What is a Podiatrist’s Scope of Practice?

‘Scope of practice’ refers to the treatments and actions a qualified healthcare professional can undertake in their practice. In this article we take a look at what exactly podiatrists can do once they have attained the appropriate qualifications and licensing requirements to practice in the UK.

The scope of practice includes five key areas as described by the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, and these are:

  • Children
  • High Risk Patient Management
  • Biomechanics
  • General Clinics
  • Foot Surgery

Children and podiatric childcare

An important part of podiatric care is addressing issues that some children face with the anatomy and function of their feet. These problems can have far reaching consequences affecting their gait and quality of life. The field of podiatric childcare is called Podopaediatrics, and deals with lower limb problems affecting children.

Biomechanics, sports and podiatry

Biomechanics is a term used to describe the way our limbs function to get us to walk and run. Essential to biomechanics is an understanding of anatomy and how different parts of the body work in concert to produce movement. Podiatrists are concerned with the biomechanics of the lower limb, and how disruptions in the function of the lower limb can impact a person’s mobility as a whole.

This area is particularly important when dealing with sports injuries, and sports podiatry is a growing field for which there is ever increasing demand. Injuries of the lower limb can affect the upper body, posture, and performance, all important considerations for athletes.

Many biomechanical issues can be successfully addressed through the use of orthotics, a very important part of podiatry. Orthotics are specialised, custom made insoles that compensates for abnormalities in the architecture of a foot, and these offer fantastic pain relieving solutions to people suffering from chronic gait problems.

High-Risk patients

An important area in which podiatrists work is alongside people suffering from a disease that affects the health and safety of the lower limb. A major issue in this field is that of circulation, and many high-risk patients are diabetics who are at risk of problems with blood flow to their feet, and without adequate care serious complications can occur. Other conditions that can require the help of a podiatrist include peripheral nerve damage and rheumatoid arthritis. Nerve issues can be a particular concern as patients can be unaware of injury to their foot, this can worsen over time to the point where their mobility and quality of life are seriously affected.

Foot surgery

Podiatrists can be involved in foot surgery provided he or she has received the appropriate qualifications. A graduate from a school of podiatry who is registered with the Health and Care Professions Council can perform some surgical procedures and apply a local anaesthetic, these are all surgeries in which a podiatrist has been carefully trained.

Some podiatrists can further their interest in surgery and receive additional training in foot surgery. This qualification takes many years to attain to ensure that only the most able practitioners deliver complex surgical treatments.

General Clinics

General clinics are the basis of podiatry practice, and a valuable tool for training budding podiatrists. A general clinic will involve assessing patients for their podiatric needs, and through a general clinic podiatrists are exposed to a huge variety of people with a range of different and unique mobility problems.

These areas of podiatry a rough outline to the duties that most podiatrists will perform in the UK today.

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