Bex Yearworth is a prosthetic technician and workshop team leader with Opcare, a division of the Ability Matters Group (AMG). She joined Opcare in 2015 at the age of 25, following time spent working in the arts.
Most mornings start with looking through my job sheets and working out what jobs are due soon and what stage they are currently are. I can be working on between 4-8 jobs at a time, each one ranging from a small repair to an entirely new limb build.
For some jobs, I’ll be waiting on parts or components to complete the job. Due to there being thousands of different prosthetic components available, these often have to be ordered for each patient specifically.
If I have any queries about the jobs I’m working on and need to speak to the prescribing prosthetist, I try to get this done early, as they’ll soon be starting their morning clinic. Each socket is made completely bespoke for the patient, so I will be working off a CNC carved foam or plaster cast model of someone’s residual limb. Some of the processes used to make a prosthetic socket requires thermoforming plastic, so I like to get these done as early as possible as they need to cool down before being finished.
Once I complete a socket, it’s a case of building the limb using the prescribed components. We pick components based on the patients’ health needs, as well as their anticipated physical activity. Measurements are provided to ensure the limb is the correct height for the patient; it is set up in a neutral alignment and then ready to be fitted. I add details to the limb to ensure it can be identified if it comes back into the workshop and then pass it to the workshop manager who does a quality check to ensure all work has been completed as per the prescription and the limb is safe to be fitted.
Between 30-40 patients attend the centre each day, some of whom require adjustments or repairs in the workshop, so most of my morning is taken up completing these. I will try to pick up my other work when I can, but my priority is always the patients who are currently in the centre. The process of fitting a limb can require lots of back and forth: reducing or increasing height, adjusting the socket to fit comfortably, and torqueing all bolts for safety, so the limb can be delivered. Repairs can also be unpredictable, and you never know what will come through the door next. Patients can be six-months or 100-years-old, and they could be using the latest in prosthetic technology or a limb that is decades old, but I always have someone to turn to for advice if I get stuck.
Once the morning clinic has been completed, I am able to pick up where I left off completing my ongoing work. Hopefully by this point we will have received all our deliveries for the day so I can complete any jobs for which I was waiting on parts.
My workshop manager will let me know if anything is needed urgently, in which case I’ll try to rearrange my time to accommodate this. Before I finish for the day, I’ll do another check of my job sheets to make sure my jobs are still on track to be completed on time. Then I clean down my tools, PPE and work bench ready for another busy day.
South & City College Birmingham is currently working with AMG to offer national engineering apprenticeships.