To start off, I decided to write this blog post to share some of my experiences of what it’s like to be a podiatry student on hospital placement. In the fourth year of the podiatry course, there are a required number of days of public (hospitals and community centres) and private (podiatry businesses) placements which must be completed before the end of the year.
I have recently just finished doing my public placement at the North Lakes Health Precinct, which is more of an advance community centre which includes many services such as podiatry, post-acute wound management, physiotherapy, exercise physiology, dietetics and dialysis to name a few.
Because diabetes is now such a common and growing health problem in Australia, the main role of a podiatrist within Queensland Health is ulcer management. Because I’m a nice guy and know some people have a weak stomach, I won’t post any pictures of what ulcers can look like (Google is your friend).
I’ll be the first to admit it’s not an area I have an interest in working in, however it’s certainly important work. Most patients have type 2 diabetes and other health complications. What surprised me however, was the number of middle aged people with ulcers on their feet. These people most likely made bad health choices when they were younger, and are now paying the price. Two of the most interesting (and to most of you probably gruesome!) wounds I saw was an ulcer on a patient’s heel that was 5cm deep with most of the surround skin gone, and another patient had an ulcer at the tip of the toe with the bone exposed.
I got the chance to spend some time in the renal dialysis ward. Dialysis is a process that allows for waste and excess water to be removed from the blood and is used primarily as an artificial replacement when someone has kidney failure. Many of these people have other health conditions, like type 2 diabetes, and therefore are more likely to have foot ulcers. I found out from a patient that dialysis lasts around four hours and is done three times a week. This is something I didn’t know however due to the how serious it is, it isn’t surprising.
You get to do some different things on public placement, such as use a scalpel to take away unhealthy tissue that is around the ulcer, and apply dressings and foot/shoe padding to take away pressure. There is also different equipment to check the blood flow to the foot and it’s temperature.
I found there were all types of people with different personalities which can make the job quite challenging, such as patients who don’t dress their ulcers at home, or those with mental illness who can be aggressive at times.
If you’re thinking about studying podiatry, don’t be put off by anything that is outside your comfort zone. You might find ulcers gross initially, but your opinion might change when you meet these people and the difference these health services make to their lives. It’s not an area for everyone and is one of many a podiatrist can work in.