Podiatrists act as doctors for the feet, helping patients overcome a range of complications from athlete's foot to flat feet and bunions. When it comes to career development, however, there are plenty of options to consider. People in podiatry jobs can choose to specialise in their field, gain a master's degree, gain extensive locum experience or set up a private practice on their own, for example. What you to choose to do will depend on your ambitions, dreams and qualifications.
Consultant in podiatric surgery and spokesman for the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists, Michael O'Neill, had some advice for podiatrists trying to further their careers. He pointed out that plenty of opportunities exist on the NHS, in private practice and industrial posts, with professionals often enjoying a mixed career in both the private sector and the NHS. Mr O'Neill suggested those working as associates in private practice often earn around £200 per day in take home pay. "This can often be combined with more challenging specialist clinics within the NHS such as diabetic wound care, musculoskeletal or minor surgical," he said.
According to Mr O'Neill there are not many postgraduate opportunities for podiatrists, but many universities offer MSc programs that are unit-based, giving students the chance to cover the subjects they are most interested in. Those hoping to following this path can opt for a full-time master's degree and potentially go on to complete a PhD. Mr O'Neill explained that it is most common for those taking this route to carry out their studies while gaining experience working with patients.
Interestingly, he noted there has been an increase in prescribing rights by podiatrists, which could lead to full independent prescribing of a range of drugs for use within clinical practice by the end of the year. The course is typically around 35 days over a year. "There is also the fellowship program for podiatric surgery," Mr O'Neill said. "This is a highly specialist post requiring a masters in podiatric surgery for the entry-level. There are the professional examinations over a period of up to 15 years before reaching a post of consultant NHS standard."
Ultimately, however, podiatrists, like many professionals, stand to gain a lot from specialising. It ensures they have a deep specific subject knowledge that not only offers benefits for their patients, but also develops their personal expertise. "Hopefully from that, you can achieve the benefit of being able to pass on what you have learnt to the upcoming generations of future professionals," Mr O'Neill said.
In getting the most from your career, the expert recommends going the extra distance. That does not just mean putting in plenty of hours and excellent patient career, but can also involve volunteering to stand out in your profession. Moreover, podiatrists can bulk up their experience by working as locums. This gives them the chance to work in a variety of settings and could also help to inform them of which route is best to take for their career development. If you are interested in a specialism, agency work can be particularly useful for seeking out which area to focus on.
"But more important than anything else is that if you want to be treated like a professional, you have to look, act and behave in the right fashion," said Mr O'Neill. "You must always [remain] up-to-date and develop new clinical skills. Also have the attitude that [it] is not what the profession can do for me but what I can do for the profession." That, it seems, will all work to help you excel in a podiatry role.
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