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Podiatrists specialize in the care of people with foot or ankle conditions. They may refer patients to another medical specialist for treatment but are usually the first point of contact. The majority of podiatrists are self-employed and work out of their homes. Most practice on a part-time basis, although some work full-time. 

Most podiatrist practices involve treating adults and children who have foot or ankle conditions. Their skills range from providing preventive care, such as checking your child’s shoes frequently and wearing supportive footwear, to managing more complex issues, such as lancing ingrown toenails or removing offending nails.

What you’ll need to get started in podiatry

Before you start a podiatry practice you’ll need to acquire the skills and equipment essential to helping foot and ankle conditions. While some podiatrists start with a basic kit, most podiatrists invest in quality, reliable equipment before they open their doors. Podiatrists who get into the business for the money or because it’s easy won’t be successful. Successful podiatrists invest in the practice from the beginning and don’t dabble in podiatry while they’re in med school. 

The podiatry kit you begin with will depend on the type of practice you want to open. If you want to open a solo practice, you’ll need to have the equipment to treat one or two patients at a time. If you want to open a group practice, you’ll need to have the equipment to treat at least two or three patients at a time. You’ll also need to acquire medical equipment, such as a computer and scanner. Many podiatrists practice on an outpatient basis and don’t need a full-time office. If this is the case in your area, you may not need a large office.

Becoming a Registered Podiatrist

A podiatrist is a physician who specializes in the treatment of foot and ankle conditions. To become a registered podiatrist, you must complete an accredited podiatry program and pass the United States Podiatric Medical Association’s (USPMA) board examination. The USPMA board examination is currently offered six times per year. You must apply to sit for the examination six months before you wish to take it. 

There are no Podiatry Specialty Association (PSA) board requirements for podiatrists to become licensed in a state, but many states require podiatrists to be licensed if they practice at all. The American Academy of Podiatric Surgeons accredits podiatry programs. You will need to complete an accredited podiatry program, then pass both a board examination administered by the USPma and a PSA board examination in order to become a registered podiatrist.

Requirements for Equipment

For the majority of podiatrists, a small, low-cost podiatry practice is ideal. You can treat two or three patients at a time with basic foot care and surgery equipment. Some podiatrists prefer to treat fewer patients on a regular basis but still have the equipment to handle complex cases. For a group practice, you can add a low-cost MRI machine and digital x-ray machine to your podiatry practice. For a solo practice, you can add a low-cost ultrasound machine and a podiatry chair to your podiatry practice.

Continuing education for registered podiatrists

Registered podiatrists must complete at least 200 hours of continuing education every five years in order to maintain their registration. You can take many classes online and others in person through local colleges or community organizations. Some podiatry schools offer online accredited programs, but most accredited podiatry programs require students to complete an on-campus program. You’ll need to complete at least one accredited podiatry program, then pass both the USPma and PSA boards to become a registered podiatrist.

Resources for registered podiatrists

There are two resources for registered podiatrists: the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) and the American Podiatry Association (APA). The APMA is the national professional association for podiatrists. The APA is the national non-profit organization for podiatrists and supports lifelong learning among our members. Both organizations have information for registered podiatrists, including member benefits and resources.

Key takeaway

When you’re deciding whether podiatry is right for you, keep in mind that it is a very patient-dependent field. In addition to being a skilled physician, you’ll need to have excellent customer service skills and have a strong business sense. It’s also important to get involved in the community and participate in podiatry associations to stay informed of best practices and make yourself a valuable asset to the profession. Podiatry is a rewarding profession with many opportunities for personal growth and financial success. You may find that the work is challenging and rewarding, like solving a puzzle.

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