Shadowing a DoctorJuly 18, 2014
A podiatrist is a doctor of the feet. Podiatrists diagnose and treat injuries and disorders 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 efficiently each day and perform activities comfortably and safely, then you should consider a career in podiatry.
With the human foot being such a complex structure of bones, nerves, muscles, blood vessels and ligaments, the need for specialist treatment of foot disorders is essential. Even a seemingly small issue of the feet can often have major consequences. Corns, calluses and ingrown toenails may be common and seemingly minor but they can cause significant pain, limping and general foot discomfort. Other problems can be even more painful and will hinder movement and comfort. Podiatrists treat all of the above problems as well as heel spurs, issues with the arch, foot injuries, deformities and infections.
As a podiatrist, you can prescribe drug treatments and order scans and other diagnostic tests to help accurately identify the patient’s source of discomfort or pain. You will also be responsible for setting fractures, referring patients to physical therapists and performing surgeries when appropriate. You would also fit a patient with corrective inserts for their footwear in order to address deformities and help realign the feet.
With the feet being one of the first places to show signs of conditions such as arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes and heart disease, a podiatrist also plays a pivotal role in diagnosing some of the more serious foot diseases. Podiatrists need to be good communicators as their work often entails 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.
As a podiatrist, you will likely have your own practice although some professionals also do work in collective, group practices. You can choose to work in general podiatry or you can specialise in a particular area such as. 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, it is important to have excellent communication skills with patients and also with other health professionals. With new advancements in podiatry happening 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. To become a podiatrist in the UK, you must first obtain an undergraduate degree, generally a BSc, in podiatry and then becomes register yourself with a professional organisation such as the Health Professions Council (HPC) before going on to work for the NHS.