|Activity sectors||Medicine, Podiatric Medicine, Sports Medicine, Endocrinology, Orthopedic Surgery, Dermatology, Radiology, Biomechanics, Rheumatology, Neurology|
|Competencies||The Science of Medicine, Surgical Skills, Biomechanics, Ethics, Critical thinking, Analytical skills, Professionalism, Management skills, and Communication skills.|
A podiatrist, also known as a podiatric physician ( /poʊˈdaɪətrɪst/ poh-dye-eh-trist) or 'foot doctor', is a medical professional, a physician devoted to the study and medical treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle and lower extremity. The term originated in North America but has now become the accepted term in the English-speaking world for all practitioners of Podiatric Medicine. Podiatrists are the only medical professionals who exclusively specialize in treating the foot and ankle. In the US, Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) are physicians and surgeons who practice on the lower extremities, primarily on feet and ankles. The preparatory education of most podiatrists includes four years of undergraduate work, followed by four years in an accredited podiatric medical school, followed by a three or four year hospital-based surgical residency. Podiatrists are licensed in all 50 states.
Worldwide, in many countries the term Podiatrist refers to Allied Health professionals who specialize in the treatment of the lower extremity, particularly the foot. Podiatrists in these countries are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of foot pathology but not through surgical means. In some circumstances these practitioners will further specialise and, following further training, perform reconstructive foot and ankle surgery.
In contrast, American Podiatrists who hold a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) complete surgical residencies and thus all practitioners are trained in surgical treatments of the foot and ankle. Though the title "chiropodist" was previously used in the United States to designate what is now known as a "podiatrist," it is now considered to be an antiquated and etymologically incorrect term. Although podiatrists worldwide do not attend traditional medical school, in many countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Spain and Australia they are granted privileges to perform surgical procedures of the foot and ankle.
Podiatrists treat a wide variety of foot and lower extremity conditions, through nonsurgical and surgical approaches. The American Board of Podiatric Medicine (ABPM) offers a comprehensive board qualification and certification process in podiatric medicine and orthopedics. Podiatric Medicine and Orthopedics is the medical specialty concerned with the comprehensive and continuous foot health care of patients. There are those podiatric physicians who also specialize (i.e. specialists) in such fields of practice of podiatric medical specialties as:
- Reconstructive Foot and Ankle Surgery (Consultant Podiatric Surgeon)
- General Podiatric Physician
- Podiatric Medical Physician
- Podiatric Orthopedic
- Sports Medicine (Podiatric Sports Physicians)
- High Risk Wound Care 
- Podiatric Rheumatology 
- Neuro-podiatrist (Neurology) 
- Onco-podiatrist (Skin Cancers) or Podiatric Oncologist
- Podiatric Vascular Specialist
- Dermatological Podiatrist
- Diagnostic Podoradiologist (Radiology)
- Gerontological Podiatrist
- Diabetic limb salvage and wound care (Podiatric Diabetologist)
- Podopaediatrics (the study of children's foot and ankle conditions)
- Forensic Podiatry (the study of footprints, footwear, shoeprints and feet associated with crime scene investigations)
In Australia there is now an option to be a podiatric assistant. The qualification is a Certificate IV in Allied Health Assistance specialising in podiatry. They work as a part of a podiatric medical team in a variety of clinical and non clinical settings. There is currently developing strategies further utilise these skilled workers. Worldwide there are common professional accreditation pathways to be a podiatric assistant. There are many fields such as:
- Podiatric Nurse
- Foot carer/nurse
- Podiatry support worker
- Podiatry technician
- Podiatry Hygienists
- Foot Health Professional
- Podiatric Surgical Nurse
- Foot Hygienist
- Foot Health Practitioner
- Podiatric Medical assistant
Podiatric surgery is a specialist field in the podiatry profession in most western countries, including Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Podiatric surgery is defined as “the surgical treatment of conditions affecting the foot, ankle and related lower extremity structures by accredited and qualified specialist podiatrists”. Podiatric surgeons are concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot and ankle. Podiatric surgeons are qualified to care for bone, joint, ligament, muscle and tendon pathology of the foot and ankle, such as:
- Structural deformities, including bunions, hammertoes, painful flat foot and high arch deformity, bone spurs
- Heel pain
- Nerve entrapments
- Degeneration and arthrosis of the joints of the foot and ankle
- Skin and nail conditions
- Congenital deformities
- Trauma-related injuries, including fracture and dislocations and post traumatic arthrosis
Podiatrists' roles include dealing with the conditions resulting from bone and joint disorders such as arthritis and soft-tissue and muscular pathologies as well as neurological and circulatory diseases. Podiatrists are also able to diagnose and treat any complications of the above which affect the lower limb, including skin and nail disorders, corns, calluses and ingrown toenails. Foot injuries and infections gained through sport or other activities are also diagnosed and treated by podiatrists.
Education and Training
Australian podiatrists complete an undergraduate degree of Bachelor of Podiatric Medicine ranging from 3 to 4 years of education. The first 2 years of this program are generally focused on various biomedical science subjects including anatomy, medical chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, pathophysiology, sociology and patient psychology, similar to the medical curriculum. The following two years will then be spent focusing on podiatry specific areas such as podiatric biomechanics and human gait, podiatric orthopaedics or the non-surgical management of foot abnormalities, pharmacology & prescribing, general medicine, general pathology, local and general anaesthesia, and surgical procedural techniques such as partial and total nail avulsions, matricectomy, cryotherapy, wound debridement and care, enucleation, and other cutaneous and electro-surgical procedures such as electro-desiccation, fulagaration and electrosection. Postgraduate courses in podiatric therapeutics and prescribing are required for having endorsements in scheduled medicines. Podiatric surgeons are specialist podiatrists who have completed extensive, post graduate medical and surgical training and perform reconstructive surgery of the foot and ankle. The qualifications of podiatric surgeons are recognised by Australian State and Federal Governments. It is an approved specialty by the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency. Podiatric surgeons are included within both the Health Insurance Act and the National Health Act.
The Podiatry Board of Australia recognizes 3 pathways to attain specialist registration as a Podiatric Surgeon:
- 1. Fellowship of the Australasian College of Podiatric Surgeons
- 2. Doctor of Clinical Podiatry, University of Western Australia
- 3. Eligibility for Fellowship of the Australasian College of Podiatric Surgeons
Podiatric surgical qualifications are a post-graduate speciality of the podiatric profession. Before attaining a podiatric surgical fellowship qualification, a podiatrist must complete an extensive training program, including: 1. Bachelor of Applied Science degree, majoring in Podiatry (4 years) 2. Minimum of 2 years post-graduate clinical practice 3. Master of Podiatry (2 years full-time university degree) 4. A 3-stage surgical fellowship training under supervision of the ACPS (4 to 6 years) 5. International residency training (usually in the UK and USA) 6. Demonstrated mastery of knowledge in foot and ankle surgery by passing oral and written examinations administered by the ACPS
In the United States, medical and surgical care of the foot and ankle is mainly provided by two groups of physicians: podiatrists (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine or DPM) and orthopedists (MDs or DOs). The first year of podiatric medical school is similar to training that either Doctors of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) receive, but with an emphasized scope on foot, ankle, and lower extremity. Being classified as a second entry degree, in order to be considered for admission an applicant must first complete a minimum of 90 semester hours at the university level or more commonly, complete a bachelor's degree with emphasis on general/organic chemistry, biochemistry, biology, etc. In addition, potential students are required to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The DPM degree itself takes a minimum of four years to complete. To enter a college of podiatric medicine, the student must first complete at least three years or 90 semester hours of college credit at an accredited institution. Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Physics (all science courses require a lab) and English are among the required classes. Over 95% of the students who enter a college of podiatric medicine have a bachelor's degree. Many have also completed some graduate study. Before entering a college of podiatric medicine, the student must take the MCAT ( Medical College Admissions Test).
There are nine colleges of podiatric medicine in the United States . They all receive accreditation from the Council on Podiatric Medical Education, which is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. All of the colleges grant the degree of Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM).
The four-year podiatric medical school is followed by a surgical based residency, which is hands-on post-doctoral training. There are two standard residencies: Podiatric Medicine & Surgery 24 and Podiatric Medicine & Surgery 36 (PM&S 24 or PM&S 36). These represent the two- or three-year residency training. By July 2013, all residency programs in podiatry will be required to transition to a minimum three-years of post-doctoral training. Podiatric residents rotate through core areas of medicine and surgery. They work alongside their MD and DO counterparts in such rotations as emergency medicine, internal medicine, infectious disease, behavioral medicine, physical medicine & rehabilitation, vascular surgery, general surgery, orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery, dermatology and of course podiatric surgery and medicine. Fellowship training is available after residency in such fields such as foot & ankle traumatology or limb salvage.
Upon completion of their residency, podiatrists can decide to become board certified by a number of specialty boards including the more common American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and Primary Podiatric Medicine and/or the American Board of Podiatric Surgery. The ABPMS or The American Board of Podiatric Medical Specialties has been certifying podiatrists since 1998. Within the American Board of Podiatric Surgery, PM&S 24 graduates can sit for Board Certification in Foot Surgery and those that complete PM&S 36 can sit for Board Certification in Foot Surgery and Board Certification in Reconstructive Rearfoot & Ankle Surgery. Both boards in ABPS are examined as separate tracks. Though the ABPS and ABPOPPM are more common, other boards are equally challenging and confer board qualified/certified status. Many hospitals and insurance plans do not require board eligibility or certification to participate.
In the UK, podiatrists usually undertake a 3-year undergraduate Bachelor of Science (Podiatry). Podiatric Surgeons have undertaken fellowships and postgraduate training. The scope of practice of a podiatrist falls into four key categories: General clinics, Biomechanics, High risk patient management and Surgery. There are two levels of surgical practice. As part of general podiatric care, podiatrists as HPC (Health Professions Council) registered practitioners are involved with nail and minor soft tissue surgical procedures and qualified to administer local anaesthetics. From 1 August 2012, the HPC is being rebranded to the HCPC (Health & Care Professions Council) as they are expanding their remit to include Social Workers. The old term of "State Registered" has been defunct for some time and is no longer used since the creation of the HPC. Some podiatrists go on to develop and train as podiatric surgeons, who surgically manage bone and joint disorders within the foot. It is to this latter group (Podiatric Surgeons) that the guidelines apply. Fellowship requires a minimum of six years postgraduate training. This includes a two or three year surgical residency with an approved centre. Podiatric surgeons acquire comprehensive knowledge of related subjects including pharmacology, regional anaesthetic techniques and radiographic interpretation, as well as in-depth knowledge of foot surgery. The surgical faculty of the College of Podiatrists has set the standards for fellowship.
There is only one university that offers the training to become a podiatrist. Podiatrists must have a Bachelor of Health Science majoring in podiatry from Auckland University of Technology (AUT), or an overseas qualification recognised by the Podiatrists Board of New Zealand, be registered with the Podiatrists Board of New Zealand and have a current Annual Practising Certificate.
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