Getting to know podiatry
Podiatrists are autonomous specialist health professionals working in the field of foot and lower limb disorders. It is a small but highly flexible, rewarding and varied profession where practitioners help people of all ages maintain their health and wellbeing through minor surgery, orthotic device prescription, exercise, wound care and health education. This includes access to and the use of a wide range of prescription only medicines, administration of local anaesthetics and the ability to perform minor surgical procedures upon completion of the degree.
Podiatry offers the opportunity to work in a range of specialist disciplines, including diabetes, wound care, paediatrics, forensics, musculoskeletal practice and rheumatology to name but a few.
As a graduate of the course you will be eligible for professional registration with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and be fully prepared to begin your career as a podiatrist. With minimal further postgraduate training podiatrists are qualified to administer soft tissue and joint steroid injections and with a further period of study can move into Podiatric Surgery and perform invasive foot and ankle surgery and reconstruction. Most new Podiatry graduates enter the NHS at grade 5 or 6 but many choose to work a split of part private and part NHS practice.
What does a podiatrist do?
A podiatrist cares for the feet, ankles and lower limbs. They are an expert in the structure, function and health of these parts of the body.
Podiatrists diagnose, treat and rehabilitate diseases and complications, prevent and manage problems, relieve pain, treat infection and support people with foot complications.
A podiatrist’s patients can range from babies to older people. They specialise in helping patients with high risk, long-term conditions, particularly those with diabetes, arthritis and poor circulation
Podiatrists often work in teams with other healthcare professionals. They liaise between GP surgeries, patients’ homes, care homes, A&E departments and hospitals to make sure patients get the best care wherever they are.
Podiatrists can prescribe medicines, which used to be something only doctors could do.
What’s the work like?
- Once qualified, podiatrists can choose NHS work, private practice, academic work, or even a combination. Podiatry generally pays well.
- As you continue your career in podiatry, you’ll have the opportunity to specialise in areas that interest you. You could specialise in an area of biology like the vascular, musculoskeletal or neurological system, or in a type of condition, like diabetes, rheumatology or sports injuries. Some podiatrists specialise in treating children, some do postgraduate study to become podiatric surgeons, and there are even forensic podiatrists who help with criminal investigations by analysing footprints from crime scenes and ways people walk.
- Many podiatrists work sociable, routine hours. Working part-time can be an option.
- With people living longer, and more people living with the sort of long-term conditions podiatrists specialise in, you’ll probably always be able to find as much work as you want.
What makes a good podiatrist?
- Caring is a key skill. Wanting to help people, to relieve their pain and strain and help them live healthier and more independent lives, is the most important quality you need to study and work as a podiatrist.
- Being comfortable working with your hands. Podiatry is a hands-on job, often calling for a lot of manual skill.
- Having people skills. Many people can be nervous about letting someone treat them. Podiatrists need to put people at their ease and show them there’s nothing to be embarrassed or worried about.