Podiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating a variety of illnesses, injuries and diseases related to the feet. They also perform surgical procedures on ankles and feet. Of course, podiatrists are trained experts in their field of medicine, but the job also requires personal qualities to be successful in their career.
Like all physicians and surgeons, podiatrists must complete a long education program. After completing a bachelor’s degree, four years of medical school and a three-year residency are required. Not only is acceptance into medical school competitive, but also only nine colleges in the United States offered programs of podiatric medicine in 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Podiatrists must be strong academically to successfully complete training. They’re also required to continue their education throughout their career to maintain their medical license.
Podiatrists diagnose and treat a wide range of patients, ranging from children to the elderly. Although the salary for this career makes it attractive financially, podiatrists must be dedicated to helping others. They need to communicate effectively, which requires strong listening and speaking skills. Foot injuries and illnesses can be debilitating, especially for patients who can potentially lose their mobility. Podiatrists must understand each patient’s physical and emotional needs. They also work closely with a variety of other health care professionals, so interpersonal skills are critical for the job.
Physical and Mental Abilities
The job doesn’t require being in great physical health, but podiatrists frequently spend time sitting, squatting and standing for long periods of time. Being healthy promotes good health to patients, as well. Podiatrists should have good eyesight to diagnose foot conditions, look at X-rays and perform surgical procedures. Although podiatrists go through extensive training, critical-thinking skills are required for the job to properly diagnose and treat patients. As the primary care provider for those with foot problems and injuries, podiatrists often refer patients to other medical professionals if they suspect other diseases and illnesses. A simple problem with the feet or ankles can be a telling sign of more serious medical conditions.
The BLS expects about 20 percent growth for podiatrists between 2010 and 2020. An increasing elderly population will contribute to the need for these professionals. The elderly will likely require more care to stay mobile and active. The California Podiatric Medical Association suggests about 14 percent of podiatrists employed in the United States are women and a little more than half of all podiatrists are self-employed.
- Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images