The job of a podiatrist is to diagnose and treat abnormalities of the foot and lower limb. The work they do will largely depend upon which type of organisation they work for. For example, they might work for the NHS where they could choose to specialise in a particular area and work in a specialist hospital department or they could even convert part of their house and set up their own practice treating a range of conditions.
Specialist areas can include anything from homeopathic treatment to rheumatic care, podopaediatrics (treating children’s feet), podiatric dermatology, or treating diabetics’ feet. There are also a small number of graduates who specialise in podiatric surgery whose work can include performing toe amputations, correcting bunions or straightening parts of the foot.
Working hours are very flexible. Many podiatrists will work from home and part-time, private or NHS work is also frequently available. Those working full time in the NHS will often work nine-to-five hours but the working day tends to be slightly longer for those with their own practice. Podiatrists are allowed legal access to a limited range of prescription-only medicines. This means that podiatrists can treat infections of the foot with antibiotics, saving a GP’s time.
Skills you'll require
- Patience and manual dexterity – you will be working with scalpels and sharp instruments so you need to have good physical control.
- Good communication skills – you will be working with a variety of people from different backgrounds and will need to be able to listen to their problems and explain the treatment they need.
- The ability to work independently – you will be working by yourself a lot of the time so you will need to be confident in your judgements.
Starting out after you graduate
You need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in order to practise as a chiropodist or podiatrist. You need to complete an HCPC-approved degree programme in order to register. These typically take three years full time or four and a half years part time.
Graduates who are just starting will work on fairly straightforward conditions in general podiatry such as treating corns and calluses or athletes foot. Many will then progress to more advanced techniques such as treating nail beds or injecting steroids for heel pain.
The NHS operates a system where employees work their way through set levels by completing various competences. In contrast graduates will treat a wide variety of conditions immediately if they join a private practice. There are often limited opportunities for podiatrists to progress within one organisation so they may need to move in order to further their career.