.
SPC offers extensive facilities. These include 5,151 square feet of lab space with 48 individual work stations, 12 specialized fabrication devices, an overhead and wall projector system, and four industrial sewing machines; and 3,443 of lab support space.