Fabricating and fitting orthoses and prostheses requires a comprehensive understanding of anatomy, physiology, biomechanics and kinesiology - in short, how the bodys components operate and interrelate.

More than 3,500 orthotists and prosthetists in the United States have demonstrated their competence in these areas by meeting the standards set by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics and Prosthetics (ABC). ABC grants three credentials:

CO Certified Orthotist
CP Certified Prosthetist
CPO Certified Prosthetist/Orthotist

Educational Requirements
The educational requirements for ABC certification are the only orthotic and prosthetic educational standards recognized by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).

Credentialing Requirements
In order to become certified by ABC, a practitioner must have a bachelor's
degree in O & P or a Bachelor of Science degree and a one-year postgraduate education certificate in O & P.  In addition, candidates must successfully complete a one year residency in each discipline that is accredited by the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE).

In addition, candidates must pass a rigorous written examination, written simulation and a one-day clinical examination, all of which are designed to evaluate their abilities. Every five years, certified practitioners renew their credentials by meeting continuing education requirements, through which they demonstrate their knowledge of the latest developments in technology and patient management.

Because the standards set by ABC demonstrate competence, physicians have historically referred their patients to ABC-certified orthotists and prosthetists. Many state and federal agencies, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, also require service provision by ABC-certified practitioners.

Areas of Competency
ABC certification aims to ensure that a practitioner has demonstrated competency in the following areas:

Clinical Assessment
Patient Management
Technical Implementation
Practice Management
Professional Responsibility

Continuing Education
To maintain certification, a practitioner must meet established continuing education requirements. Rigorous education, certification and continuing education standards are one means by which competency and quality in health care service delivery are measured. These requirements clearly demonstrate that ABC-certified practitioners are the most qualified providers of orthotic and prosthetic care. These high standards are also important for payer and provider organizations, which can be assured that their practitioners will deliver high quality, cost-effective care. Thus, the knowledge, clinical, and technical skills of these practitioners are essential in assisting patients with acute, comprehensive rehabilitation or chronic care needs.