By Lilly Sze.
I attended Queen Margaret University as a mature student and it was a big group to start with but in my 1st year a lot of people left.
A career in podiatry is like marmite, you either love it or loathe it, some students tried to bear with it, progressing into second year, and holding on to student life but inevitably time would tell. For 4 years I studied the anatomy of the foot, nerve function, skin function, wound healing, dressings, diabetic effects on the foot, biomechanics, arthritis, multi disciplinary team working, reflective practice, ethics, clinical governance and much, much, more. Looking back I would say that my time at university prepared me for both NHS and private practice. I learnt early on, adapting to change would be a continual theme throughout my health care professional career, not to say I was good at it but that I was aware of it. It’s like the Scottish weather, even when its sunshine the rain or hail stones aren’t far away, always be prepared for change.
After graduating I began working in private practice part-time before securing a full-time post in NHS Fife. It was a complete change from my years in customer service where I was working towards a career in an office or accountancy. I found myself surrounded by highly intelligent, critical thinking clinicians all with their own specialities and they were so fast and efficient, it was all quite overwhelming. Luckily for me being organised, prepared and turning up early helped a bit. The negative thoughts started creeping in: What if I don’t get it right, what if I do the wrong thing, what if I miss something, what if I say the wrong thing, trying to remember everything on the spot… I remember thinking I must work faster and this would solve everything. Now I realise working slower, using a methodical process and prioritising tasks is more person centred than trying to do everything at once.
My regular supervision meetings with a mentor once a month helped to resolve issues with being a newly qualified practitioner (NQP). Mostly dealing with my inexperience in speaking to patients as a health care professional. Balancing between service provision and clinical decision making. To handle my confidence and experience I shadowed various members of staff from general clinic to different levels as well as different settings in the community before handling my own full caseload. As well as general clinic I saw the diabetes specialists on house visits, general podiatrist performing diabetic annual reviews at GP clinics; nail surgery operations, specialist podiatrists working within care homes and a host of other areas where podiatry input is essential. Putting into practice the theory comes with experience as patients do not fit into a box. I have used my own clinical judgement as we work with vulnerable high risk adults and elderly with a myriad of conditions. Nothing is as ever straightforward as it seems.
My Flying Start workshops helped me to develop a portfolio of evidence and allowed me to reflect about my career. As it was a new initiative it did have some teething issues. There was a general feeling of being overwhelmed, staff struggling with time to complete the vast modules, confusion as to where to save information. Networking and meeting new graduates from all allied health profession disciplines and nursing was enjoyable and we swapped useful tips about these issues throughout the 4 workshops and some general guidance about how to complete Flying Start. I’m glad I had dedicated time to attend the workshops. After 1 year I am now beginning my e-KSF and feel confident post Flying Start in developing and building my portfolio for e-KSF.
I have no doubt in my mind that podiatry was the correct career path for me. NHS Fife has allowed me to explore and develop my clinical skills and career, in a safe and nurturing environment. Despite growing pressures in and increasingly tight budgets, meeting government targets and time constraints, patients are at the forefront of what we do in the NHS.