unique orthopaedic devices

The nomadic life of an Orthotist.


For the majority of Orthotists working for private contractors in the UK, it is rare to occupy the same clinic room weekly, or even fortnightly. It is also not uncommon for 40k miles to be racked up yearly from the commute – Monday/Edinburgh, Tuesday/Leeds etc., no problem! Or is it? Currently the profession is struggling with retention and having a graduate out on the road doing this level of mileage could potentially lead to burnout. Even an experienced Orthotist might well struggle. Is a limit required geographically and does it even make sense from a business perspective?

No matter how geographically stretched they are, Orthotists are not likely to be found in the same clinical setting across multiple hospitals. Those who do not have a dedicated office, often use a multi-purpose room with the requirement to wheel everything you need to carry out your practice. This further emphasises the nomadic nature of this role. I see Orthotists carrying out their duties from rooms and gyms across specialist rehabilitation units, podiatry, physiotherapy, fracture clinic, GP practices and orthopaedic outpatients to name but a few.

You may have read one of my previous articles on rooms not being fit for purpose, but I would say that 99% of the time joint clinics with other AHP’s nearly always guarantees a better working environment. It is more likely to be fit for purpose than a regular multi use room, with for example – equipment like plinths or hoists, size of the space, or even an assistant from the department you are working in.

If the room issues raised above are resolved, I would say that working within different AHP’s clinics is still a necessity currently. Even if you had the luxury of a large department with in-house manufacturing, the Orthotist still needs to be present in those specialist MDT clinics. It could be the surgeon and podiatrist green lighting you to finally measure that Charcot foot, or removal of POP during a cycle of serial casting for a child to allow not only a window of casting for AFO to occur, but to also ensure you are fitting the item immediately after removal of POP – a better experience for the client and ensures the Orthotist is in the pathways cycle.

Far less DNAs seem to occur for Orthotics in a MDT setting. Various reasons seem to exist for this rightly or wrongly, but clients may add more value to that appointment and for those with logistical issues to get into clinic, this one stop shop appointment with all relevant AHPs makes sense.

For those with specialities and extended scope qualifications, then you are likely to be required in that MDT clinic, whether that be the specialist diabetic clinic with podiatry, or the physio gym for your neuro clinic. It’s likely joint assessments, healthy debate, communication with client and skill sharing can flourish. I think the best situation would be whereby Orthotics occupy actual hospital real estate in their own department with dedicated room for visibility and self worth, but still working within other departments in a MDT setting as a necessity for good care efficiencies and outcomes.

How do you find your working week? Much of the feedback we get, is that the variety of the working week is seen mostly in a positive light, but if you think otherwise we’d like to hear your viewpoint.