Case study

Consultant podiatric surgeon — Trevor Prior

As well as working in podiatric surgery Trevor works with some of the country's top athletes. He also teaches at Queen Mary University of London. Find out more about his podiatric career

How did you get started in podiatry?

As a teenager I had no idea what I wanted to do, and considered a degree in electrical engineering, as I enjoyed maths at school. My parents were both working in podiatry and encouraged me to look into healthcare roles, such as becoming a paramedic. I wasn't sure I wanted to follow in their footsteps, but funnily enough, when I looked at courses, I found that podiatry really appealed to me.

What's a typical day like as a podiatric surgeon?

It involves seeing patients in clinic and these will be a mixture of surgery and sports injuries patients. This task varies but includes assessing new patients to take a history, providing a diagnosis with treatment options and arranging any necessary investigations such as blood tests, x-rays and scans. If I'm consulting a sports patient I review their gait analysis (this is where we analyse how they walk and run using plantar pressure analysis and three-dimensional gait analysis) to try and determine how we can help them recover from injury and optimise performance. I also see post-operative patients who have had foot surgery to assess their progress, deal with any problems and advise on a return to activity.

On surgery days, I go to theatre in the afternoon to work with the anaesthetist and theatre team to perform foot surgery.

When working at the university, I either work in the multidisciplinary sports medicine clinic seeing athletes, dancers etc. or present to the MSc Sports & Exercise Medicine students.

If you work with a sports team, this may involve visiting the training ground or competition venues to work as part of the multidisciplinary team and be involved at the forefront of the sport.

Tell us something surprising about your job

I think what always surprises people about podiatry, is how varied it is. Qualifying as a podiatrist opens so many doors, whether that be working with some of the country's top athletes or going down the avenue of forensics.

What part of your job gives you the most satisfaction?

The best thing is being able to make a real difference to the health of others, which makes this a very satisfying career. Working together with my patients to overcome their complaints, however serious, and enabling them to live pain-free is a rewarding experience that I enjoy.

Equally, being a podiatrist is often about teamwork, and I've been lucky enough to work within many multidisciplinary groups of talented medical professionals, for example at different sporting events, which is fantastic.

What are the challenges?

Without a doubt, the greatest challenges are the more complicated patients who take longer to recover. Anyone having foot surgery will be exposed to risk and complications and, although we are well trained to manage these, this can be quite stressful, especially if the patient is in pain. Fortunately, we are able to resolve problems with no lasting effects in the vast majority of patients.

Sports patients want clear guidance as to when they will be able to return to full activity and this can be difficult to assess in the early stages. Determining their return back to sport as quickly as possible, while mitigating the risk of re-injury, is a challenge at times.

However difficult these situations are at the time, the satisfaction of resolving problems and allowing patients to return to activity is immensely rewarding.

What are your career highlights?

Highlights include working with many professional sports clubs such as West Ham FC and being part of the medical team at the 2012 Olympic Games. Others include my teaching post at Queen Mary University of London and obtaining the Fellowship in Podiatric Surgery.

Tell us about the issues affecting the podiatry sector today

The main issue is that we don't have enough podiatrists, despite it being a fascinating and rewarding job. I think this is partly because many people aren't aware of the breadth of roles that podiatry offers, from specialising in sports injuries, to helping police solve crimes. There is a big demand for these specialists, and I recommend anyone interested in sports, health or medicine to consider a career in the field.

How do I get into podiatry?

  • It is essential that you start your career by pursuing a degree in podiatry. By completing one of the 13 podiatry programmes offered across the UK, you can then legally practice as a podiatrist. To increase your chances of being accepted onto a course study two sciences at A-Level, with one preferably being biology.
  • Take every opportunity offered to you, as this will give you the chance to develop your skills and also meet a host of incredible people along the way.
  • Work shadowing is a great way to find out more about podiatry before committing to full-time study. It will also help you understand what an incredibly varied and fulfilling career podiatry is.

Find out more

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