The role of a podiatrist extends far beyond foot care. They encompass various roles, including private practice, hospital settings, service in remote communities, surgical procedures, collaboration with athletes and engagement with shoe companies. Podiatrists have access to certification frameworks, particularly in the areas of paediatrics and sports, and have the capability to obtain endorsements for prescribing scheduled medicines. Podiatrists play a pivotal role in providing essential support to individuals with disabilities, aiding the rehabilitation of veterans, and continuing to provide care to our ageing population.
It's widely acknowledged that podiatrists are integral to the health and well-being of all Australians. Their contribution, alongside their allied health, nursing and medical colleagues, is vital to our healthcare system. Their involvement within the broader health team fosters and advocates for a genuinely co-designed approach to patient and consumer care.
This year’s Podiatry Week theme, 'Podiatry, more than you think', highlights the diverse opportunities within the podiatry field. The PHN recently spoke with three of our region’s highly regarded Podiatrists.
Simon Burnett - Tamworth Podiatry Centre
Simon graduated from Sydney Technical College Ultimo in 1991 and headed to Tamworth for a 12-month stint in 1992. 30 years later he still calls Tamworth home.
Simon is the Owner/Director of Tamworth Podiatry Centre, with five staff, providing services to Quirindi, Manilla, Barraba, Walcha, Uralla and multiple nursing homes in Tamworth and the surrounding district.
“There have been many career highlights over my 30 years in the podiatry world. One in particular was the opportunity to work in Cape Town, South Africa during the mid-90’s. I worked with and treated a diverse range of patients from multiple language and cultural back grounds. I learnt that no matter where in the world you work, we all suffer with similar problems.”
Simon believes that Podiatrists play a very important role keeping people on their feet and moving.
“Exercise is so important for maintaining good health. If our feet are sore or hurt, mobility and exercise can be restricted and general health can deteriorate. Podiatrists also play an important role in the detection, treatment and management of such conditions as diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, peripheral neuropathy, tendon and ligament injuries, bone fractures and general foot complaints such as ingrowing nails and corns”.
“Podiatry is a very rewarding career. You have the opportunity to help and make people feel better every day. Podiatry is a career that is very mobile and you can work anywhere. Australian podiatry qualifications are recognised internationally and you can work in most counties around the world.”
According to Simon, due to the current shortage of podiatrists in both the private and public sectors, combined with Australia’s growing aged and diabetic populations, podiatry has a very busy future.
“Podiatrists provide services to all age groups from paediatric gait assessment to nursing home general foot treatment. Podiatrists are able to use local anaesthetic for toenail surgery and prescribe custom made orthoses for complex biomechanical issues.”
“Podiatrists regularly work with physiotherapists, exercise physiologists, chiropractors, general practitioners and orthopaedic surgeons to improve health outcomes for patients.”
Trina Goard - Armidale Podiatry
Trina Goard completed her Bachelor of Podiatry at Queensland University of Technology in 2016. After working in a busy podiatry clinic in Brisbane, Trina returned to her hometown and opened the doors to Armidale Podiatry with a goal to bring innovative and quality podiatry treatment to the regional community.
“It has been hugely rewarding to be able to provide much needed podiatry services to the community. We are now a busy practice with a small but powerful team. With a patient-centred approach we’re dedicated to providing the best possible treatment. Being a self-confessed lifelong learner, I have recently completed a Masters of Public Health at the University of Newcastle which has furthered my knowledge on disease prevention, health policy and promotion.”
“Healthy feet are fundamental to being able to live a healthy and active life. As podiatrists, we play an important role in both the treatment and prevention of foot issues and we are able to make real and lasting impact on the daily lives of our patients. This can be seen in many ways, such as managing symptoms related to a musculoskeletal injury and/or preventing foot complications (such as amputation) in diabetics.”
Trina encourages others to consider a career as a Podiatrist. “Being foot experts, we have a specialised skill set that we utilise to treat a varied caseload including nail and skin care, diabetics, children, foot pain and sporting injuries. While your job will always revolve around improving foot health, every single day and every single patient will be different.”
“Some things that I’ve found people often overlook podiatrists for are the permanent removal of ingrown toenails using local anaesthetic, shockwave therapy for foot and leg pain, gait analysis, and foot conditions commonly seen in children (such as in-toeing).”
Dwight Bilson - Umina Podiatry
Dwight started his career with 15 years as an Enrolled Nurse working in various hospital settings, before gaining a passion for assisting people with their mobility needs. After speaking with several friends who were podiatrists, he decided on attending the University of Newcastle where he earned his Bachelor in Podiatry. Dwight worked in Sydney initially focusing on biomechanical assessment and treatment for runners until 2017 when he joined the team at Umina Podiatry on the Central Coast.
Dwight and the team at Umina Podiatry have recently seen the direct impact foot health care has in the homeless community and among those who have fallen on hard times, through working closely with the Health on the Streets team.
“I'm lucky enough to work with a great team who are like minded in providing a premium podiatry service to those who need it, and not only those who can afford it. The reward of seeing many patient's faces light up when they stand up to feel either pain-free or an increase in their comfort level, is something I'll never take for granted.”
Dwight encourages others to consider a career as a Podiatrist due to the variety in day-to-day activities and opportunities for specialisation.
“There are a wide variety of patients who require our assistance, leading to opportunities for several different options for specialisation (e.g., sports/biomechanics, paediatrics, aged care and wound care).
“During a recent routine neurovascular assessment here at Umina Podiatry, one of our Podiatrists detected an irregular rhythm when looking at the peripheral blood flow, which was then communicated to the patient's GP. The matter was then referred on to a cardiologist who diagnosed a leaky valve. This is a great reminder of the important role we play in the multidisciplinary team.”
“Generally, assisting our patients with their foot pain and foot health needs and directly improving their mobility allows for a greater quality of life for our communities.”
The PHN would like to thank Simon, Trina and Dwight and all Podiatrists across the Hunter, New England and Central Coast region for their significant contributions to the health and wellbeing of our communities, and acknowledges that the Podiatry profession is clearly more than you’d think!
Follow the links for more information on Podiatry Week and the PHN’s Allied Health activities.