Frequently asked questions

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

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):

What is a podiatrist?

A podiatrist is a health professional regulated by Quebec’s Code des professions du Québec (Quebec’s Code of professions), Loi sur la podiatrie (Quebec’s Law on podiatry) and Code de déontologie des podiatres (Quebec’s Podiatry Code of Ethics). Podiatrists evaluate and treat foot diseases and problems (other than systemic diseases) using medical, chemical, pharmaceutical, surgical, mechanical and manual treatment means. Podiatrists have the knowledge to discriminate between local and systemic foot ailments and complications, systemic problems being the responsibly of medical doctors. In addition to offering counsel on foot health and hygiene, podiatrists can prescribe certain medications, perform minor surgery, and prescribe, make and modify podiatric orthoses. For more information on foot ailments, please see the section on foot care.

Do I need a reference from my doctor to see a podiatrist?

No, you do not require a doctor’s reference to see a podiatrist.

What is the difference between a orthosis prescribed by a podiatrist and that of an orthotist?

The difference rests essentially on the quality of the diagnostic, the precision of the prescription and the rigour of the follow‑up. By being present at all stages of the process, your podiatrist can ensure that your problem is treated in the most targeted and effective way possible.

What is the difference between a podiatrist and an orthotist?

Podiatrists diagnose and treat foot ailments, i.e. traumas, deformities, malformations, and all types of foot lesions and diseases. He/she prescribes or makes orthotics, prescribes certain medications, performs minor surgery and oversees foot reeducation treatments.

In Quebec, podiatrists must have a degree in podiatric medicine and a license to practice podiatric medicine that is delivered through the Ordre des podiatres du Québec (Quebec’s Order of Podiatrists).

Orthotists design, make, adjust, repair and maintain prosthetics (artificial limbs) and orthotics (orthoses or corsets) that have been prescribed by a medical doctor or a podiatrist. They must have a college degree in orthotics and prosthetics (diplôme d’études collégiales en techniques d’orthèses et de prothèses orthopédiques), and can subscribe to Quebec’s Association des orthésistes, prothésistes et orthésistes du pied or Quebec’s Ordre des technologues professionnels du Québec, but are not required to do so.

Source (in French only): Proté

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