Josephine Smith

Podiatry BSc (Hons)

View the course
  • Year of graduation: 2022
  • Current job title: Podiatrist
  • Current employer: Thrive Chiropractic and Health Clinic
  • Industry sector: Health

Your University Journey

Why did you choose your course at UON?

A combination of practical and academic reasons.

  • The teaching clinic on the grounds of NGH for hands-on training
  • The offer of gaining 1000 clinical hours prior to qualification (and the relevant experience this provides)
  • The broad scope of practice Podiatry offered, e.g., surgery, prescribing, MSK, paediatrics
  • The flexible career options Podiatry offered, e.g., self-employed, NHS
  • A manageable commute and face-to-face time demand during the first year (I had three children at home).
What aspects of the course did you enjoy the most and why?

I loved it all so much, I can’t believe I’m not coming back!

I especially loved the lectures and all the learning. Each year built upon the learning from the previous year and my lecturers Lisa, Manju, Stella, Rod, Connor and Paul all have their areas of expertise and so readily share their knowledge, in such a supportive and encouraging environment.

Your Placement

Where did you complete your placement? Please tell us what your role was and an outline of your duties?

During the course of my studies, I completed several placements as a student podiatrist, detailed below:

  • First year – end of year clinical placement cancelled due to covid
  • Second year – biweekly placement for Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust at the Milton Keynes Podiatry Service.

This provided me the experience of working with a diverse range of patients and pathologies, with development of “hands-on” clinical skills when appropriate, such as nail management, callus debridement and helomata enucleation safely and competently, under the supervision of clinical educators. To develop effective interpersonal relationships with staff and conduct appropriate communication with patients, as well show consideration for patients’ comfort, with sensitivity, empathy and reassurance. To show initiative commensurate with position and level of training, referring on when required and adapting to unexpected situations. To accept and act upon advice from clinical educators.

  • Second year – 3-week national placement for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust at St. Barnabus in Oxford and the Julier Centre in Bicester.

As before but with increased opportunities for developing hands-on skills, including in treating higher risk patients. Extensive clinical practice exposure and observation, with encouragement to discuss and reflect.

  • Third year – Diabetes MDTs at Battle House and Leicester General Hospital

Observational multi-disciplinary placements, to discuss and reflect upon practice, including how devolution of powers and funds from central government to local government affects the podiatry treatment available to patients in different areas.

  • Third year – biweekly placement for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust at St. Barnabus in Oxford and the Julier Centre in Bicester

Further development of clinical skills, including managing my own patient list in a supervised way, improving my time keeping and holistic approach.

  • Third year – Podiatric surgery placement at Danetre Hospital

Observational placement, to expand my practice to consider more invasive options following conservative measures and see the theorical in application.

  • Also, a range of in-house placements, such as nail surgery, sports and paediatrics and at-risk
Please describe how your placement benefitted you?

I think the exposure was the main benefit. It exposed me to lots of different situations and pathologies, some more common and some less common, and how to manage them and when to refer on. You’re never done learning but there’s nothing like seeing real-life situations and treatments to put the evidence and theory into practice, which just can’t be simulated in the classroom.

What employability skills did you develop during your placement?
  • Effective communication – with colleagues, supervisors, patients, and their carers, in sometimes difficult circumstances
  • Motivation and initiative – an increased passion and appreciation for Podiatry, despite some long days and the demands of commuting
  • Reliability/dependability – a conscientious approach could avert a future complication for a patient
  • Following instructions – timely listening and acting upon instructions can improve patient outcomes
  • Teamwork and adaptability – my role in the room would vary depending on the situation but I always looked to support or assist, stepping up when appropriate
  • Emotional control and resilience – some situations were difficult but through exposure and reflection I developed my professionalism and focus on getting the best outcome and experience for the patients as possible
How do you think the placement helped you to gain employment after graduating?

I think being able to cite the extensive and diverse list of placements I experienced during BSc Podiatry demonstrated to my employer that I had been exposed to a wide range of pathologies and management, as well as having the determination and resilience to take the opportunities offered and see them all through.

Do you have any tips on applying or getting the most benefit from your placement?

To get the most benefit, be flexible and take all opportunities that are offered! You’ll only get these opportunities once as a student and the more exposure you get now, the more experience you’ll have to handle future situations.

What advice would you give a student about to begin a placement?

Look clean and smart – you’re not only an ambassador for the university but also for chosen profession and yourself!

Research where you are going and how you’re going to get there, arrive in good time, organised with everything you need including pen and a notepad for taking notes.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, you’re there to learn, so take the opportunities offered to develop your skills in a supportive environment.

Extra-curricular activities

What extra-curricular activities did you participate in whilst studying at UON?

During second year I mentored a new first year student and was a member of the Podiatry society.

During third year I was a student rep for my cohort and part of the Grad Ball Planning committee.

How did these extra-curricular activities enhance your career prospects?

Engagement and participation in wider activities and organisations further develop confidence, organisation, time keeping and interpersonal skills, while providing an opportunity for networking, and generally having fun like at the Podiatry quiz or Podiatry bingo (can you see a theme here)?

Your Career

How do you think your studies have helped your career or personal development?

They were everything to me really, I had my family young and never achieved my academic potential. My time at university unlocked my potential and allowed me to be an amazing role model to my children, I achieved more than I ever possibly imagined and now I have a demanding job which stimulates and fulfils me, and I get to make a difference to my patients every day!

Describe your career progression so far, and any plans you have for the future. Are there any particular hurdles you may face?

Podiatry is rather unique in that the demand for Podiatrists vastly outstrips the supply, I was offered 4 jobs without formally applying before I even received my registration!  Once registered, I began a part-time job in a small private health clinic near to where I live, where I am supported by another podiatrist (also a UON alumni) as required. Its a diverse role and I’ve already had to opportunity to put lots of my learning and skills into action.

A hurdle I face is continuing to learn and expand my knowledge, working alone risks stagnating and not challenging my own practice. To continue growing I have recently spent a day shadowing another experienced Podiatrist, I have already begun looking at CPD options and signed up to the Royal College of Podiatry mentoring facility.

Which, if any, skills and knowledge/understanding gained on your degree are most useful in your current role?

A solid foundation of pathologies, their assessment, diagnosis and treatments, and that there isn’t necessarily one way of doing things so long as you can justify your action and treatment.

Are you currently involved in any community or volunteering projects? If yes please give some details.

In October 2022 I volunteered as a Podiatrist at the London Marathon, it’s an awe inspiring event and I felt very proud to be a part of it!

I am also a Forgotten Feet volunteer, they are a charity established to provide footcare for vulnerable people who may not otherwise be able to access it.

Your Advice

In one sentence, what advice would you give to undergraduates interested in this career path or anything you wish you had known earlier?

Be proactive – take every opportunity offered to you to get the most from everything you can, you’re never done learning.

In ten words, or less how would you summarise your UON experience?

UON BSc Podiatry unlocked my potential, with support and celebration!