Podiatrists identify, analyse and treat health problems linked to the foot and lower legs. They work to relieve pain, treat infections and help patients with mobility issues or circulation problems.
Many patients fall into high-risk categories where podiatric care is particularly important – such as diabetes, cerebral palsy, rheumatism, peripheral arterial disease and peripheral nerve damage. There are also patients with sports injuries, plus children who might be having problems walking.
Podiatrists work in a range of settings, from hospitals and community clinics to patients’ homes. Some podiatrists are employed by the NHS, while others provide healthcare services in the private sector.
Of course, you’ll need to feel comfortable handling people’s feet and legs if you want to become a podiatrist!
You should also have great communication skills, with the ability to make others feel relaxed. Due to the nature of the work, you will need to have compassion, patience and professionalism.
Other essential skills are adaptability and teamwork, because you might need to work both on your own and as part of a team with other healthcare professionals. Curiosity, creativity and problem-solving skills are also very important, because you’ll need to find solutions to patients’ issues.
Podiatrists help patients to maintain mobility, independence and quality of life – and there is a lot more to it than some people realise.
Most podiatrists start out working in general clinics. Over time and with professional development, they can choose to specialise in specific areas that interest them. Specialist areas of practice include sports injuries, rehabilitation, surgery, diabetes, vascular disease, paediatrics and dermatology. There are also the options of pursuing education, teaching or research.
A career in podiatry is flexible. With the ability to specialise while also maintaining a broad clinical practice, you can keep your options wide open.
To become a registered podiatrist, you will need a degree demonstrating that you have obtained significant knowledge and skills in podiatric medicine.
When you’re applying for a podiatry course, you will likely need at least two (usually three) A-Levels or equivalent qualifications at Level 3, plus supporting GCSEs. Entry requirements can vary between universities, so you should always check with the ones you want to target. For example, some universities might specify that you need at least one science-related subject at A-Level.
Work experience, such as work shadowing, is a great way of learning about podiatry first-hand. It gives you the opportunity to see the work that podiatrists do and ask them about their experiences. You should let admissions tutors know in your Personal Statement that you have some first-hand experience of podiatry, because this shows that you have done your research into the career and know what it involves.
Eligible podiatry students have access to the NHS Learning Support Fund, which includes a training grant of £5,000 per year. They are also entitled to an additional £1,000 due to workforce shortages in podiatry.
After you have successfully completed your podiatry course, you must register with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) to practise as a podiatrist.
The duration of a podiatry course depends on the route of study you choose. It can range from a 2-year accelerated degree programme to a maximum of 4 years.
Podiatry courses involve a significant amount of hands-on clinical placements where you’ll interact with patients. This equates to approximately 1,000 hours of clinical work.
As a qualified podiatrist, you will be able to work in both the NHS and private settings.
With a podiatry degree, all of these career paths are available to you:
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