A career in Podiatry may be a highly rewarding profession for those dedicated to the vocation of health care.
Once qualified a wide range of professional competences would be required, including:
- assessing, diagnosing and treating abnormalities and diseases related to the foot and lower limb in people of all ages;
- providing treatment of disorders among high-risk patient groups such as the elderly and those with increased risk of amputation;
- providing advice and making referrals as appropriate;
- using therapeutic and surgical techniques to treat foot and lower leg issues (e.g. carrying out nail and soft tissue surgery using local anaesthesia);
- prescribing, producing and fitting orthotics and other aids and appliances;
- delivering foot health education, particularly to more vulnerable social groups including, the elderly, children and those with medical problems such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis;
- working closely with other medical practitioners such as doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other health care professionals in the provision of multidisciplinary team delivery of healthcare;
- understanding the mechanics of the body in order to preserve, restore and develop movement;
- working with men and women in sports to address sports-related injuries to legs and feet;
- using a range of equipment including surgical instruments, dressings, treatment tables, orthotic (inner sole) materials (orthotic fabrication, grinders (orthotic fabrication), shaping equipment, x-ray and video gait-analysis equipment (which allows for analysis of patients’ walking or running problems);
- treating patients who have an underlying illness or condition, such as very poor circulation, that puts their legs and feet at increased risk of injury and disability;
- assessing, treating and advising patients in order to reduce long-term and serious problems that could lead to amputation.
Salary and conditions:
- In Malta, podiatrists work in either the government funded public or private practice. In the public service Podiatrists generally work during outpatient hours (ranging between 7.30pm- 2.30pm, Mondays to Saturdays), although in specialised services and hospitals such hours may change and include evenings sessions. In 2013 salaries within the government funded public service ranges from Scale 10 (€16,666 – €19,113) for newly graduates and can go up to Scale 5 (€23,198 – €27,043) with career advancement and postgraduate studies.
- Private practice provides the Podiatrist with increased hour flexibility since the practioner is self-employed and generally such a Podiatrist would earn substantially more than his/ her fixed wage in the government practice. Although developing such a practice may take a considerable amount of years, experience and building clientele. Income is affected by geographical locations, type of podiatry practised, type of treatment and assessment offered and hours worked.
- The undergraduate level degree course leading to state registration in Podiatry with the council of professions complimentary to medicine (CPCPM) is currently the Bachelors of Science Degree with Honours in Podiatry, which in Malta is only offered by the University of Malta.
- This is a four year programme leading to a first-cycle BSc (Hons) degree. Entry requirements included the following:
- The minimum entry requirements for admittance to a degree course at University of Malta
- Special course requirements:
- (A) An Advanced Level pass at Grade C or better in Biology; and
- (B) An Intermediate Level pass in either Chemistry or Physics.
- For more information on the University course please follow this link. http://www.um.edu.mt/healthsciences/podiatry
The start of a Podiatrist’s career is usually with the public service through the Department of Health. This involves working in various settings but most Podiatrists in Malta work in Primary Care at different health centres across Malta without a working shift. Settings were Podiatrists are currently recruited with the government apart from health centres include, Rehabilitation hospitals, gerontology hospitals and residences, Mater Dei Hospital (day clinics include Rheumatology, Diabetes and tissue viability unit), the national orthotic laboratory and biomechanics laboratory.
Podiatrists may focus on high-risk patient management after gaining initial clinical experience. This involves working with patients who have an underlying illness or condition that puts their legs and feet at increased risk of infection, injury or disability. There are various areas of speciality but the most commonly sought include rheumatology, dermatology, biomechanics and diabetes. With an ageing and increasingly overweight population, such work is likely to grow.
Biomechanics and connected subjects are a popular specialism. Podiatrists pursuing options in biomechanics may focus on sports injuries (where there is a demand due to lack of Podiatry specialists in the area), child foot healthcare (podopaediatrics) and rheumatology. They may also pursue academic research at the University of Malta or through foreign universities, hospitals and specialist institutions. A Masters or PhD qualification is required for teaching in a university or grade advancement with the public health service.
While all registered podiatrists may carry out minor surgery, further rigorous postgraduate training may lead to a career in podiatric surgery, a specialisation that is currently absent in Malta. A podiatric surgeon’s work involves managing including operating, bone, joint and soft tissue disorders in the foot.
Forensic podiatry is a relatively new development, though with limited job opportunities notwithstanding the size of the country and therefore reduced demand. Working in this area will also require you to attend conferences giving presentations on research findings. At this time, working opportunities in this area would be better if you plan to move abroad.
Many podiatrists, particularly career changers, choose the profession as a means of becoming self-employed. Setting up a private practice may be expensive in terms of equipment, license and insurance but it offers the prospect of flexible employment. It may be possible to pursue opportunities either on a fee-share basis or by renting a room in a practice or private pharmacy. Working in private practice may involve working in a number of locations such as a private clinic (either in your home or often in premises on the high street), patients’ homes, in sports clubs or fitness centres, residential/nursing homes.
Some podiatrists may have two or more jobs at the same time, e.g. teaching, self-employment, and working with the public health service (due to sensible outpatient work hours).