Training of orthopaedic professionals in Latin America

Ottobock SE & Co. KGaA (Ottobock) • Higher care standards and improved career prospects.

trainee from Latin America works on a prosthetic arm under the supervision of a trainer

In Latin America, some 30 million people live with disabilities of the locomotor system, caused by diseases, accidents or violent crimes. Only around 60 percent of patients have access to appropriate care and the necessary orthopaedic products and services. One major reason is the lack of trained professionals.

The job description of an orthopaedic technician is not established in many Latin American countries. Knowledge of orthopaedic care is often passed without formal education from generation to generation. For a long time, only the Don Bosco University (UDB) in San Salvador, El Salvador, offered an internationally-recognized degree programme for orthopaedic technicians. Since 2010, a course has also been running at the national training institution Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (SENA) in Bogota, Colombia, which is based on the curriculum of the UDB. In Brazil, the most populous country in South America, there is as yet no internationally-recognized orthopaedic technology degree programme.

The existing degree programmes reveal significant deficiencies: Modern care approaches and technologies are hardly taken into account in the curriculum, and the teaching staff lack practical experience. As a result, the manufactured prostheses often do not fit, causing pain to patients. The local education institutions are primarily interested in the improvement of the practical training components. Against this background, in 2011 the German Society for International Cooperation (GIZ), Ottobock and the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics (ISPO) launched a development partnership in Latin America. Their goal is to strengthen in the long term the regional training structures and thus to ensure adequate care for people with physical disabilities.

Three institutions in El Salvador, Colombia and Brazil have been supported under the programme commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The selected existing programmes are aimed at aspiring and established professionals in all three countries. The further development and the establishment of new study programmes according to international standards are intended to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities, as well as job and income opportunities in the target countries.

Medical technology company Ottobock is one of the leading manufacturers of innovative products for people with reduced mobility and is the global market leader in prosthetics. Worldwide, Otto Bock HealthCare employs more than 6,300 employees. The company has sales and service sites in Latin America in Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile.

young man practices the use of his artificial arm with a coach

Regional Ottobock trainers and trainers from the Ottobock Academy in Germany have familiarized instructors with modern care concepts and the required quality-management measures. In addition, they have overseen the transfer of learning into the classroom. The taught care approaches have been integrated into the school curricula.

Moreover, the medical technology company has provided the universities with extensive instructional materials. Other aspects of the initiative included several-week internships in Germany and intensive specialization training for experts in orthotics and prosthetics of the lower and upper extremities. The workshop environment, too, has been expanded. Thus, UDB has this year with the help of Ottobock set up a Myo Room where students are taught about modern care solutions using myoelectric arm prostheses.

In Brazil, the first task was to create awareness of the requirements of holistic orthopaedic training according to international standards. To this end, discussions took place with training institutions and policy makers as part of the project before implementation of the training programme.

The three-year project has helped improve the training of orthopaedic specialists in the region considerably. Workshops, care companies and rehabilitation centres in El Salvador, Colombia, Brazil, and other Latin American countries all benefit from this and can now resort to local experts. At the same time, new career and income opportunities have been created for those working in the field of orthopaedic technology who previously had no formal qualifications. The improved training standards mean that the quality of orthopaedic care is increasing, particularly in Latin America. As a result, the quality of life for people with disabilities or reduced mobility is also being significantly increased.


This sucess story was first published in the iMOVE publication Developing Skills for Employability with German Partners • 8 Success Stories from the Health and Geriatric Care Sector. The brochure was published in 2015.

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Trainee observes trainer working on an artificial limb