How do you distinguish between podiatrists, orthopedists, foot care nurses, orthotists, pedicurists, foot hygienists and chiropodists?

Last update: 8 March 2017

Podiatrists are a health care professionals who diagnose and treat foot ailments. He/she has a university degree in podiatric medicine. Some podiatrists have also gone through a residency program in podiatric surgery.

Orthopedists are doctors of Medicine who have specialized in orthopedic surgery. They offer medical and surgical treatment relating to bone, joint, ligament, muscle, tendon and nerve ailments.

Represented by Association des infirmières et des infirmiers en soins de pieds du Québec, foot care nurses are either registered or auxiliary nurses who have taken a specialized 135-hour training program on foot care. Nurses cannot treat a problem unless it has been diagnosed by a medical doctor or a podiatrist, and they cannot prescribe medication. In addition to obtaining a diagnostic through a doctor or a podiatrist, auxiliary nurses must also have a treatment plan established by a registered nurse before being allowed to treat a patient. A great number of foot care nurses work in podiatry clinics alongside podiatrists.

Orthotists have a college degree. They are technicians who make and adjust orthotics or prosthetics prescribed by a podiatrist (more specifically plantar orthoses in this case) or a doctor. The only decisions orthotists are allowed to make pertain to the adjustment of the device prescribed by the health professional.

Pedicurists and foot hygienists have been trained in foot esthetics. Some schools offer training that has not been approved by Quebec’s Education Ministry nor Regional School Boards. People who take this training are falsely led into thinking that they are allowed to offer foot care, but they are in fact illegally practising podiatric medicine. Legally speaking, pedicurists and foot hygienists can neither diagnose nor treat foot ailments.

Chiropodists are not allowed to practice in Quebec since their training is not considered to be equivalent to that of podiatrists and is not recognized by the province’s Loi sur la podiatrie. They cannot become members of Quebec’s Order of podiatrists as their profession has no legal status here. Simply put, chiropodists who practice in Quebec are illegally practising podiatric medicine. In Europe, where the profession is officially recognized, chiropodists cannot perform procedures that may cause bleeding, i.e. surgery, treatment of ingrown toenails, wound care, foot care for diabetic patients, callus removal, etc.

Source (in French only):

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