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A Career in Podiatry

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 3 Jan 2013 | comments*Discuss
Podiatry Career Healthcare Feet

Most of us spend quite a bit of time on our feet. As we become increasingly aware of how walking and exercise can help to prevent many diseases, it is likely that we will spend even more time on our feet in the coming years. With the human foot being such a complicated structure of bones, muscles, ligaments and nerves as well as being rich in blood vessels, the need for specialist treatment of foot disorders is important.

Podiatrists are considered doctors of the feet; they diagnose and treat disorders and injuries of the feet and the lower parts of the legs. The fields of chiropody and podiatry are generally considered one and the same. If you want to help people in their quest to function well each day and perform activities comfortably and safely, then a career in podiatry is a good one to consider.

Helping People Walk and Run Better

Even a seemingly small condition of the feet can have enormous results. While issues such as corns, calluses and ingrown toenails are common, they can cause limping, pain and general foot discomfort. In this sense, the 'bigger' issues can be even more painful and will hinder movement and comfort. A podiatrist will treat all of the problems above as well as heel spurs and issues with the arch. Any foot injuries and deformities or infections are all within the realm of treatment by a podiatrist.

If you work as a podiatrist, you can prescribe drug treatments and order scans and other diagnostic tests to help you accurately identify the patient's source of pain or discomfort. You will set fractures, refer patients to physical therapists and perform surgeries where appropriate. A podiatrist also fits a patient with corrective inserts for their footwear, which can help to realign the foot and address deformities and malfunction. Custom footwear is another important aspect of podiatry for preventing and treating foot problems. Currently, podiatrists are using highly sophisticated technology to treat foot conditions. For instance, a podiatrist can use a scan that detects how a patient moves and walks, which allows for the podiatrist to interpret the pressure points and issues by reading a computer printout.

Not only that, but a podiatrist can play a vital role in diagnosing some of the more serious diseases. Most people are unaware that the feet are actually one of the first places to show signs of conditions such as osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. As a podiatrist, you need to be a good communicator because you will be working with other health professionals. Many patients will visit you after a referral from their general doctor. In turn, you may find that a patient can benefit from the support of yet another health professional.

Your Work in Podiatry

As a podiatrist, you will likely have your own practice although some people do work in collective, group practices. You can choose to specialise in an area such as surgery or you may want to work in general podiatry. Some podiatrists also work in the community to some extent, where they provide public education on the benefits of healthy foot care.

To successfully work in podiatry, you will need to have excellent communication skills with patients and health professionals. Given that there are new advancements in podiatry on a regular basis, you will also need to keep abreast of the latest developments in the field. In this way, you can ensure that your practice remains modern and successful. You also need to have a genuine care for foot health and a desire to help people remain mobile and healthy.

Training for podiatry can vary enormously from one country to another. For example, in the United States, a podiatrist is a registered doctor with significantly more training than a podiatrist in the United Kingdom. The salaries vary enormously between the two countries, mostly reflecting the different levels of expertise. In the United States, a salaried podiatrist earns more than twice what a podiatrist in Britain earns. In Britain, a person studies for an undergraduate degree – generally a BSc – in podiatry and then becomes registered with the Health Professions Council (HPC) before usually going on to work for the National Health Service (NHS).

Becoming a Podiatrist

If you have a strong appreciation for the importance of foot health in allowing a person to move freely and without pain each day, then you have the care and passion to consider a career in podiatry and chiropody. You can use this dedication to learn the skills needed to diagnose and treat foot problems while also detecting diseases early, thereby allowing your patients to have a better chance of a healthy life.

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