A Life in the Day of a Podiatrist

  • By Judith Sullivan
  • 31 Mar, 2017
15 Jan, 2016
Author/blogger Reggie Simpson

Judith Sullivan as interviewed by Reggie Simpson

Q: How long have you been in the profession?

A: 34 years.

Q: What made you decide to become a podiatrist?

A: I was a nurse, but my hearing was deteriorating, and I needed a more closed-in environment that would allow me greater engagement and face-to-face time with a patient, away from the hustle and bustle of a busy, noisy ward. Also, my grandmother was a chiropodist, so I had an introduction to the profession at an early age.

Q: If you had to do it all over again, would you still have chosen this career path?

A: Most certainly – every day is different and rewarding.

Q: What do you like most about being a podiatrist?

A: For me, I have the satisfaction of having people come in with a problem and go out with a solution.

Q: Describe an average day at work.

A: There is no such thing. I never know what’s coming through the door – even with long-standing clients.

Q: How many hours a week do you work?

A: Upwards of 60 hours per week. Running two clinics.   Striking work/balance is a challenge. I have new associates who have also joined which means more management responsibility. I also do home visits, which are not always near each other geographically.

Q: Give an example of a unique situation or patient with which/whom you have dealt (anonymous of course!).

A: Well, I have a patient with 20-size feet!

Q: What has been the most difficult thing you have ever had to tell a patient?

A: I can’t really say. It’s more about health education and changing lifestyles; sometimes it’s as simple as changing footwear or going on a diet, which some are not willing to accept. NHS healthcare for feet is in decline except for the most at-risk, and this means having to budget and pay for private foot care.

Q: What advice would you give to those considering studying podiatry and those seeking to develop their careers post-graduation?

A: For those considering a career in podiatry, they should do some work shadowing, even for just a day. For those newly qualified, I would say they should find their niche. Too many recent podiatric graduates want to specialise in biomechanics. I would argue for specialising in diabetic foot care.  Diabetes UK ( www.diabetes.org.uk ) has recently announced that the number of people living with diabetes in the UK has reached more than four million, and there is an urgent need to increase diabetes care and education.  

Q: How much emphasis should podiatric education place on soft skills, for example, business management? Staffing?  Financial planning? Work/life balance? Other?

A: Universities are increasingly incorporating this into the curriculum, but at the same time, I think they could focus further on the soft skills.

Q: You are one of few accredited UK podiatrists in the business (150 according to the Society for Chiropodists and Podiatrists). Do patients really care whether a podiatrist is accredited or not?   Is accreditation worth the bureaucratic hassle?

A: Do clients really care about whether you are accredited? No. But accreditation is about ensuring that my practice works to a gold standard and that all practice procedures and protocols are being met. Accreditation is a good audit tool, not just internally, but for all of our clients.

Q: There has been a lot in the news lately regarding UK diabetes numbers on the rise and that diabetes is increasing the risk of dementia by 60 per cent. Now they are also saying statins can increase the risk of heart disease. Just who can I trust for fair and accurate information?

A: I know how difficult it is to digest the regular stream of scare mongering in the media. I try to stay up to date on the latest information both in the UK and abroad and advise my clients appropriately.   If they have wider concerns, they should discuss these thoroughly with their GP.

Q: Come on, you really are just a glorified agony aunt, with a sharp pair of nippers in your hand.   Refute.

A: I have many regular clients as well as new. It’s not just about the feet. Their overall health and wellbeing impacts on the quality of their lives, and if I am in a position to be a sounding board during treatment, then I feel that I have made a difference.

By Judith Sullivan 09 Dec, 2017
By Reggie Simpson
By Judith Sullivan 28 Sep, 2017

We are delighted to announce that prose written by our Practice Business Manager, Reggie Simpson, will be featured in the Rennie Grove Hospice Care’s Rhyme & Reason 2018 diary, now in its 26th year. The theme for this forthcoming year’s diary is ‘Freedom’. All proceeds from sales of the diary go to support this worthwhile charity.

Reggie says: ‘Although my entry wasn't among the top poetry and prize winners, I was chuffed to be selected for the 2018 diary. The theme was quite broad, but my degrees in politics and love of writing invariably drew me to entering the competition. In the end I settled on a focus of freedom in healthcare, no doubt inspired by my current employment at Betafeet Podiatry and the noble work of Rennie Grove Hospice Care ( www.renniegrove.org ).

Rennie Grove Hospice Care, formally known as Iain Rennie Hospice at Home, merged with Grove House, St Albans in 2010 to integrate services in south western Hertfordshire. The ethos and values of the two charities were closely aligned with the principle of allowing patients to lead a good quality of life at home for as long as possible, helping patients and their families avoid the distress of unnecessary hospital visits whenever possible.

The diaries can be ordered from the Rennie Grove website, payment by debit/credit card. It's part of their annual Christmas/holiday promotion. There will also be copies in local Rennie Grove shops. They are £5 each with additional postage if bought online. Shop locations can be found here: http://www.renniegrove.org/support/our-shops/online-shop/page/2/ .

Here is Reggie’s entry (to appear in the month of September 2018): 

‘Do not count the days; make the days count.’

Muhammad Ali. Professional Boxer.  Audacious. Charismatic. A winner in the ring.

But even when you have won it all, life throws you a few more punches.

Yes, his name opened doors and wealth, but the bombastic man of his younger years was humbled in later life, and following retirement, he dedicated himself increasingly to charitable work. Parkinson’s was already taking hold.

He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, the highest honour the USA can bestow.   He died in June 2016, aged 74.

Now the news is about boxing helping dementia sufferers.

So what does this mean for freedom? Does getting battered around the head spell freedom and choice? One would say yes; a boxer is free to take such risks. When the consequences deal you a fatal blow as a result, when do you lose your freedom? Is it when you have been reduced to a shadow of your former self, a normal human being, and have to rely on others? Muhammad Ali likely had plenty of resources to ensure his final days would help him on his final journey.

We tend to think of freedom in political terms. It is hard to remove freedom in healthcare from politics. Think NHS reform, among others. Freedom in a healthcare environment means more to the individuals and families when they have life-limiting illnesses and need the care of volunteer-run hospices such as Iain Rennie Grove.

The NHS gives patients the rights to make choices about different aspects of the care they receive, from the different treatment options available. How these are chosen is individual, although for those with life threatening or limiting illnesses this choice will fall on family members. 

I quote the following:

‘In health there is freedom. Health is the first of all liberties’.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel, Philosopher

September is World Alzheimer’s Month.




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