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I didn't fall out of love with nursing, I just love podiatry more

I didn't fall out of love with nursing, I just love podiatry more

For Fiona Boyle, starting work as a qualified podiatrist couldn’t happen soon enough – but after seven years at university that might not be surprising.

It was during her training to become a nurse that Fiona made the decision to switch to podiatry, securing a place at the University of Ulster after taking the HPAT aptitude test and beginning her studies immediately after completing the nursing course.

“Towards the end of my nursing degree I was working in an orthopaedics ward. I had been having trouble with an ingrown toenail, which when you’re on your feet all day working long shifts, has quite an impact. So I visited a podiatrist who was able to completely sort it out. During the visit, she spotted that I was taking an interest in what she was doing, and we got chatting. She told me that she had retrained as a podiatrist after working in nursing for 20 years. She said her only regret was not switching sooner, and said I should think about it myself.”

The encounter was enough to pique Fiona’s interest in podiatry and after finding a course nearby she made the switch. Three more years at university later, she completed her studies this summer and began work in a private practice the moment her insurance and HCPC registration were finalized. 

She probably wouldn’t describe her studies as complete, however - a point she is keen to stress: “I think it’s really important on graduating to be able to work with people who can be there to provide further support and help your continued learning. We obviously have a professional duty to continued learning and development, but I feel lucky to be in a well-established practice where there are people around I can learn from. In the practice where I’m working we deliver some techniques and procedures, such as laser treatment, that people can’t get on the NHS. For this reason they generally aren’t taught in university courses, so it’s great to be able to learn them on the job.”

So what was it that made her choose to leave nursing for podiatry? “The thing is, I love being a nurse. In fact I’ve continued working as a nurse one day a week, but that will stop as my podiatry work increases. It’s not that I ever fell out of love with nursing, it’s just that I love podiatry more. The big difference between nursing and podiatry is that as a nurse you’re not always the person that makes the biggest difference. Now when I see a patient whose feet are in agony and I am the person that can make it better, then and there in the clinic, and they get up out of the chair and tell me they’re walking on air, that’s an amazing feeling. You don’t always get that level of recognition as a nurse.”

It’s still early days in Fiona’s career, but she seems in no doubt about the decision to change paths. “I get up every morning and don’t feel like I’m going to work. I love being in the clinic. It’s a busy and successful practice and I’m seeing 14 patients a day for half an hour. It’s long enough to get to know them a little bit, and build good relationships with returning patients. I’m also enjoying the variety of patients I’m seeing, as the work isn’t just in the clinic but includes house calls.”

With her whole career ahead, Fiona is excited about the possibilities open to her. “One of the big motivations for me is to be self-employed and have my own practice one day. I’m working in Dublin at the moment and one of the things I’m really excited about is that this is a very portable career – I could work in Ireland, the UK, or other parts of the world like Canada or Australia. There’s a lot to learn first though, and for now I’m very happy to be where I am.”

We want to hear about podiatrists in all settings and career stages as we celebrate the diversity of our profession. If you've got a story to tell, get in touch! podiatry.now@cop.org.uk






Changing lives

'A while back an older patient attended for his annual diabetic screening. Upon assessment of his pedal pulses, I noted he had an irregular pulse. He was unaware of this and was surprised at me questioning him about this as he said he had never been told that before. Alarm bells rang for me and I remembered a podiatrist I had worked with on my NHS placement who shared a similar case with me of identifying atrial fibrillation (AF) during a routine assessment. I contacted the patient's GP and informed him of my findings. A few months later the patient returned for routine care and thanked me for my care and concern - following further investigation he had been diagnosed with AF and commenced on medication for control. The GP told him I could have prevented him from having a stroke (a complication of AF) and possibly saved his life. Every time I see the patientnow he jokes that he comes to the podiatrist to get his feet and his heart checked!' 

Fiona Boyle