Understanding Podiatry as a Career

Published by mpume on

In our Change Conversations blog today, I had a chat with Tshidi Mbonani, a Podiastrist. She believes that she is a servant, her calling in Podiatry is not just about her but about helping others and leaving them in a better state than she found them. Tshidi reminds us that one should always know how to serve and put their patients first, and that is one of the qualities of a good leader. In this post, she stresses the importance of networking with other healthcare practitioners in order to expand/ extend the conversation of podiatry beyond its own space and push boundaries.

Defining Podiatry.

Podiatry is a branch of medicine that deals with health issues that concern the lower legs, ankles, and feet. Podiatry has evolved over time; it has become a very serious and focused medical discipline that is made up of specialised doctors we know as Podiatrists. Like any other branch of medicine, podiatry includes both preventive and curative forms of treatment for different types of illnesses. Podiatrists have a very unique and crucial role to play in every person’s health and well-being. In addition to being highly trained and experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of health issues concerning the lower leg, ankle and foot, Podiatrists are also qualified to give advice on footwear, preventing infections and injuries as well as relieving foot pain. Its courses of treatment can also include long term for patients with chronic conditions that affect their ankles and feet.

What does a typical day look like for a Podiatrist?

Podiatry, as a branch of medicine, is also quite diverse. The diversity is evident in the different types of sub-disciplines it has. Some of the key sub-disciplines in this branch of medicine include:

1.1       Pediatrics or diabetes management

1.2       Sports health and medicine

1.3       Foot and lower leg dermatology, surgery and many more.

Podiatrists, therefore, have several roles and responsibilities in their daily work. They begin by assisting people with the prevention of health problems that affect their ankles and feet. They provide patients with crucial information on self-care and foot management. You would be surprised by the wealth of information you can get from these highly trained specialists regarding how to take care of your feet and lower legs.

If you experience pain, inflammation, discomfort or any adverse symptoms in your feet or lower legs, it is highly recommended that you visit a Podiatrist. A podiatrist is able to diagnose whatever illness is troubling you. They are also able to provide you with an appropriate course of treatment and aftercare. You can find a registered and qualified podiatrist in any major hospital near you.

When is it recommended to go and see a podiatrist…!!!

1.1       When you feel sharp or hot pain from the heel when you stand up after rest.

1.2       When you have difficulty or pain when you put your foot down.

1.3       Pain or  even intermittent pain – that goes on for more than a week.

1.4       Discolouration of the skin of one or both feet.

1.5       Skin changes on the feet – if the skin is dry or colder than usual.

1.6       Swollen feet, or changes in size.

1.7       Changes in structure – such as a higher arch.

Some of the major foot and leg problems that podiatrist deal with on a day-to-day include:

1.1       Diagnosing broken bones in feet

Complaints of pain, inflammation or discomfort in feet may be due to either minor or severe fractures. These fractures or broken bones need to be carefully examined and diagnosed before a proper course of treatment can be determined.

1.2       Treating nail problems

Some of the most common toenail problems include overly thick toenails, ingrown toenails, and toenails that have been blighted by a fungal infection. Podiatrists are trained to provide special laser treatment procedures that can rectify most toenail issues.

1.3        General foot problems

These are general problems that affect the feet. These are also very common and include conditions like athlete’s foot, calluses, bunions, corns, verrucas, and many others. Most of these foot problems tend to cause a lot of discomfort, pain, swelling. Fortunately, podiatrists are able to diagnose and identify the root causes of most of these issues and can go ahead and provide suitable treatment options.

1.4        Fallen Arches

Fallen arches or flat feet are another health condition that podiatrists commonly deal with. Patients suffering from arches require extensive treatment and aftercare. The treatment involves attempting to change the structure of the foot using different techniques such as surgery, and if not possible, a podiatrist can prescribe orthotics. Orthotics are specially designed to show inserts such as heel cushions, arch supports, and insoles that are meant to provide comfort for the patients.

The qualifications you need as a Podiatrist

Prospective podiatrists have to study a Bachelor of Technology in Podiatry at university level. A National Senior Certificate that meets the requirements for a degree course is a prerequisite. This course begins with practical training in hospitals and clinics from the second year of study. Once all theoretical and practical training has been completed, graduates are required to register with the Health Professions Council of South Africa in order to practice as professionals.

Subjects needed?

Each institution have their specific requirements, but the three most recommended subjects are:

  • Mathematics
  • Physical Science
  • Life Sciences

The Scope of Podiatry

There’s a lot more to Podiatry than many people realise. Most Podiatrists start their professional life working in general clinics. As their career progresses and their clinical skills develop, many identify areas of practice that really interest them and so they steer their career in that direction.

Areas of clinical practice that may interest you…

  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatology
  • Orthotic manufacture
  • Nail surgery
  • Gait and pressure analysis
  • Rehabilitation
  • Sports injuries
  • Pediatric biomechanics

Career Opportunities in Podiatry

The benefit of a qualification in podiatry means you are able to work in both the public health service and private health setting. Having exposure to the vast array of clinical conditions affecting a person’s feet can lead you in many different areas of specialised practice. The huge variety of conditions that a podiatrist treats lends itself to a broad clinical experience in practice. The option to specialise & develop your practice in one area means that you can focus your work should this be something you wish to embark on. Being able to specialise but also maintain a broad clinical practice enables you to keep your options wide open.

Options include:

  • Sports podiatry
  • Surgery
  • Dermatology
  • Pediatrics
  • Forensics
  • Education and teaching
  • Assistant podiatry

Conclusion

As a healthcare practioner, one of the innate qualities you should possess is love for others and an attitude to serve. Podiatry is one of the most sensitive areas of medicine, it seeks for people who demonstrate care and love for those being taken care of. Podiatry has quite a wide range of options one care branch into. Most Podiatrists start their professional life working in general clinics and then identify areas of practice that really interest them as they progress in their careers.


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