RACS provided submissions for this review, including advocating for a change in title. 

RACS will seek clarity on a range of recommendations in AHPRA’s final report, including education and training, accreditation and particularly the proposal to change the title of ‘podiatric surgeon’ to ‘surgical podiatrist’.  

Whilst it is an improvement on the previous title, RACS President Kerin Fielding argues against using the title ‘surgeon’, ‘surgical’ or ‘surgery’ for a non-surgical health practitioner. 

“RACS takes the position that patient safety is paramount and believes the ‘surgeon’ title, or the descriptor “surgical”, should reflect the rigorous training of specialists. Podiatrists performing surgery should use titles that accurately reflect their qualifications.”

“We have been advocating for a long time that only those registered to practice in one of the nine surgical specialties, or in ophthalmology, or obstetrics and gynaecology, and who are committed to a program of continued learning should be allowed to use the title of ‘surgeon’,” Associate Professor Fielding says. 

“RACS Fellows - surgeons with the FRACS postnominal - have spent five or six years at a minimum undergoing surgical education and training to a national benchmarked standard on top of a primary medical degree. They undertake Continued Professional Development, demonstrating a commitment to lifelong learning and a maintenance of their surgical skills to the standard of the present day. To blur the distinction between a specialist surgeon and other medical professionals who might call themselves ‘surgeons’ is at best misleading and at worst a risk to public safety.”

Following advocacy efforts by RACS and other medical associations to crackdown on so-called ‘cosmetic surgeons’ – a term that is not recognised by the Australian Medical Council (AMC) as a medical speciality - Australia’s federal government announced in late 2022 it would restrict the use of the title ‘surgeon’. 

“That was a huge win for patient safety,” says Associate Professor Fielding.

“There is a big difference between the skills and experience of a specialist plastic and reconstructive surgeon and other health practitioners who are able to perform some limited cosmetic procedures. Prospective patients must be able to transparently see a practitioner’s level of training. And our regulations must make clear that distinction.”

In this current review, whilst “surgical podiatrist” is an improvement, Associate Professor Fielding says for consistency’s sake, RACS would like to see podiatric surgeons renamed ‘procedural podiatrists’ or another term that more clearly reflects their qualifications and scope of practice. The descriptor “surgical” may still confuse patients that the practitioner has had extensive Australian Medical Council-approved surgical training.

“Podiatric proceduralists do great work and are well-trained in what they do, but they’re not surgeons and using that term to describe them can potentially mislead the public.”