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It’s not the best-known health profession but it makes a huge difference to millions of patients every year, keeps the UK population active and mobile – and is one of the most family friendly careers out there. Podiatry, the health specialism focusing on the foot and lower limb, is the subject of a new advertising campaign aimed at school leavers, but for one podiatrist working in the NHS, its appeal to mature students looking for a career change should not be overlooked.
Gemma Fitt, from Lewisham in South London, made the change to podiatry after working for 10 years as a commercial property lawyer. When her second child was born she decided that, “if a job was going to take me away from my children, then it had better be something I really care about.” After researching a number of health professions she decided podiatry offered the combination of variety and flexibility she needed in her life – as well as the satisfaction she now derives from delivering patient care.
Today she works for the NHS in Greenwich, treating patients at a hospital clinic and out in the community. “As a podiatrist I’ve been able to change work patterns as circumstances have evolved,” she says. “I’ve just restructured my working hours to a three-day-a-week arrangement, spread across four days. It means I am able to collect my children from school three days a week.”
Work life balance
Many podiatrists work privately, either within existing clinics or practices, or running their own business. It’s a great career to combine with childcare as you can keep the hours you need, but still make a comfortable living.
For Gemma, it is the experience of a previous career where there was a less positive work-life balance that makes her appreciate her current situation more. “I would say to anyone who is working, take your job and look at what the best bits are – and I bet you there will be a career in podiatry that offers those things and more but with far fewer of the drawbacks.”
To practise as a podiatrist you need to be registered with the Health and Care Professions Council, which requires a degree in podiatry from one of 13 specialist university courses around the UK. Most school leavers will have A levels in science, but mature students – who have historically made up a large part of the intake for podiatry courses – may have alternative qualifications, as long as they can prove they meet the required standard.
Gemma trained at the University of East London after taking evening classes and an Open University course to get her science up to scratch. It’s not an easy transition, but a shortage of podiatrists at the moment means that newly qualified
professionals are entering jobs immediately after graduating.
“The more research I did into health careers, the more I realised that podiatry ticked all the boxes!” says Gemma. “I couldn’t find anything else that offered the variety: different avenues of progression with the ability to specialise, the job satisfaction in bringing immediate relief to patients and the flexibility in terms of being able to balance it with the rest of my life.”
For more information visit https://www.careersinpodiatry.com/