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Fork in the road: Fine-tuning your podiatry future

Vaughan Ackland, Podiatry Team Manager
  • Podiatry Career

For recent graduates, the idea of choosing your podiatry career can be a daunting task. There’s a lot of factors to consider. Do you prefer a better work-life balance, earlier starts, rewarding relationships, or the security of knowing a paycheck’s in the mail?

While we can’t predict everything that’ll happen with the path you do choose, we can give you a pretty good idea of what to expect. Each sector in podiatry has its merits and restrictions.

Think of this as a rough guide to the public, private and aged care working areas. We’re sure when it comes to crunch time, you’ll be able to make a better, more informed decision.

The perks of Public Health.

If you’re thinking about heading into the public health sector, there’s a few things to expect. Regular hours. Paid leave. And a whole variety of cases walking through your door.

Predictable hours to plan your life around.

Foraying into the world of public health can lead you down the road of a typical 9-5 work day. But with limited roles and the reduction of funding from the government, the types of roles available can be restricted. Typically, entry-level positions might consist of high-risk outpatient clinics and community health centres. These are based on a contract by contract basis, which doesn’t usually provide great job security.

Leave is covered, but don’t bet on a bonus.

The majority of wages in public health are part-time and based on the healthcare award. These award-based wages mean that you get paid leave time, which is great if you’re looking to be covered for maternal, sick and holiday leave. But if you’re looking to earn a little extra, you won’t find any bonus structures or sales commissions built into your salary. In short, your income is entirely dependent on the amount of experience you have on the job.

Bigger teams mean better mentoring.

Career progression opportunities often present themselves only when someone in a higher role than you decides to leave, so if you’re looking to climb the ladder, this could be a frustrating wait. And as far as mentoring goes, you’ll be able to get this within the high-risk outpatient clinics, where more often than not, you’ll likely be working within a team.

Every day is something different.

An interesting aspect of working in public health is the varied amount of work you’re exposed to. Whatever walks through your door is what you have to treat. This means you get to apply a variety of your podiatry skills to a wide range of cases. If you’re looking to broaden your podiatry skillset quickly, public health may be the smart choice.

Going down the Private Clinic route.

If you’ve ever dreamed of opening your own clinic, working your own hours and hustling for your own clients – then the private clinic route may be for you. Not only are the hours flexible, but there’s full-time and part-time graduate roles up for grabs.

Hustle. Sales. And a whole lot of ownership.

Private clinics are businesses geared towards sales. The more clients you get walking through the door, the more income you generate, and in turn, the more you’re paid. But you’ll be far from spoon-fed. Often you’ll only be provided with the basics such as an email address, a website update and a space to carry out your work. In some cases, if you’re replacing an employee who’s left the practice, you might be taking on their caseload, but in general the majority of work is left up to you.

More choice means better work-life balance.

A typical working week in a private practice might consist of 9-5 Mon-Thurs, 12-8pm Friday, and an 8am-4:30pm weekend day. Remember, some if not most of these clinics are open seven days a week. This can be a bonus if you’d like to choose your own hours of work (providing your clinic is flexible). It’s also a great option for those with commitments outside of work, as you’re more in control of your work-life balance.

A base wage with the potential of more.

When talking about salary in a private practice, it’ll largely be dependent on the job you have. To give you a rough idea, most recent graduates attain a 30-hour working week at the legal minimum wage. Sometimes there’s a few initial bonuses based on your income generation too, so if you’re good at getting people through the door, then there’s a chance to earn a bit extra. The great thing about a base wage is that the pressure of getting clients isn’t on you at the start, so you can concentrate on delivering the best care possible.

Who knows who’ll walk in next?

Just like the public health sector, the private sector treats any patient who walks through the door. This could range from diabetic patients to children, general care, to treating breaks, strains and sports related injuries. It’s a definite think-on-your-feet type role, and the broader knowledge you have, the quicker you’ll be able to adapt. Some private practices do specialise in areas such as sports, but the majority of your cases will be general in nature.

Progression depends on your patients.

Progressing your career in a private practice can be entirely dependent on the practice you join. For instance, you could quickly rise to the top of your clinic spectrum, but still not be exposed to certain areas of podiatry. That’s because your exposure is entirely dependent on the cases you treat. This might have you feeling ill-prepared if starting your own clinic is your goal.

Become the boss you’ve always wanted.

Eventually, if you find yourself itching for a new challenge then the appeal of opening your own clinic is enticing. This can be highly rewarding and if you’re good at the ‘selling’ part of the business, you’ll be more likely to succeed. At the same time, it can be a lot of hard work. For every new staff member you bring on, your overhead costs go up, and your after-hours time also increases. It’s all about weighing up profits and loss, which can shift the focus from clinical outcome to income generating. If you’re more business-minded, then a private practice may be right up your alley.

The advantages of Aged Care.

Working in aged care often comes with the stigma of being ‘boring’ or ‘repetitive’. And while some of the work can be autonomous at times, the aged care sector provides great job security, flexible working hours and the chance to build unique relationships with your clients.

Preventative over prescriptive.

Aged care podiatry typically focuses on the art of aged-preventative care. This is a bit different from the public and private sector as your main goal is to keep your patient as healthy and mobile as possible before any injury or incident occurs. Often this type of work can be repetitive, but there are some interesting cases that come your way which requires knowledge and skill. This nature of this work means you can build quality relationships with your clients, which can be rewarding especially if you’re a people person.

It pays to stay in shape.

The work itself can sometimes be physically taxing on your body as the setting is much more different than what you would get in a clinic – think, you go to your patients rather than them coming to you. If you’re a gym buff or keep a regular exercise routine, then you’ll be more likely to handle your workload. This is because some of the positions required for treatment aren’t as ideal as those in a clinical setting.

Flexibility around your working week.

For recent graduates, the appeal of aged care is the variety of full time and part time roles available. These roles are typically flexible in working hours, and one you can organise your life around. For instance, if you’re an early riser, early starts mean earlier finishes – and no hanging around till a specified time. And how could you possibly turn down the no weekend work.

Job security and a competitive starting salary.

Another great thing about entering the aged care work environment after graduation is the ability for regular income and job security. The wages are competitive and immediate for both full-time and part-time employees. This is good news if you like to budget because you’ll have a consistent income you can rely on.

The clients come to you.

In aged care, the clients are provided for you based on your salary tier. No knocking on doors and no hard selling. Which means the focus is entirely on the care that you provide. This can be rewarding in the sense that you can make an impact on your client’s life, without feeling like you ‘sold’ them on something.

Knowledge and help whenever you need it.

Career development is another big bonus in the aged care sector. In most cases, professional development is encouraged, arranged for you and paid for. You gain a wealth of knowledge from more senior podiatrists and are surrounded by team managers and a support hub should you need an extra hand – that is, if the place you work at is anything like Dimple. This is particularly handy for recent graduates, as it means help’s never too far away. Career progression is available both through wages and tiers, with a variety of mentor and management roles to dive into.

Deciding what works.

Think about the impact you’ll make.

At the end of the day, it all comes down to where you’d like to make the most impact. If you’re more business minded, then private practice may be your cup of tea. Like the idea of a consistent income and varied cases walking through your door? Public health could be for you. And if you’re the type that prefers building quality relationships with your clients and want a healthy work-life balance (with a competitive income thrown in the mix) then aged care may be your pick.

A combination could be the perfect fit.

Really take the time to think about what your career goals in podiatry are, then weigh them up with each industry mentioned above. Remember, it doesn’t have to be as black and white as choosing one over the other. Combining two industries could work better for you. For example, you could broaden your skill set in a private practice part time while having the security of an aged care or public health paycheck. So mix it up, and don’t be afraid to go out there and ask other experienced podiatrists how they approached their careers.

Take the time now to save some hassle later.

A little forethought now can save you a whole lot hassle down the track, so set some time aside and really have a think about what your career goals are. Hopefully, it’ll lead you to a podiatry career you’ll jump out of bed for.

Click here to check out why Dimple may be the perfect place for you to start your podiatry career!

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