Compared to some other health science courses, you start treating patients pretty early on in podiatry. This can be both scary and exciting which is why I’m here to share my experiences with you. At QUT we have the QUT Health Clinics which is a multidisciplinary clinic that includes optometry, podiatry, exercise physiology, nutrition and dietetics and psychology. You can find out more about the clinic here. The podiatry clinic is where most of the clinical placement part of the course is done.
Learning the ropes
Before they unleash you on real people, you have to learn the theory and skills required. This includes learning anatomy and special tests, such as reflexes, and practical skills like cutting toe nails (hooray!) and debriding callus with a scalpel blade. The first semester of second year is when these skills are learned. At first it can be very frustrating because there is so much to learn. Podiatry allows you to develop your fine motor skills because of the detailed work involved, especially when removing callus.
I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t fantastic initially, however you get to practice these skills every week in the clinic on fellow students. A supervisor will watch you while you scalpel material off your friend’s foot. Don’t worry, you’re unlikely to slice your friends foot in half. Second semester is the real deal when you start to treat real patients.
This is where the fun begins. I will be the first to admit I was extremely nervous when I treated my first patient. What medical condition/s will they have? Will I know what to do? Will I cut the patient? All these questions were going through my head. It can be quite a stressful initially because of this.
Over time your confidence builds the more you treat. In second and third year you treat a patient with a partner. One person treats while the other person is the note taker.
You don’t treat many patients in second year, however its good preparation for the clinical exam, which is treating a real patient. Later on in the course you treat more complex patients, like those with muscle or joint pain or those who require toe nail surgery. I’ve found you learn a lot more treating a real person than you do from reading lecture notes. Lecture notes give you the theory knowledge but it doesn’t compare to talking to a real person with a real problem, and it’s your job to try and manage that problem. Its very rewarding when you can improve someones quality of life.
In third and fourth year you start to treat a greater range of patients, besides those who just require toe nail cutting or callus removal. As mentioned before, this includes patients who may have foot, knee or hip pain (sometimes all three). Children also come into the paediatric clinic for a range of reasons. Orthoses (orthotics) prescription and fitting are a big part of the clinic in later years of the course. This includes making orthotics for patients in the QUT lab. Throughout fourth year you go out on external placement to both private clinics and hospitals, which gives you more exposure to a range of people and problems within podiatry.
This is just a small snippet of what it’s like to be a student in the podiatry clinic! 🙂