Requirements on Track to Transition to Associate-Degree Level
As the first year of the new pedorthic education requirements draws to a close, The O&P EDGE takes a look at the progress that’s been made.
Until last year, if someone wanted to become a certified pedorthist, it was just a matter of taking a series of courses—online or in class—that could be completed in three weeks or less. By the end of 2012, that model will pass away.
With the changes, the format and style for becoming a certified pedorthist could be similar but just take a little longer to complete, according to Robin Seabrook, executive director of the National Commission on Orthotic and Prosthetic Education (NCOPE). Under the new education requirements, the path to becoming to a certified pedorthist could now take up to two years, she says.
The years 2011 and 2012 are primarily transitional years for the new requirements, Seabrook says. Current approved programs—the courses that were approved when the Commission on Accreditation of Pedorthic Education (CAPE) merged with NCOPE in 2009—have until the end of 2012 to become compliant with the new standards, Seabrook says. These standards are designed at the certificate level within a college or university, according to NCOPE. Instruction must be an appropriate sequence of classroom, laboratory, and clinical experience.
Based on the outcome of an educational conference of pedorthic experts in April 2010, the profession decided to move to an academically based education program in order to prepare an individual to enter the pedorthic profession, Seabrook says. (Editor’s note: For more information, read The Pedorthist Education Debate, The O&P EDGE, November 2010.)
“Ultimately, it’s for the patients who receive the care these professionals provide,” she says. “[We felt] that the need to make a connection with academic institutions to build a stronger foundation of knowledge and skills to meet the future demand and need of pedorthic patients was needed.”
The requirements may also help address low enrollment problems in the current pedorthic education certificate programs by reaching out to students who are getting ready to or who are already attending college and get them interested in pedorthics as their field of choice—”either diverting them from another program or in addition to the other program, if they are compatible,” says CAPE Chairman Chris Costantini, CPed.
“That’s what we’ve heard from educators, who have said they can’t fill their classes with enough students,” Seabrook says.
A college or university that develops such a program can also award an associate degree if it wants, but it is not required, Seabrook says. These requirements have been designed to bring the pedorthic profession into alignment with most, if not all, allied healthcare professions, she adds.
For the most part, current certified pedorthists will be unaffected by the new education requirements, according to Kristi Hayes, CPed, Pedorthic Footcare Association (PFA) president.
“Changes to education affect incoming pedorthists in the coming years, but the changes will impact the industry in a very positive way…with more well-rounded programs and education,” Hayes says. “These changes elevate our profession. Member reaction has been positive, and it is business as usual.”
There may be some increase in wages due to competition for good pedorthists, but this is projected to be minimal since most pedorthists are presently “home grown,” Costantini says. “It is more common for someone to enter the field because their current employer has identified a need to have someone specialized in pedorthic types of treatment modalities than it is to have someone enter without already having worked in part of the field,” he says.
Most practicing pedorthists are cross-credentialed with another allied healthcare profession—usually as orthotists and/or prosthetists or physical therapists—or they worked in a shoe store focusing on technical shoe fitting (size and width specialty store or sports oriented), he says. “They already had one foot in the field and simply stepped the rest of the way in.”
The new education model does have a possible drawback, however. Namely, the new requirements could result in fewer pedorthists in the future.
“There’s always the possibility that not enough [education] programs will exist or that people will not choose this as a profession to work toward,” Seabrook says. NCOPE will wait until mid-2012 to assess how programs have or will transition.
The opposite is also possible. Being listed among the allied healthcare options at various colleges and universities could serve a marketing purpose. “With a tie with an academic institution, they can be on the radar screen as an allied health profession of choice versus going to a course because my boss sent me,” Seabrook says.
Costantini adds, “This exposure to the general public, which has been sorely lacking to this point, will cause people to look for a pedorthist. This will drive the demand for the field. That will eventually be the engine that drives up wages.”