Where is the profession going, and what are podiatry’s USPs?

Quo Vadis? by Alex Catto.

At least there is no threat of a robot taking over your job.

You can always tell when things are going badly with the economy. Forget the hopeful blandishments of the politicians…..the real trouble signs are when patients start to ask you if podiatry is a good profession to recommend to their offspring, after all, “you’re always busy Mr. Catto.”

Well, is it? Is it attractive to new students? I wonder, because the way we market ourselves could surely be better. We are told that as a numerically small profession, we constantly punch above our weight. This may be true, but will be no consolation if the profession shrinks or even ceases to exist in the form that we know it. Students are our professions’ future, and having returned from the Glasgow convention, I couldn’t help wondering “where are we going?” in regard to recruitment, and the cessation of NHS funding. 2017 sees the end of NHS funding for podiatry training. It’s a problem that’s not going away, and it was the elephant in the room at Glasgow.

Why should self-funding students choose podiatry as a profession over all others? As any marketing guru will tell you, that’s a question that must be answered before you even think about marketing podiatry to prospective students. We all know that we have a great profession, and it’s progressed out of all recognition in the time I’ve been practicing. The benefits of our profession are not to be taken for granted, and those in private practice have the added advantage of knowing that they are the masters of their own destiny. A rare thing in today’s workplace. The following is a quote from The Daily Telegraph Dec. 3rd 2016, taken from an article on black cab drivers and their gaining of ‘the knowledge’… “it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life”. On average, working a 45 hour week, a cab driver will earn £40,000 a year before tax. “It’s about the freedom, you can work when you want to work, and it’s a job for life. I’d like to think the future’s good.” At the time this article was written, there were 24,608 licensed cabbies, and 115,855 licensed private hire drivers in London. We think we have competition? If you substitute podiatry where appropriate in the above, lessen the working hours, and increase the salary, you have an approximation of a modern properly run private practice.

There were young pods at Glasgow walking around wearing ‘proud to be a pod’ sweatshirts…….and good for them, for I think it’s time to change the image of podiatry. I suggest that private practice is given its fair due and used as a recruiting tool, for at the moment it seems to be the future, away from the cut back woes of the NHS. I have always thought of private practice as the ‘shop window’ of the profession, and it’s where every innovation from orthotics to podiatric surgery had its origin. Here are some points that could be used as USP’S for our profession.

New self-funding students will need to know that:

1/ They will have a job at the end of their training. The implications of that sentence are huge. If the focus is to switch to private practice, the practical training will have to shift focus to cater for private practice needs, not NHS ones.
2/ Paying off their student loan becomes a real possibility. Who wants to have a student debt hanging round your neck if you are trying to raise a mortgage?
3/ Freedom of choice as to their future work patterns/hours….and the chance of running their own business.
4/ There is limited competition in the field. Our Society is part of wider society where the Second World War baby boomers are retiring. Podiatrists face both increased pathology and a shrinking work force in membership.
5/ Last but not least, and I think this will be a big issue shortly…. there is no threat of a robot taking over your job.
There will be those who disagree with my view. That’s fine. But I think this profession is at a crossroads, and we need to decide as a united profession where we’re going.

Will a robot take your job? Find out on the BBC’s website here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-34066941

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Until next time
The Podiatry Careers Team

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