MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s not only the wounds from the battlefields that bring patients face to face with artificial limbs.
Medical maladies such as diabetes, neuropathies and vehicle and workplace accidents create an even greater demand for prosthetics and orthotics.
Gulf War veteran Pat Sanders survived his military service, only to lose a leg here at home.
“I have a below-the-knee amputation from a motorcycle accident,” Sanders said.
Fortunately for Sanders, and all amputees, the devices now being made are high tech and highly functional — unlike the earliest artificial limbs that were crudely fashioned from wood and metal.
But the need for skilled prosthetic and orthotic clinicians will jump by an amazing 60 percent in the next ten years. Many of those now employed in the field are entering the years nearing retirement.
“Some states, especially those with large veteran populations, already face a shortage of critically-needed clinicians,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
She made her remarks after touring the offices of Twin Cities Prosthetics in Edina. She was there to promote co-sponsoring legislation called the Wounded Warrior Workforce Enhancement Act.
The legislation would give grants to educational institutions for establishing and expanding training programs in prosthetics and orthotics.
St. Paul’s Century College is the only such institution in the nation to offer three levels of instruction, from technician, practitioner assistant and master’s degree program.
“Part of the problem today is that the doctors are saving people that used to die,” said Dick Swan, a Korean War veteran and amputee. “And now they’re being saved and they have traumatic injuries.”
Training clinicians is limited because there are only six other schools besides Century College where people like Sanders can learn the skills needed to design, manufacture and fit such important medical devices.
“Every day I’m working with somebody whose life has been devastated, and we can treat them and get them back to a highly-functional level, and it’s so rewarding.”It is filling a need that is bound to get greater.