Podiatrist - How to Become a Podiatrist

Podiatrist

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Podiatrist Job Description

 

Podiatric medicine focuses on the medical care of the foot and ankle. This is a branch of the medical sciences that is devoted to the study of human movement. A doctor of podiatric medicine is a physician who has specialized his or her practice by undergoing a lengthy, thorough course of study that makes him or her uniquely qualified to treat a specific part or system of the human body.

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Responsibilities

 

A doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM) focuses his or her practice on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disorders, diseases and injuries of the foot. A DPM may perform any or all of the following, based on his or her independent judgment:

  • Ordering or performing necessary diagnostic tests

  • Perform surgery

  • Prescribe and administer medications, including DEA-restricted pharmaceuticals

  • Prescribe physical therapy treatment regimens

Because an array of diseases, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart or kidney disease, may first manifest through symptoms in the lower extremities, DPMs are in a position to detect serious health problems that go unnoticed otherwise. Podiatric Physicians receive education in the following state-of-the-art treatment techniques:

  • Surgical procedures

  • Orthopedics

  • Dermatology

  • Physical medicine

  • Rehabilitation

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Skills

 

Podiatrists must possess a long list of skills to be able to diagnose and treat patients with disorders and diseases of the feet. Since they work face-to-face with patients, they need interpersonal skills, along with the skills they needed to become, and practice as a doctor. 

Active Listening

Must give attention to what people say in order to determine appropriate course of action.

Communication

Must convey information and be able to acquire info from others effectively. Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Critical Thinking

Use logic and reasoning to determine appropriate courses of action, troubleshoot and identify issues, and solve problems.

Judgment and Decision Making

Consider and choose the best course of action. Be comfortable making decisions and taking responsibility for your actions. Make choices and standby them. 

Perception

Knowing why people act as they do and determine the best treatment options for them.

Complex Problem Solving

Be able to identify and solve complex problems by using knowledge and information you gather.

Coordination

Work with other healthcare professionals to coordinate care and react to their actions.

Monitoring

Be able to assess your patient's progress and your treatment path. Determine if there are actions to take to fix problems or improve methods.

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Working Conditions

 

A podiatrist may work in a group practice or in general practice. Podiatrists are free to focus the scope of their practice, such as focusing on pediatrics, sports medicine or geriatrics. Many also are staff members of hospitals and long-term care facilities in addition to working in private practice.

Podiatrists serve on the faculties of schools of nursing and schools of medicine. In the armed forces, they served as commissioned officers. DPMs may also be found working in the U.S. Public Health Services (USPHS) and in municipal health departments. Potential career settings can also be found in foot clinics associated with large urban hospitals or small community hospitals in rural towns.

The practice of podiatric medicine generally involves flexibility in the work hours. This makes it an appealing career choice for those who want time for family, friends and other activities that denote a balanced lifestyle. The hours worked in a week’s time can vary from 30 to 60 hours. Podiatrists who set up their own private practice can set their own work hours.

 


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How to Become a Podiatrist:

 

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

 

It is wise to pick a pre-med program for your undergrad so you get the necessary pre-requisites for podiatrist school. You could also pick a major heavily focused in science. It's important you get a strong background in Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Anatomy, as you are studying to become a Doctor and need a solid foundation in these courses. You can expect coursework similar to the following:

 

Grade Level Example Courses

Freshman Year

 

  • General Chemistry I & Lab
  • General Chemistry II & Lab
  • Biology & Lab
  • Calculus I
  • English 101
  • English 102
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Physics I & Lab
  • Physics II & Lab

Sophomore Year

  • Organic Chemistry I & Lab
  • Organic Chemistry II & Lab
  • Fundamentals of Microbiology & Lab
  • Genetics
  • Physiology 
  • Humanities Requirement
  • Electives

Junior Year

 

  • Cell Structure & Function
  • General Virology & Lab
  • Microbial Genetics & Lab
  • Biochemistry I
  • Biochemistry II
  • Physics
  • Electives

Senior Year

  • Upper Level Biology
  • Upper Level Chemistry
  • Upper Level Physics
  • Upper Level Psychology
  • Upper Level Kinesiology 
  • Electives

 

2. Take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)

 

To be admitted into medical school, candidates must first take the MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to assess the applicant's knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills.

 

The MCAT is divided into four sections:

 

Section/Category  Section Breakdown
Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics

Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior

  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills
  • 53 multiple-choice questions
  • 90 minutes
  • Tests reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences

 

3. Earn a Podiatric Medicine Degree (4 Years)

 

You must attend a 4 year podiatric medical school after your bachelor's degree. After your four years of study at an accredited podiatric medical college or university, a Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M.) degree can be awarded. The curriculum leading to the D.P.M. degree is very similar at all institutions, regardless of size and location. Classroom instruction and laboratory work in the basic medical sciences is the focus during the first two years. Clinical sciences and patient care are the main focus of study in the third and fourth years.

Coursework for all physicians, including podiatrists, generally includes the following subject areas:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Biochemistry
  • Pathology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology

To specialize in podiatry, medical students learn the fundamentals unique to this specialized area of medicine. These studies can include:

  • Orthopedics
  • Infectious diseases
  • Biomechanics
  • Anatomy of the lower extremities
  • Podiatric Pathology
  • Sports Medicine

Clinical experiences can begin as early as the second year of study. Podiatric Medical Students are given practical working experience in Podiatrist Clinics across a wide variety of settings, including hospitals, satellite clinics, community clinics and professional office settings.

 

4. Complete a Residency Program (2 - 3 Years)

 

Once the required four years of Podiatrist Medical Training is completed, graduates must select a Podiatric Medicine and Surgical Residency that will last 24 to 36 months. Podiatrists are required to complete a minimum of one year of post graduate residency training in most states. This must be done in an approved health care institution. If board certification is desired, two years of residency training is required.

A 36-month residency incorporates robust training in rear foot and ankle surgery. A residency in podiatry provides the physician with an interdisciplinary experience with rotations through the following disciplines:

  • Anesthesiology
  • Infectious disease
  • Internal medicine
  • Orthopedics
  • Surgery
  • Pediatrics
  • Emergency medicine

An online application service, known as CASPR, is available through the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM) to help you find Residency Programs. All entry-level residency programs participate in this application service.

 

5. Earn the Required License

 

You must get your License from your state before you can practice legally. Once you get your DPM Degree, you can take the oral and written exam necessary for your license. Passing the National Board of Podiatric Medical Examiners (NBPME) exam can qualify you for licensing in some states.

 

5. Maintain Certification Through Continuing Education

 

You must continue your education because technology is ever advancing and procedures and practices change with it. Most states will require you to complete a certain number of continuing education hours to maintain certification. There are on-site or online courses that cover a variety of topics. It's best to learn what your State requires. 

 

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Salary Outlook