Registration, Certification, and Education

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By Bernard Hewey, CPO

Several weeks ago I commented on the OANDP-L listserv about two issues: the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics & Pedorthics (ABC) immediate change of title from registered technician to certified technician, and the pending changes to the technician exam.

Within the O&P profession, registered technicians are recognized for their initial education and/or experience as well as for their dedication to their chosen field as evidenced by undertaking the ABC registration exams. Changing the title to certified does not change a technician's underlying skills and professionalism, and hopefully his or her efforts are acknowledged with respect and remuneration commensurate with the title.

My listserv post was intended to illuminate the apparent dichotomy between compensation and skills that the title infers. Whether registered or certified, technicians who successfully fulfill the initial requirements and commit themselves to continuing education should reasonably expect starting wages significantly better than new hires with no O&P background, commitment to the profession, or demonstrated competency.

Concerning the pending changes in both substance and administration of the ABC technician registration exam, let me first commend ABC and the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE) for recognizing and acting on the need to update the exam to more accurately reflect current and emerging trends in the O&P industry. To my knowledge, there has been only one formal meeting on this and other related matters in which representatives of all technician educational programs were invited and in attendance. Since that meeting, there has been scant information distributed to the stakeholders. It seems that informal discussions were often held as sidebars during other unrelated meetings, but these conversations weren't widely known.

As an educator in an O&P technology program, I have a direct stake in the conclusions and implementation of any revised assessment. I for one would like to be kept better apprised of what the various committees and individuals are contemplating when considering changes to assessment objectives. Most, if not all, educational programs are dynamically implementing revisions and developing new content while constrained by institutional and state restrictions on instructional clock hours and degree requirements. Our programs will better serve the student and eventual employer if we can teach current, established technology and techniques instead of devoting increasingly scarce instructional time on potentially irrelevant content reflected in certification exam assessments.

As technical educators, we are responsible for developing and revising curricula that reflect current industry practices, anticipate emerging trends, and map to the assessment instruments that will evaluate competency. Implementing curricula changes is a long and arduous institutional process, and if those responsible for its development are able to more directly participate in the assessment component, the entire process can be more effective and valid.

Bernard Hewey, CPO, is an instructor in the Orthotics-Prosthetics Technician Program at Spokane Falls Community College, Washington.