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Podiatry has helped give me the life I want to live

Podiatry has helped give me the life I want to live

Claire Bateson-Cooper will readily admit that when she left school in the 1980s, she didn’t have many qualifications. Dyslexia had made academic work difficult, but what she lacked in letters, she made up for in communication and a knack for talking with people. Her story is a lesson to anyone concerned about being held back by a learning challenge and without an academic background.

Communication skills are, for Claire, the common thread that links two startlingly different careers. Nowadays she is a private practitioner working at a home clinic in Maidstone, Kent. But in an earlier life she worked in IT sales – a career that took her all over world. 

After leaving school, Claire’s big break in technology sales came through an opening as a demonstrator for Apple Computers. The firm were recruiting people to work in shops in the UK to show customers how the then-new Macintosh computers worked. At the end of the campaign, she was kept on as a sales representative for the South of England – a role which led to an international sales career, including time working in The States, Germany and Belgium. 

‘It was a fast-paced, pressurised targeted life that included first-class travel, great salaries, and a lot of fun. It was an amazing business to be involved in at that time.’ 

So, what makes a high-flying sales executive move from this type of industry into a career in podiatry? ‘It was a huge decision to stop doing sales. I can only really explain it by saying that life in IT was exciting, but it wasn’t really a living. For all the glamour, you had to give yourself to the job. Being on the move so much made it very hard to forge relationships and I finally took the decision to change the pace and have a more realistic life! And I haven’t looked back. I know it sounds a bit crazy to say, but podiatry has opened up a whole new life for me. It has given me an opportunity to work in a fantastic career, meet many wonderful people, marry my lovely husband John, and bring up our amazing daughter Beatrix.’

What made Claire interested in podiatry? ‘I think I’d always recognised the importance of good footcare from an early age, I had also qualified as a reflexologist, a subject in complementary health that had fascinated me.’

The process of moving into the profession was not easy, however. After quitting sales, Claire took an access course at West Kent College, studying maths and sciences, which enabled her to qualify for a place at Brighton University. ‘The course was really challenging. I’m dyslexic and I found the academic side of studying very difficult. I loved the practical side though, and fortunately the team and fellow students were supportive, and I was able to get through my degree.’ 

After graduating in 1998, Claire worked in both private practice at her home in Maidstone and as a locum in the local NHS podiatry services. She also worked as a private provider for many years in a busy GP Practice in Tonbridge. Today she continues in private practice and domiciliary care in Maidstone. 

‘I never wake up in the morning and dread the day ahead. For me it’s always, “great to see my patients today”. They are my motivation.’ 

Twenty years on, Claire sits on the Kent Branch Committee for the College of Podiatry and has done so for the past 16 plus years. She is also passionate about the voice of the private practitioner. In 2018, she received a long-service award in the College of Podiatry awards for services to the profession. 

Has she found the life she was hankering for during her days on the road? For Claire, who is now married and a mum, it’s the lifestyle change that has made the biggest difference. ‘Podiatry has helped me to live and enjoy the life I wanted. In the early years our daughter faced some tough health challenges but the flexibility of my work as a self-employed podiatrist meant I was able to give her the time and focus she needed. Now she is at school and I am able to spend every school holiday with her. My patients are brilliant and understand this and book their appointments around my timetable. Many of my patients have become great friends and after years of treating patients you naturally develop good relationships and strong bonds, which is amazing.’

Changing lives: Claire’s patient story

‘If I’m honest the patients I really love treating are the ones with the most challenging feet – people whose feet are really problematic and causing them serious grief. It is very rewarding to make someone comfortable and pain free.

I had a patient recently whose GP had referred her for what they thought was an ingrown toenail. When she came to my clinic, I was extremely concerned that it was in fact a vascular issue. I contacted her GP saying that she needed to have an urgent vascular review, which fortunately was expedited. She was then immediately referred and received surgery on her femoral artery, which corrected her condition and saved at the very least her foot! These are some of the moments that make this career so marvellously rewarding.’

What’s your podiatry story?

Do you have a story to share? Contact podiatrynow@cop.org.uk 

'I never wake up in the morning and dread the day ahead. For me it's always, "great to see my patients today". They are my motivation'.

Claire Bateson-Cooper