Two podiatrists go about recruiting the younger generation
Recruiting the young to podiatry is important as they are the future workforce to develop this exciting profession beyond today’s imagination. It was a pleasure to interview podiatrist Hannah Roberts, a private practitioner, and Phil Hendy, a lecturer at Plymouth University. A need to promote and shout about, but above all, be proud of our profession is important as a significant factor in encouraging so many who have no idea of the hidden opportunities available. More people could benefit from this wonderful caring profession that now has a greater impact on medicine and its role in the community. Earlier articles on this subject include Inspiring the Future.
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Hannah’s Approach to Schools
Hannah (pictured) shared her approach to promoting podiatry in schools. Coincidentally, when we met on Zoom in 2021, she bumped into a careers officer in her practice. The subject of careers had just cropped up in conversation, and Hannah’s patient told her she was a career advisor. Not missing an opportunity, Hannah dived in. She said, ‘Well, can I tell you more about podiatry I think podiatry’s a great profession for people to get into, and if you want to ask me anything, I would love to talk about it. And she replied – ‘Actually, two of my friends I went to school with are podiatrists, so I know a lot about it.’ And then we chatted a bit about podiatry.’
Hannah told me that if there’s a career event locally, she likes to get involved because it’s good for people to be aware of the profession. After all, it’s not one that people think of. Being prepared, she provided the patient cum career adviser with information to take away as she kept material in her cupboard ready to go. Recent brochures were produced, a free pen in a bag from the Royal College, and some stickers. Without any sense of hubris but with good business sense, she admitted her passion allowed a little self-serving promotion to patients.
When engaging with pupils in schools, there is a clear message from the Inspiring the Future organisation. This agency promotes career opportunities for school students before they reach indelible decision-making points around GCSE subjects. Being invited into schools as solo entertainers is less common than group occupation events called Fairs.
Barriers and finding an angle
Hannah believes that it is essential to transpose the passion of her profession to patients and that a positive attitude that emphasises enthusiasm and engagement is vital. The respect one holds in believing that we are doing a great job should transcend any conversation. The patient’s perception that the profession gives an ‘awesome’ view is important and is shown as much more than a job around feet. A winning image is essential to convey a positive message.
Year 5 (age 9-10) is an impressionable age. Hannah can relate to this age group through her own children, who are 6 and 8 years old. Her local primary school does, ‘What careers do your parents make?’ She says she has a lot of contacts with the school. The barrier is that the teachers can’t find time in their curriculum to have a parent come in and talk about it. ‘So I’ve often offered –You’re talking about muscles this week. Do you want me to come in with my leg and talk about the muscles? Or You’re doing careers this week? Oh, I can be another parent that can do that,’ she says. Sometimes the school cannot fit her in because they have enough volunteers already. Taking up an hour can make it difficult for teachers, but she feels she can embroider several areas of learning into the subject. She says, ‘Having me in for an hour is a three-in-one deal. I can read a book and get in some English as well. So I think I offer quite good value, but I can see they don’t have time to have me come in and talk about podiatry as a career.’
Working in the health angle
Hannah uses a syringe to show that it’s not scary, then gives out syringes to the children. She accidentally ordered a whole box of 5 ml syringes, which she didn’t use, so now she turns them into promotion tools. The syringes are used at career fairs. The feedback is rich as when she speaks to the mums of the children who go to the same school, the feedback is, ‘Oh yeah, my son saw you today. He was excited and came home with a syringe.’ She says this small act is embedded early so that children remember and associate the syringe with the podiatrist. The action naturally leads to emphasising the fact that Hannah works in healthcare and gives people injections. She smiles and adds, ‘They’re good as water pistols! There is a focus on promoting a career in healthcare, not necessarily podiatry, but a career in any healthcare is considered exciting. She also pushes sports because, at the career fairs in her locality, they have the Cambridge Football Club, which adds to the career option. After all, the club has a school leavers programme. There is a strong belief that podiatry is an outstanding career if children are into football and sport. Hannah is thinking outside the box, and this is what makes a success of skill when using different angles.
Feet are not just a one-way show!
Years ago, most podiatrists had little equipment. Still, with a strong attraction to the health of the lower limb, it would be unconscionable for a podiatrist not to have a Doppler Ultrasound in their practice. Hannah takes a Doppler with her to talk so the action of listening to pulses can be shared with the audience of tiny people
Give away information
There is a general health care careers leaflet, Hannah explains. ‘I did some cards with my logo on one side; on the other, it had many pictures. And again, a lot of them came from Osgo. So just some little graphic things, and I found them useful, and on one side, it had my logo. On the other side, it had that one with all the little emoticons with like, you know, ‘I love fixing feet’. Another one had heel pain, or we do not just fit insoles. Hannah uses OSGO and the Royal College of Podiatry for her promotion material. She believes the ROYAL College of Podiatry offers great material, but she loves the ‘Future Pod’ stickers that Osgo provide. ‘Pens and pencils go down well, but I don’t tend to have loads of those because they’re expensive.’
She believes the College of Podiatry offers the best material, but she likes the pod stickers that Osgo provide. “Pens and pencils go down well, but I don’t tend to have loads of those because they’re expensive.”
Taking a different approach to older students
When talking to the older students, Hannah felt she would follow a similar model but tempered this with a health promotion activity. Hannah comes from Australia, where health promotion activities in Australia are more forward. ‘In Australia, I used to go to a preschool. Every year I would go, and all the kids would have a foot screening. Whether or not we now think that’s a good idea is a completely different discussion. Read them a story, stick plasters on their feet, and talk about washing their toes. So this kind of health promotion stuff, I suppose I’ve grown up with the idea of being part of a health profession. If I were going to a secondary school, I’d probably still treat it as a health promotion activity and then draw it into a ‘Look how much we help people.’
Hannah would talk about what you need and what you might enjoy making you a good podiatrist. She would exemplify that podiatrists are very good at the craft, which benefits manual dexterity as a skill.
In biology, she liked dissecting frogs, and as a podiatrist, one learns lots of biology about the human body. As a parallel example, as a podiatrist, you dissect feet, she points out. She uses these examples to draw those interested in her podiatrist career. When considering biology and the human body, those taking this subject benefit when meeting physiology and anatomy.
The employment rate is positive, and there are many job opportunities that give pleasure to a career and aid an excellent work-life balance. And although a 16 or 18-year-old isn’t going to see the balance between parent and working mother for women, Hannah feels she wants to emphasise this potential benefit. She found that many had not considered this side of working life and wanted to work part-time. Hannah hadn’t worked since she was 23 and enjoyed a day off midweek, even in her 20s. She used to talk to teenagers as a 20-year-old and now speaks to teenagers as a Mum.
In Australia, there’s a more sporty perception. In the UK, Hannah believes people do not see this as a viable career path alongside podiatry, emphasising the difference between the two English-speaking countries that formerly shared the older diploma course last century. She cites a friend from Australia; ‘I remember one of my friends. He started podiatry, and in his first week, he was like, Oh, my God, podiatrists cut toenails? I did not sign up for this. So he signed up to become a sports podiatrist and is now a sports podiatrist. He doesn’t do any toenails. He’s pure sports.’ As Hannah sees, her career needs to fit in with family life. Her job means she can be flexible, and I earn enough not to have to work full-time.
Phil’s Approach as a University Promotor
Next, I interviewed Phil (pictured). Being a lecturer, he shines a slightly different light beam on the subject but with no less passion. Phil and a colleague started a comprehensive outreach programme where the university would do ‘outreach’. We would contact local schools and colleges to engage with school leavers. He explained, “We stepped it up another level within podiatry and spent a good six or eight months visiting schools in our local area and further afield, to give students an idea of what the profession is. Really to let them know that it’s there. And lots of the events that we would go to, few students would have a good grasp of what the podiatry profession is about and what we do as clinicians, other than it might be something to do with feet.”
Phil believed that the real take-home message for him was that people didn’t know about podiatry. School-age leavers don’t know what the profession IS and what the profession DOES. He believes that students and others are not making informed decisions or choices about their careers because they have no depth of that awareness. In seeking an answer to overcome this deficit, he felt that the University needed a more prominent presence in careers fairs, probably even more so at an earlier age. In Plymouth, his organisation tries to make a difference and push podiatry. The Girl Guides from age 14 are being targeted by creating a badge around which skills can be developed with various focuses. Ultimately the idea is that this leads back to a career in podiatry. GCSE choices at this point in their career form a driver to concentrate on sciences and move their direction of interest toward recruitment in Plymouth. As far as the local community is concerned, Phil recognises, as does Inspire the Future, that attracting interest early is essential.
More information can be viewed on the Plymouth website
Everyone can contribute to promoting podiatry
Both my interviewees are keen and constantly looking for an angle to promote podiatry. It is hoped that the majority feel as passionate as Hannah and Phil. However, doubtless, some quietly do their bit. These interviews help inject some motivation, making practice not just about caring for patients but seeking to future-proof the profession. The Royal College of Podiatry website provides comprehensive information covering Universities and funding.
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Thanks for reading “Recruiting the Young to Podiatry” by David R Tollafield, with special thanks to Hannah Roberts and Phil Hendy
Published by Busypencilcase Communications (Est. 2015)
Published for ConsultingFootPain 15th December 2021 – updated 5th April 2023