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Podiatry is such an interesting and rewarding career – Keri Hutchinson explains why

As a podiatrist, you’ll help people deal with a range of mobility issues, relieve pain and treat infections of the feet and lower legs. You’ll be helping patients with a variety of different issues such as:

  • children with lower limb pain or problems walking.
  • diabetes sufferers with circulation problems who may be at risk of amputation.
  • people with sports injuries and dancers whose long hours of rehearsing and performing put stress on their feet causing injury.

You’ll work with other healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists, dietitians, GPs and nurses and in a range of settings from hospitals and community clinics to the homes of patients.

Keri explains why Podiatry is her passion, perhaps it could be yours too.

I never set out to study podiatry. I often joke that it chose me, quite by chance.

I had embarked upon another course that I was unsuited for and after leaving that headed for my nearest university open day to look for inspiration. I wanted a job that had variety and was ideally patient/people facing. A quick chat with the podiatry team at the university, revealed that podiatry could be just what I was looking for.

Fast forward a few years and it wasn’t long before I was starting my first NHS podiatry role in a nearby NHS health board. Podiatry is such an interesting career and there are lots of opportunities for graduates to specialise in a range of healthcare fields. I started off in a community role which meant that you had to have a broad knowledge base, as you never know what type of problem patients are going to present with.

Podiatrists specialise in the foot, ankle and lower limb and have a primary care aim in maintaining mobility, independence and quality of life. They are instrumental in leading the patient care through the whole journey including prevention, diagnosis and treatment. It is this aspect which particularly excited me about my chosen profession.

Prevention and early diagnosis are so important in reducing health inequalities and, as many chronic conditions manifest in the feet relatively early, then podiatrists can literally be life savers. A routine vascular assessment at a podiatry appointment can pick-up problems like atrial fibrillation and peripheral vascular disease well before the patient is aware of problems helping to prevent strokes and limb loss.

As I progressed in my NHS roles I was able to experience working in specialist areas such as rheumatology and diabetes which I loved. Both areas are multifaceted and there is so much that podiatrists can do to alleviate painful and debilitating symptoms. Seeing someone avoid amputation or be able to walk pain free because of an intervention that you implemented, is highly rewarding.

In recent years, following Masters study in public health, I have participated in numerous research projects around the topics of health protection and behaviour change and had begun to consider stepping away from a lead role in the NHS to pursue roles in academia and public health policy.

In 2019 I secured my dream roles of Clinical lead in Cardiff Metropolitan University at the Wales Centre for Podiatric Studies and a Project role for the College of Podiatry as Public Health project Lead. These positions give me the opportunity to help educate the podiatrists of tomorrow and also to help to ensure that the field of public health and highlight how podiatrists are pivotal practitioners in key health protection strategies to reduce health inequalities.

Top Tips if you’re thinking of a career in podiatry

If you can, try and get some work experience. Patients and other healthcare students often comment that they are surprised by the full scope of practice of podiatrists. There are many different roles within the profession and it is good to get an appreciation of what career paths are available before commencing study.

If you enjoy research then podiatry is definitely for you. There are lots of opportunities to undertake masters studies or PhD internships following graduation in a variety of areas.

Possessing well developed communication skills is a great asset to have as a podiatrist. You will be provided with training in this throughout your undergraduate training but it is good to try and develop these prior to commencing study.

Keep an open mind as to what area of podiatry you’d like to work in. Many students start with a set idea of what they want to study and then end up working in a completely different area. Alternatively, some students expect to be able to specialise straight away and in reality, specialist roles usually require 3 years post-graduate experience.

Rewarding is a word that is often used about being a podiatrist and I would have to say, I wholeheartedly agree.

Keri Hutchinson
Clinical Lead and Senior Lecturer in Podiatry
Wales Centre for Podiatric Studies in Cardiff Metropolitan University

More information can be found on https://heiw.nhs.wales/careers/roles/allied-health-professionals/podiatrist/.