Podiatrist Career Description
Podiatrists are responsible for the comprehensive care of the human foot. Their field of specialization, Podiatry, is the diagnosis and management of problems, injuries or pathology relating to the foot.
What am I going to do in this occupation?
Podiatrists are concerned with both the prevention and the cure of foot disorders. When patients report with complaints, a meticulous overview of the problem is first required before treatment can begin. After a thorough physical examination, which may include the use of X-rays and similar investigations, podiatrists analyse and interpret the relevant information and then decide on courses of treatment for their patients. This treatment may include the administering of medicine, the prescription of exercises or special shoes and other aids. It may be that podiatrists have to design special devices to help their patients overcome their problems. For example, a plaster cast of the foot can be made and an insole or orthotic of plastic or other artificial material can be manufactured.
The duties of podiatrists also include ordinary foot care for example the cutting of toe-nails and the removal of calluses and corns, especially for the aged and infirm. Doctors often refer patients with conditions such as knock-knees, inwardly turned feet, uneven tread or sports injuries to podiatrists. Podiatrists also treat abnormal skin conditions of the foot, for example fungal infections.
Podiatrists' medical background and comprehensive knowledge of the foot also enable them to diagnose diseases that initially manifest themselves in patients' limbs and feet. These cases, which fall outside their field of treatment, are referred to physicians. Podiatrists are also able to perform minor surgical procedures under local anaesthesia, for example the removal of an ingrown toenail.
Involvement in Primary Health Care Education is also becoming part of podiatrists' role in health teams.
What kind of personality do I need? Manual dexterity and sound eye-hand coordination are essential, because podiatrists have to perform most of their tasks with their hands. They must be able to apply their theoretical knowledge effectively in diagnosis and take responsibility for the care of their patients. Sound interpersonal skills, sympathetic interest in and patience with people - which all amounts to a professional attitude - are indispensable. Podiatrists must be able to express themselves clearly when giving recommendations or explaining treatment procedures.
Where can I work?
Podiatry offers a satisfying and attractive career, especially to those who wish to work as part of a health team. Other options which may be considered are the interesting careers open to podiatrists in clinics, hospitals and homes for the aged and infirm, or in consultative capacity in industry.
Can I work for myself in this occupation?
Private practice presents good opportunities either alone or in a partnership.