Mastering The Collaborative Art Of Podiatry

Camille Ryans

   Everyone knows that part of the job description of being a podiatrist is dealing with people. Oftentimes, the first thing that comes to mind is being able to interact with patients.

   However, as members of the comprehensive healthcare team, podiatrists must be able to work effectively with their colleagues as well. While some professions only face the challenges of associating with co-workers, podiatrists are faced with a double-edged sword of pleasing the patient as well as the many individuals with whom they work.

   As a podiatry student, the chain of command starts even before necessarily learning anything related to the discipline. There are of course staff, faculty, residents and attendings, all of whom must collaborate in order to run a clinic. Each individual has his or her own beliefs, habits and knowledge base.

   In a common scenario, a “fresh” third-year student enters the clinical setting, builds up the confidence level a little and becomes comfortable at doing a certain procedure. Just then, either a senior student, resident or attending comes along and suggests that the student do it a different way.

   At first, this may be a bit frustrating. You will find yourself making numerous trips to the central supply area to gather the proper supplies. You may feel that you are pestering the staff worker behind the counter with inquires such as “You know that thing that Dr. So and So uses?” or “I don’t know what it is called but …”

   However, in the long run, you are grateful for learning so many different ways to do something. It allows you to formulate your own perspectives and approaches to different situations as you gain more experience. It is amazing how staff who have been working in the clinic for an extended period of time know what supplies are necessary just by hearing the mention of the doctor’s name.

   Working in the clinic as a student is like collecting a jar of loose change. At first, there are scattered bits and pieces of disorganized facts of different value from different sources. Eventually they get collected, combined and cashed in for a value that is greater than any single coin.

   Another challenge arises when you are faced with the scenario of having to select an institution in which to devote countless hours of your life. You spend significantly less time interacting with an individual patient than with co-residents, attendings or other individuals who work in your place of employment.

   Life is full of risks and the field of podiatry is not exempt. We make wagers daily, beginning with the initial investment of funding and devoting years to obtain a podiatric medical education. Afterward, you must take a chance and hope that the residency programs you selected from a clerkship manual blend well with your ideals and that you possess enough of the characteristics that the residency director finds desirable to match.
The variations of the match process are numerous. People have different learning and teaching styles, biases and preferences. In addition, there are fixed facts about a program that may pose a risk to a certain aspect of your life such as its geographic location, stipend and whether the program is two, three or four years in duration. The fact that there is a “lottery” process to select which months you are able to extern is a friendly reminder of the gamble involved with deciding on a program to pursue for residency.

   For practicing podiatric physicians, investing in the practice, hiring new staff or signing a contract for employment involve elements of risk as well. Not to mention, with every patient encounter, there is the possibility of being sued for malpractice.

   For these reasons, it is important to eliminate as much disruption as possible among the people working together to treat the patients. This enables you to direct your attention toward the patient having a positive outcome and experience while under your care.

   Some things are inevitable, such as the possibility of risks and complications of surgical procedures, which are outlined in the informed consent. In every situation, though, it is essential that camaraderie exist among the different ranks of the podiatric medical team.

   Perhaps the brave individuals who decide to pursue careers as podiatric physicians have a high aptitude for learning new things, battling challenges or just enjoy interacting with lots of people. Luckily, the variety of practicing conditions allows everyone to find a comfortable fit into a work environment that is conducive to their skills and potential for growth.

   Whatever the case may be, podiatrists are looked up to as heroes in their own right.

Ms. Ryans is a fourth-year student at the Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine and is in the class of 2010.

Dr. McCord recently retired from practice at the Centralia Medical Center in Centralia, Wash.

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