podiatrist working

What does a Podiatrist do?

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A podiatrist diagnoses, treats, and performs necessary surgeries concerning the lower legs, feet, or ankles. This involves giving medical care for such things as heel spurs, arthritis, or care for associated problems stemming from diabetes, as well as other ailments. Complicated surgeries are sometimes needed like foot or ankle reconstruction. Some podiatrists choose to specialize in pediatrics or sports medicine.

Watch a video to learn what a podiatrist does:

How to Become a Podiatrist

podiatrist working

A podiatrist must hold a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree (DPM) and complete a 3-year residency program. A DPM degree takes 4 years to complete. In addition, every state requires a podiatrist to be licensed. At least 3 years of undergraduate education is needed for admission to Podiatric medicine that would demand courses in laboratory sciences like, physics, biology, chemistry, and general course study in subjects like English.

All aspirants earn a bachelor’s degree before advancing to Podiatric medicine and then must take and pass a Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Other licenses, certifications, and registrations may be required in addition to testing for the American Podiatric Medical Licensing Exam (APMLE) and paying the fee required.

Job Description of a Podiatrist

Podiatrists are responsible for the medical care of a patient’s feet, legs, and ankles. They must make proper diagnoses of illnesses and injuries, as well as perform any surgeries required for the person being treated. He or she must listen closely to a patient, read their medical history, and make a physical examination in order to correctly assess and evaluate the condition of a patient.

A podiatrist must have medical laboratory tests done and X-rays given in addition to the examination. They are expected to provide treatment for any ailments, like improving mobility and instruction on techniques to help improve the patient’s condition. Some podiatrists specialize in advanced surgery for things like deformities or reconstruction of the leg, foot, or ankle. He or she must be able to prescribe medicine, coordinate with other physicians, or refer their patient to other specialists.

Remaining current in advances in Podiatric medicine is expected by attending conferences, reading journals, or conducting other research. A podiatrist must have compassion, interpersonal skills, and be a detail-oriented person. It is important to be a critical thinker and a good listener.

Podiatrist Career Video Transcript

Can you think of a body part that’s under more stress than your feet? Probably not— and that’s why podiatrists train specifically to care for patients with all types of foot problems. Podiatrists are doctors who focus exclusively on foot, ankle, and lower leg problems. They examine and diagnose conditions, perform surgery, prescribe medications, and order imaging tests. Some of the common conditions they treat include corns, calluses, ingrown nails, shortened tendons, bunions, and cysts. They may perform surgery to reconstruct the foot and ankle, or specialize in areas such as sports medicine or pediatrics. They also see many patients with foot problems caused by diabetes.

Most podiatrists work in podiatrists’ offices. Some work in group practices with physicians or specialists, and others in hospitals and outpatient surgery centers. They may work irregular hours and be on call for urgent cases. Podiatrists must complete at least 3 years of undergraduate training in basic sciences, and most have a bachelor’s degree. Next, they must complete 4 years of podiatry school. They are then required to complete a 3-year residency program, and must be licensed. It is often said that you can tell a lot about someone’s health by simply looking at their feet. This goes to show just how important podiatrists are for keeping patients healthy, active, and upright.

Article Citations

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Podiatrist.

National Center for O*NET Development. 29-1081.00. O*NET OnLine.

The career video is in the public domain from the U. S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.

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