Chiropodist Jobs and Careers
Chiropodists (now often called podiatrists - there is no difference between the two) diagnose and treat abnormalities of the lower limb.
They give professional advice on the prevention of foot problems and on proper care of the foot. This involves working with people of all ages and all kinds of conditions, using a wide range of clinical knowledge and skills.
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Areas of specialisation include surgery, podopediatrics (the care of children's feet), podogeriatrics (the care of the feet of elderly people), orthopaedics, sports medicine, dermatology, radiology, diabetic foot care, primary healthcare or public health. Podiatrists work independently in a private practice, being either self-employed or within group practices and clinics. Places of work include hospital departments and clinics, health centres, GP surgeries and the community, visiting people who are housebound, in residential care or nursing homes, or conducting talks in schools.
Chiropodists are familiar with and knowledgeable about all the bones, muscles and nerves in the ankle and foot, as well as all the associated diseases and possible injuries (such as fractures). This means they may be working with arthritis and other bone conditions, circulation and nerve disorders, strained muscles, damaged tendons and congenital defects as well as accident trauma. Other problems include Athlete's Foot, bacterial infections and pressure problems such as bunions.
In this article, we look at some of the activities a podiatrist is involved in and examine why this is an increasingly popular career option.
What is Involved in the Chiropodist Job?
The daily work of a chiropodist may involve some or all of the following, depending on their working environment (i.e. hospital, clinic, community work, etc.).
- Undertaking consultations with individual patients.
- At the diagnosis stage, examining the patient and taking a history of the condition.
- Ordering radiological tests and laboratory tests to assist their diagnoses.
- Treatments may involve manipulation or massage, which they conduct.
- Addressing the condition with support such as pads, braces, splints or other supports.
- Treating problems - minor issues, such as verrucas, corns and calluses, can be managed with localised, topical treatment.
- Analysing a patient's walk or run to assess the function of different parts of the foot. Remedial footwear, such as orthotics (shoe inserts or custom made pads or soles) maybe prescribed.
- Formulating an exercise program and explaining this to the client.
- Referring the patient to another healthcare specialist department if the signs indicate an underlying illness, such as diabetes or heart disease. Where surgery is required, explaining this to the client and begin the process of organising surgery.
- Minor surgery, such as nail problems, may take place in the clinic, under local anaesthetic.
- Surgery is conducted by the hospital chiropractor on injuries such as fractures.
- Record keeping is undertaken for each patient.
- If involved in primary healthcare, the chiropractor might undertake speaking appointments regarding the benefits of foot care.
- Chiropractors in public health roles will be involved in developing strategy for the health of foot care in the local population.
- If the chiropractor is self-employed, they will spend time undertaking the management and administration required for a small business, including financial management, ordering supplies, staff supervision, publicity and promotion, etc.
Is This Job Right for You?
If you are interested in chiropody as a career, there are some qualities and aptitudes that it would be useful to have.
- A genuine desire to help people.
- An existing interest in medicine, anatomy and physiology.
- A high level of achievement in science subjects.
- Manual dexterity and excellent hand-eye co-ordination.
- Strong interpersonal skills and outstanding communication abilities.
- A friendly and reassuring 'bedside manner'.
- A consistently high level of work.
- The ability to work consistently well under pressure.
- A desire to research and constantly update knowledge and skills.
- Management and administration skills.
- High levels of professional integrity.
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Hours and Conditions
The usual environment for a chiropodist is a clinic or small private office. Depending on their exact role, they might be accompanied by assistants, nurses and administrative staff. Some chiropodists, particularly those with roles in the community or specialising in foot care for the elderly, may have a more mobile role as they visit patients in residential care or nursing homes.
Self-employed chiropodists may have the luxury of arranging their own hours within their clinics. If not involved in surgery, their work may not require evening or weekend working. For chiropodists who treat fractures or accident trauma, emergency work may be necessary. Generally, however, working hours are approximately forty hours per week, unless working on a part-time basis.
Chiropodists need to be registered in order to practise, but you first need to achieve a BSc Honours degree in Podiatry. Most universities offering this require five GCSE passes, including English Language and two science subjects. Two A-levels or similar qualifications (BTEC, HND or HNC) in science subjects are usually also required. Science-based access courses with a good pass level, previous degrees, or full practising qualifications achieved by examination in related areas are also recognised for older candidates.
The degree is a three year course, offered at 13 institutions in the UK. The program combines theoretical and clinical modules, with the clinical work starting in the first year. Sessions are based in the lecture room, laboratory or clinic.
The qualification is recognised by the Health Professional Council (HPC), which means you can work in the NHS.
Salaries and Prospects
There are further opportunities for specialisation or diversification once you are working as a chiropodist. As considered earlier, you can undertake further study and qualifications to work with children, undertake surgery, sports injuries, etc. Others take up management opportunities or move into teaching, on a full or part-time basis.
The good news is that this area of work is growing at an extremely fast rate. Awareness of foot health is rising and the older age groups are growing in size, meaning that there is an increasing demand for podiatric services. Most private health insurance programs cover medical and surgical foot services, together with x-rays and certain orthotics. More routine foot care tends to depend on individual awareness and choice.
Salaries start at around £20,000 and £26,000 a year in the NHS, rising to around £35,000 a year with experience. Senior chiropodists can earn up to £40,000.
Setting up an individual practice may herald a drop in income, due to costs of office rental, overhead bills, etc. Income levels can be expected to increase as the business increases. Most chiropodists in private practice charge fees from £25 to £45 a session.
Job Sites for Chiropodist Jobs
Most Chiropody jobs can be located on healthcare sites or on the medical section of general employment agencies: