Podiatrists are foot specialists who treat various health problems seen in the feet. Ingrown toenails, corns, bunions, fractures, deformities and bone spurs are just a few of the various conditions podiatrists often face. With the increasing push for Americans to stay active and exercise more, the demand for podiatrists is expected to grow. In order to keep active and exercise, people require podiatry care.
One of the most attractive aspects of podiatry is the generous salaries. In 2008, the projected median annual salaries of average podiatrists were about $113,560. The Podiatry Management Magazine reported annual salary figures to be $114,768 on average. Podiatrists who work with other professionals tend to earn higher wages than those who have their own practice. If a podiatrist chooses to run a solo practice, the benefit of being independent is a plus, but the cost of operating a business alone is very expensive; this is why many podiatrists choose to work in partnerships or groups.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Podiatrists perform a wide array of tasks; initial consultations and exams are performed on feet to determine problems. The podiatrist must take x-rays and run other diagnostic tests. Minor surgeries are performed also, to remove surface problems or an ingrown toenail and the tissues surrounding it. When necessary, special footwear is designed and sometimes molded by the podiatrist for people with deformities. Podiatrists also prescribe any necessary medications people may require after surgeries or procedures; also the provision of local anesthesia is a requirement in some procedures. Roles of podiatrists also include educating people about preventative measures they must take to protect and maintain foot health. Major foot problems requiring surgeries or treatments beyond the capability of the podiatrist must be properly documented and referred to a physician or surgeon.
Professionals who operate their own business are responsible for all administrative tasks, such as making arrangements for accounting, keeping track of all expenses and revenue, ordering supplies and keeping up-to-date on required continuing education. Keeping an office, files and records in accordance with state law is another very important responsibility these professionals face. Podiatrists who share a practice often share all of these responsibilities, as well. When sharing a practice, office staff are usually hired also to perform administrative tasks, taking much of the burden off the podiatrist. Every podiatrist is responsible for building a list of patients and maintaining a good relationship with them.
Training and Education Requirements
To become a podiatrist, students must complete a Bachelor degree in a related field, then continue on to a graduate program in a podiatry college. The podiatry program lasts 4 years, after which a graduate will be eligible for earning their certification. Classes are focused on biological sciences, math, communication and subjects related to the field during undergraduate studies. Most students seek a pre-med program or a degree in biological sciences. These fields will contribute to the knowledge learned in a podiatry program.
During podiatry college, students learn about the bones, tissues and microscopic tissue components that compose the foot. This knowledge is then combined to learn how all these components work together and work in accordance with the rest of the body. Podiatrists also learn diagnostic procedures for foot problems, as well as methods used for testing. Every podiatrist must learn how to administer injections, remove ingrown toenails, corns and calluses. Because contact with communicable diseases is likely in this field, podiatrists are required to keep up-to-date on their vaccinations; it is also crucial that they receive the entire Hepatitis B series. While students are in podiatry college, they will be expected to perform laboratory experiments and procedures and work on human patients under the supervision of an instructor, practicing routine procedures.
Once a graduate podiatry program is completed from an accredited podiatry college, graduates will then be eligible to take both their home state and the national exams. By passing these exams, a license will be earned, giving the podiatrist permission to begin practice. Podiatrists are required to perform a 2-year residency, in which they will work under the supervision of an experienced podiatrist. Additional certifications may be obtained after this for primary care, surgery and orthopedics. There is a separate board for each category; each board has different requirements that are in addition to the general requirements for regular licensing.
The American Podiatric Medical Association, or APMA, has been the most predominant professional association for podiatrists since 1912. This association has over 15,000 members across the country, offering each one invaluable information and connections within the profession. Membership is granted upon submission of an application and required membership fee. Every state has their own professional association for podiatrists also. The information provided in state associations is usually more precisely related to issues or laws faced in that specific state. Podiatrists are able to connect with other professionals, share information and learn new knowledge every day. Associations for podiatrists who specialize in orthopedics, surgery or other fields also exist. These associations focus specifically on that area of concentration and connect members to other professionals in that same area of focus.
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