Certified Orthotists CO(c) are uniquely trained professionals who provide comprehensive patient care for individuals in need of orthotic treatment.
They provide clinical assessment, technical design, fabrication, dispensing, and follow-up for orthotic treatments. They complete a gait assessment and evaluate the mobility of the joints to design an orthotic treatment for the condition the patient is suffering from. The primary goal of the Orthotist is to restore mobility and to prevent or limit disability.
An orthosis is a device that assists a limb or the spine. Orthosis can range from a foot orthotic, to a knee, back, hand or other joint brace. They should not be confused with a prosthesis that replaces a lost part of the body. Orthotists also receive training in wheelchair fitting and compressive garments.
An orthosis can be used to benefit many different needs of the patients. A patient may have recently undergone surgery or may have pain or impairment in their back, shoulders, hip, knees, ankles, feet or any other joint in the body. They may suffer from a condition such as diabetes, arthritis, plantar fasciitis, bone spurs, spinal cord injury, stroke, spina bifida, cerebral palsy or any number of other conditions. Athletes are also a frequent client as orthotists are capable of providing an orthotic such as a brace in response to a sports injury. Orthosis are also used by athletes to improve their performance.
Orthotists look much deeper than a single injury or chronic ailment. They consider the underlying medical cause and effects of the problem, as well as the overall health and lifestyle of the patient to help define the requirements of the orthotic treatment.
Orthotists depend on the services of a Registered Orthotic/Prosthetic Technician who fabricates, repairs, and maintains orthosis. The Technician is proficient in current fabricating techniques and skilled in the use of appropriate equipment. The Technician makes orthosis from technical specifications, measurements, provided by an Orthotist.
Education for Certified Orthotists in Canada
Training to become a Certified Orthotist begins with the completion of a Bachelor of Science degree, followed by two years at an accredited orthotic clinical program, two years in a residency program, and the successful challenge of national written, oral and practical examinations.
The following educational institutions are available in Canada:
Certified Orthotists on PEI
Two Certified Orthotists work on PEI. One works at the QEH. Vanessa Lavoie works in Charlottetown with Island Orthotics, which is owned by three Orthotists Joanne St-Pierre, Francois St-Onge and Danny Charron. Vanessa has been at the clinic for five years.
“I spend a lot of time with my clients conducting complete walking and running biomechanic assessments as well as examinations of the joints. Then comes the design and manufacturing of the orthotic device, followed by the important step of making the necessary adjustments to make sure the client is comfortable.”
She is originally from Packington, Québec, and received her diploma in 2009 from Collège Mérici, one of the four institutions in Canada that train Orthotists and Prosthetists. She immediately found employment in Moncton. In 2012, she was recruited to work at a practice in Charlottetown.
When Vanessa arrived on the Island, she did not speak any English. She understands the challenges of communicating in another language, and is proud to offer quality services in both English and French.
Always looking to better serve her clients, Vanessa continues to seek training in new and emerging technologies and treatments that are continually being updating in this field.
Vanessa Lavoie's journey to her chosen career
Vanessa didn’t go into the profession of orthotics right away. She started her education by training to work with people with disabilities. She went on to study jewelry making, a skill she loved and she received many awards. She also worked in a facility making dental bridges.
“I was at a point where I knew I wanted to go back to school and do something else. I was looking for a career in the medical field where I could work directly with people, because I am very social. I also like to work with materials to design and create a finished product. Orthotics seemed to be a great fit for me. Once I started the training, I fell in love with the profession.
“I had the opportunity to open a clinic on PEI, and even though I had very little English, I jumped in because I love PEI. As a child I watched Road to Avonlea and I always wanted to come here. I am from a small community in Quebec with a population of about 600. I never wanted to live in a big city, so PEI suits me very well.
“When I first came to PEI, what helped me most was the nature of the people here. I meet great people every day. My personality is to help and do the best job I can, so people trust me. All of this helped me overcome the language barrier I initially faced.
“With the experience I am getting, I am now more confident, and feel that I have made it through the learning curve of starting out in a new profession.”
Opportunities on PEI for more Certified Orthotists
Vanessa believes employment opportunities are limited on PEI because of the Island’s smaller population. Prospects are better in the rest of Canada. An Orthotist may work in hospital in the rehabilitation department or they can work in the private industry in a variety of roles.
Vanessa says the best avenue to ensure employment is to be certified through Orthotics Prosthetics Canada (OPC). For more information, visit www.opcanada.ca.
For more information about Island Orthotics and the products they offer visit www.equilibrum.ca/EN/expertise.php.