Have you ever wondered what a career in podiatry is all about?
Enjoy sciences but not quite sure if a career in podiatry is for you?
As well as educating the public about foot health a key aim for me is to empower potential students to a career in podiatry. So what does a day in private practice look like?

This month has been Foot Health Month. This is an annual campaign led by College of Podiatry. It focuses on good foot health, and raising awareness and understanding of podiatry. It gives a clear message that people should visit an HCPC registered podiatrist as the specialists for foot and lower limb pain and problems. In conjunction with this campaign I thought it would be helpful to look at the types of patients I see in the hope to inspire the next generation of podiatrists. as well as improve perceptions about the profession.

I run my own small business as a lone practitioner so every day is very different! I love about my career in podiatry– you never get bored and every day is a school day for me!

Day begins

I start the day after dropping my children at school. That’s the beauty of this career. It is flexible and allows me to drop and pick up my children from school whilst still doing the career I love. I set up the clinic, pop the days instruments into the steriliser and read over the notes for the patients I have booked in for the day. 2 new patients, one with a verruca and one with an ingrowing toenail. I have 4 follow up patients who are regular patients to the clinic for a variety of reasons including routine care, diabetes, fungal nails and a swift follow up. It’s a full day for creating happy feet and customers!

First patient of the day

First up is the first new patient of the day – a retired 65-year-old lady. After a full assessment it appears that she is suffering from a verruca. She has had this for 6 years and it is becoming very painful. The problem is stopping her doing the exercise class she used to love and she is unable to wear most of her footwear. She seems so down about it. She is putting on weight by her own admission and has recently started on antidepressants given by her GP. I suspect there is a link – exercise releases endorphins which give our mental wellbeing a boost. Whilst her foot has been limiting her active lifestyle is has also been affecting her mood.

I discuss the treatment options available to her. She has tried so many over the counter remedies over the years she is willing to try anything I can offer to get rid of this pain! I suggest swift microwave treatment for her verruca. This is the most successful treatment available on the market for verrucae and has very little impact on her daily activities. She agrees and we complete the first treatment. I’m confident that at the very least we can reduce the pain in this verruca and get her active again. She is so grateful to me for listening to her and leaves positive about her future.

Regular patients become like family!

Next is a regular patient I have been seeing since I started in private practice 6 years ago. We get on really well and I “understand” her feet! She is a well-controlled previously suffering from ingrowing toenails. I see her every 5 weeks to cut and file her nails and resect her big toenails to keep them free from infection. She isn’t in pain before todays appointment as we have worked out through time that 5 weeks is a perfect time between appointments. By keeping to this schedule, we keep her pain free and able to walk her to lovely dogs. I check her feet for any complications with her diabetes and we talk about her diabetes control. A couple of years ago her control was poor but she has worked really hard recently to keep her control stable, as a result her feet are in fantastic order!

Flexibility to help others

The third patient of the day is another new patient – this time a young teenager suffering from an infected ingrowing toenail. He has been suffering for months and had 5 lots of antibiotics from his GP. These haven’t made a difference to the pain and his mother has booked him into my clinic as she would like the problem sorted ASAP. He is supposed to be doing work experience in a few months and he can’t wear closed in shoes!

I assess the problem and discuss the different treatment options available. We all agree nail surgery, a minor procedure to remove the section of nail ingrowing onto the skin, should be performed ASAP. I can see he is in pain, but that mum isn’t keen for him to miss any more school, so I book him in for minor surgery under a local anaesthetic the following evening after school. Mum is happy as she knows he will be pain free in a matter of hours, the patient is happy he can get back to the sports he has been missing. The procedure will only take me an hour and I can fit it in after the kids have gone to bed!

There to listen

Two more routine patients up next. One is a lady with dementia who attends every 6 weeks with her husband for routine nail care and corn removal. I can see he is struggling and needs a break. We talk about rest bite care and talking to people to get help. He is grateful for the advice. We always have the same conversation and she is always excited to tell me her life story. She was a famous runner in her hey-day and has some fantastic stories to tell. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear it, I enjoy seeing the excitement on her face when she tells the story again.

Sometimes with patients like these the appointment is a break, a change of scenery. They enjoy coming out and seeing different people. Her feet are in good condition so I check for injuries. She has been known to wear shoes on the wrong feet and prone to falls which always seems to result in wounds on her toes! Nothing to report today so I cut and file her nails, reduce the thickness of her thick big toenails and remove the hard skin on her feet.

Success is sweet!

The next patient has a fungal nail. We have been treating it with some topical treatment. She is delighted with the results. The treatment has been working and the nail is almost grown out. We talk about ways to prevent the reoccurrence of the fungal nail and rebook another review in a few months. All being well she will be able to paint the nail again ready for her summer holiday!

I finish the day with a swift review. This guy had 8 verrucae a month ago including a wart on his finger. They weren’t painful but the wart on his finger kept bleeding and he felt the need to keep it covered – he joked he had shares in Elastoplast! He had tried several other treatments with no effect. He is in today for his second swift. I’m shocked, today 3 verrucae and the wart on his finger have gone! Don’t get me wrong this treatment works in ¾ of cases but it usually takes 3 treatments to start working. The patient is over the moon!

Want to be a podiatrist?

The day comes to an end. I write up all my notes, and close down the clinic. Although its been a busy day, I go to bed happy reflecting on the difference I have made in these patients lives today. You see a podiatrist isn’t just a nail cutter. I actually only cut the nails for 2 patients today! I have listened, been caring and dedicated and gave 100% effort to improve the foot health and wellbeing for my patients. Most importantly I have improved every single one of these patient’s quality of life. Not every day goes as smoothly as today but I am lucky as I have a fantastic podiatry support network, always available on the end of a message, to help me, support me and to give advice when someone presents with something that doesn’t follow normal protocol!

So, if you think you would like to share this feeling, thinking of a career change or wondering what to do when you leave school contact us today to see how rewarding this profession is.

Louise Signature