Podiatrist

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Louise, 41

Louise works in an aged care program as a podiatrist in a public hospital.

What types of podiatry are there?

Basically there are two main arenas: working in a private practice or in the public healthcare system. "Working in a private practice usually means more sports medicine and paediatric care [focusing on babies and children]. In the public sector there's usually more healthcare card holders and the patients are generally 60-plus," Louise says.

Different types of podiatry include biomedical podiatry (looking at the way a person's foot functions and how it moves), surgical podiatry and sports medicine. She comments that the industry is expanding, especially in the area of podiatrists treating people with diabetes: "The diabetes area is huge," Louise says, "The reason for most of the diabetes admissions to hospitals is for foot-related problems. Diabetes affects circulation in people's feet and people often need ulcers treated. Sometimes people don't even realise they're injured," she says.

What does a typical working day involve?

Louise's working day involves seeing patients and treating their feet. Typical tasks include removing calluses and corns, making orthotics - which means taking measurements of patients' feet, plastering the foot and making a cast to send off to a lab, strapping injuries and wound care.

Her day begins by autoclaving (sterilising) instruments. "I autoclave instruments like nail clippers, scalpel handles, attachments to drills," Louise says. She then sees patients at half-hourly intervals from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. "I'll check their medical history, see what medication they're taking, and do an examination of the feet." If the problem is an ingrown toenail Louise administers a local anaesthetic.

What are some of the pros and cons of the job?

"There can be bit of monotony in the aged care work that I do. A lot of toenail cutting," Louise says. She also comments that some podiatrists get sore necks because of the awkward position of sitting on a chair and hunching over to reach patients' feet. "You definitely have to keep fit," she says.

For Louise, the main highlight of the job is "meeting a lot of different people and being able to give them comfort". She also loves listening to people's stories and working within a greater health network alongside specialist doctors, rehabilitation workers, local doctors, diabetes educators and other allied health professionals. "I like seeing where I fit in within the broad area of health," Louise comments.

How did you become a podiatrist?

"I thought I was going to be an occupational therapist," Louise laughs, "I went to an occupational therapy information session at La Trobe Uni and I had to wait for my mum to pick me up because she wouldn't let me travel home on the train in the dark, so I ended up going to all the information sessions. I just thought podiatry sounded like the most interesting and that the profession was expanding into areas like biomechanics and surgical podiatry."

What sort of skills and qualities do you need?

"You need to have good diagnostic skills," she says, "And you need to be friendly. The treatment of someone's feet takes around half an hour to three quarters of an hour so you need to be able to make conversation. Otherwise there's a lot of silence."

Are there any tips for getting a job as a podiatrist?

"Go along and spend some time with a podiatrist to make sure you're really interested in the work," Louise suggests, "And have a look at the different types of podiatry in a private clinic and public hospital."

Find out more about this career path at myfuture.edu.au (new window) (Note: free registration is required to access the myfuture site).