What does a podiatrist do?

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Podiatrists specialise in helping patients improve their mobility, independence and quality of life by diagnosing and treating foot and ankle problems. To work in this field, you would need to complete a recognised podiatry degree programme and become registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

Inside the podiatrist’s clinic

As a podiatrist, during your client’s first visit to the clinic, you would conduct a thorough assessment of the foot and ankle. Depending on the diagnosis, you would first discuss the treatment options with the patient and then develop a personalised treatment plan, keeping in mind the client’s lifestyle and the specific foot disorder.

Other responsibilities in this role involve advising patients on foot health and proper foot care, recommending appropriate footwear, dispensing advice on how to prevent foot-related problems and maintaining accurate patient records.

Podiatrists are also qualified to carry out treatments and minor surgery using chemicals, scalpels and local anaesthetics.

As a practitioner in this field, you would treat patients across all ages, from children with walking problems or lower leg pain to athletes with sports injuries and elderly people with arthritis.

Many podiatrists are also actively involved in educating the public about the importance of healthy feet by giving talks to small or large groups of people in individual organisations or the community.

Education and training

To work as a podiatrist in the UK, you would need to complete a BSc (Hons) degree in podiatry through a programme approved by the HCPC.

Most university course programmes give preference to applicants who have undertaken a shadowing placement. This would involve spending some time with a podiatrist learning about the role and what it involves. Another option is to do a medical placement where you can observe and even help a podiatrist in a hospital setting.

Participating in regular continuing professional development is necessary to maintain your HCPC registration. It will also help keep your skills updated and boost your employability. After you’ve acquired some experience in as a podiatrist, you could then choose to undergo advanced training in a specialist area such as orthotics or surgery or you could work towards a master’s or Ph.D. qualification.

Essential skills and attributes for this role

Podiatry is a very hands-on profession. You need to have excellent manual dexterity to be able to carry out the delicate treatments and intricate surgery related to the foot and ankle areas.

You also need to be detail-oriented to carefully review a patient’s medical history, obtain clues about the patient’s current problem and develop a proper treatment plan.

Strong communication and interpersonal skills are vital to be able to deal with all kinds of patients. Patients who visit your clinic may be concerned about their prognosis or fearful about a recommended procedure. In this role you need to be able to relate to patients, understand their reactions and gain their confidence.

If you are skilled with your hands, have a keen interest in science and enjoy helping people, this may be a great career choice for you to consider.

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