Podiatrist Career Info and Education

A podiatrist is a kind of medical professional who specializes in working with the foot, ankle, and other parts of the leg. This area of the body is the lower extremity. A doctor of podiatric medicine or DPM is trained to diagnose, prevent, and treat disorders, diseases, and injuries to the lower extremity. Consequently, a DPM will need to work independently, use x-rays and other diagnostic lab tests, prescribe medication, order physical therapy, set fractures, and perform surgery. Podiatrists work collaboratively with other health care professionals. DPMs can also specialize in fields like surgery, public health, sports medicine, pediatrics, dermatology, geriatrics, radiology, and diabetic foot care.

What Does a Podiatrist Do?

DPMs are pivotal members of a healthcare team. Due to the lower extremity’s relationship to the rest of the body; podiatrists are often the first to discover symptoms of cardiovascular diseases or diabetes. The average day for a DPM may include: providing individual consultations, diagnosing foot ailments, and treating conditions like corns, abscesses, calluses, bone disorders, bunions, cysts, heel spurs, shortened tendons, ingrown toenails, and arch problems. As well as designing corrective orthotics, casts, or strappings, correcting mobility issues, and referring patients to other physicians when other symptoms are discovered.

Where Do Podiatrists Work

Podiatrists are licensed to work in all fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. Podiatrists practice in settings such as private/group medical practices, health profession schools, health maintenance organizations, municipal health departments, preferred provider organizations, the armed forces, hospitals/extended care facilities, and the department of veteran’s affairs.

Podiatrist Residency Training

After a podiatrist completes their four years of podiatric medical school, they’ll have to undergo residency training, usually for a minimum of two years. Residencies provide experience with various disciplines like anesthesiology, pediatrics, internal medicine, ER, infectious disease treatment, and surgery. Residencies are often competency based. Usually a podiatric graduate will work a 36-month residency that includes rear foot and ankle surgery training.

Podiatric Licensing and Certification

Podiatric licensing requirements include graduating from one of the nine accredited schools of podiatric medicine, in addition to passing the National Board exams, postgraduate training, and written and oral exams. During medical school, students take the National Board exams. There are two parts to the exam, the first, taken during the second year, covers basic science. While the second part contains a written exam and a clinical skills patient encounter, or CSPE. CSPEs tests the student’s proficiency in clinical tasks. While the written exam covers subjects like medicine, research, radiology, jurisprudence, orthopedics, community health, biomechanics/sports medicine, and anesthesia/surgery. Podiatrists can become certified in one or both of the following areas: primary care/orthopedics or surgery. Those who complete the educational requirements and pass the written and oral exams receive their certifications.

Professional Representation

The American Podiatric Medical Association, or APMA, represents podiatrists. The APMA operates across the country and represents about 80% of podiatrists in the US. The association assists with developing educational programs for podiatric medicine in colleges and state medical associations.

Podiatrist Income and Benefits

Podiatrists can work hours ranging from less than 40 hours a week to more than 50. They also generally have less flexible schedules. Podiatrists make an estimated yearly average of $181,120. Earnings depend on location, kind of practice, number of patients, and experience.