An article by contributor Alicia Hill.
Introduction To Podiatry
The human foot is a very complex part of the body containing 26 bones and 33 joints and in excess of a hundred tendons, muscles and ligaments. With this level of detail it’s no wonder that there is a growing need for podiatrists who specializes in diagnosing foot problems, treating injuries and undertaking surgery of the feet and ankles.
As more and more people participate in outdoor activities and sports the increasing demand for podiatrists makes this an interesting and highly skilled career path. Podiatry can also potentially offer good financial rewards, and average annual salaries in the U.S. were reported as $137,480 by the Bureau of Labour Statistics in 2014.
The skillset needed will also include prescribing medicines and advising on physical activities and rehabilitation, and in addition trainees will learn how to set a fracture, perform some types of surgery and support foot pain issues.
Podiatrists also look for signs of other conditions such as diabetes and heart disease that can manifest as foot problems. Therefore they become proficient in not just spotting the typical signs of these illnesses but will work with other professionals to develop effective care programs.
Other areas of expertise acquired in becoming a podiatrist may include teaching on professional courses, conducting research and authoring journal articles for specialist publications.
How To Become A Podiatrist?
The first step for those wishing to become a podiatrist is to gain a Bachelor’s degree as this is a mandatory entry requirement to get on to a four-year Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree course. Undergraduates who are accepted on this course can come from diverse undergraduate courses but typically most schools will require subjects such chemistry, biology or physics and good oral and written communication skills.
As an example of the competitive nature of the course, in the U.S. the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine: https://www.apma.org is the official accrediting body, and there are only 9 schools approved by this organisation so places on a podiatry course are in huge demand.
However, for those seeking to gain a place on this popular course there are steps that can be taken in conjunction with studying for an undergraduate degree that will improve the chances of being accepted on the course. Activities that could prove beneficial in gaining entry include work-shadowing of podiatrists, community work and studying for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) as these will improve an application made to a podiatry school.
As well as educational qualifications podiatrists are expected to have other qualities such as empathy, community engagement and leadership abilities, and course leaders will also assess these qualities in potential candidates for the 4-year course.
How Do You Become A Podiatrist?
After completing the 4-year Doctor of Medicine Degree Course there is also a requirement to undergo a 2-4 year residency in order to become a licensed podiatrist. These residencies offer advanced level training and enable newly qualified podiatrists to get important practical experience. Residencies will involve undertaking surgery and will also focus on subjects such as orthopedic and wound care, biomechanics and medicine.
After undertaking a residency a podiatrist can then gain a license after passing oral and written tests, and the license is renewed regularly if podiatrists can show they complete regular continuing medical education to ensure skills are kept up-to-date.
In the U.S. a number of podiatrists are increasingly required by hospitals and insurers to become Podiatric Board Certified, and although this is not yet compulsory it can be achieved by further training and passing an exam.
Where Do Podiatrists Work?
Typically a podiatrist will work in a group or private practice and others may work in hospital roles. Due to an increase in the ageing population there is a significant demand for podiatrists in nursing and care home settings. In becoming a podiatrist some candidates will choose to specialize in areas such as geriatrics, diabetic foot care and sports medicine.
In healthcare professions, it is crucial to stay well networked and joining a professional organisation can be great way of making sure that knowledge and skills are updated whilst keeping in touch with a range of colleagues.
Related Article: The Lowdown on Becoming a Doctor
Alicia Hill is a content writer with background in business management, class consulting and marketing communication. She writes for several businesses since 2012. She mostly writes about careers, innovative education and workplace of the future.