What is podiatry?

Eye-opening hospital work experience
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Podiatry is a medical specialty that focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and management of diseases, defects and injuries of the foot, ankle and lower limb. This includes ankle and foot injuries, problems with gait or walking, complications related to medical conditions such as diabetes and arthritis and diseases of the skin or nail such as cracked heels, ingrown toenails, neuromas, warts and other fungal conditions.

A doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) is called a podiatrist. A podiatrist is a licensed physician and/or surgeon who has undergone specialist training in assessing, diagnosing and treating medical conditions related to the foot, ankle and lower limb.

To work as a podiatrist in the UK, you need to complete a 3 or 4-year podiatry degree programme that is approved by the Health and Care Professionals Council or HCPC. You can then choose to undergo further training in highly specialised fields such as podiatric surgery, forensic podiatry and clinical biomechanics.

All podiatrists must register with Health and Care Professionals Council. Continued education and other professional development activities are necessary in order to retain your name on the HCPC registry.

Nature of the work

In this role, you would spend most of your workdays attending to patients across all ages who are experiencing some sort of food problem. During the course of one day you may encounter a toddler with a congenital foot defect, a teenager with a sports-related foot injury, a middle-aged adult with an infected ingrown toenail and an elderly with diabetes-related foot problems.

The diverse nature of the job requires that you are flexible, have outstanding analytical and communication skills and can relate to patients of all ages especially in terms of explaining treatment options and dispensing advice on how patients can improve their mobility, independence and quality of life.

Excellent manual dexterity is also a valuable skill in order to perform focused therapeutic or surgical techniques to treat the delicate, smaller bones located within the foot. One of the most common procedures that podiatrists perform is nail and soft tissue surgery.

Podiatrists who work with the NHS often work with patients who are at a high risk for amputations. These are individuals who may be suffering from diseases such as diabetes or who may have suffered a severe injury that necessitates an amputation.

Workplace settings

Qualified podiatrists are in high demand across a diverse range of workplaces including:

  • Hospitals
  • Private clinics
  • Centres offering specialist podiatry services
  • Nursing homes
  • Sports clubs
  • Occupational health centres
  • Complementary therapy clinics
  • As part of a general practitioner’s surgery team

You also have the option of setting up your own private practice. 

Is this the right career for you?

Working in healthcare as a podiatrist has tremendous potential. However this is a highly specialized field and you need to make sure that it is a good fit for you. You do not want to spend years in training only to discover too late that you do not have the necessary skills or attributes for the jobs. A short stint in observing a podiatrist at work either by shadowing or doing a medical placement will give you valuable insight into the field and help you make the right decision.

 

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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