R U OK?
“Nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so” – William Shakespeare
University is a stressful time for everyone. 1st years wondering if they’ve chose the right career path and the struggles of learning clinical concepts. 2nd years trying to find a balance between clinical work and assessments. 3rd years rushing to meet all clinical competencies before graduation.
Mental health is such an important but undiscussed topic in modern society. Everyone has suffered a bout of anxiety and/or depression, but some fall deeper into the darkness than others. Events like R U OK? DAY provides an outlet for those in need of a listening ear, however the discussion should never stop.
Podiatry is such a small knit community that you are never far from people who care- colleagues, seniors and staff members are always available for a chat. Furthermore how your own personal perception and approach to mental health will ultimately affect how you approach the same topic with your patients.
If there’s no shame in seeking help for medical problems then there should be no shame in seeking help for psychological problems. The role of a psychologist/counsellor is to empower you to think positively and manage your emotions that otherwise overwhelm you.
If your see someone struggling to cope, please encourage them to seek professional consultation. Just as the layperson lacks training in medicine, the layperson lacks the specialized knowledge of a mental health professional. There are many mental health services available for students:
1. UWA runs a counselling service (http://www.student.uwa.edu.au/experience/health/counselling), with individual counselling, workshops and groups, resources and self-help modules.
2. See your GP and request for a Mental Health Care Plan- a medicare initiative that entitles you to up to 10 subsidised visit to a private psychologist per year.
For those passionate for mental health, the Mental Health First Aid Course aims to provides in depth understanding of common mental health problems and practical strategies to support someone experiencing a mental health problem. It is free for students, sign up at: http://www.student.uwa.edu.au/experience/health/fit/mental/mental-health-first-aid. A highly recommended course to expand your patient care and to your loved ones.
So R U OK?
The Graduate Experience
by Monica Zheng
Monica Zheng graduated in 2014 from The University of Western Australia with a Bachelor of Podiatric Medicine. Throughout her degree, she attended a number of professional conferences and courses where she developed skills that she has been able to utilise since. Currently she works at Pulse Podiatry in both Wembley and Perth CBD clinics where she attends to patients with all different conditions, and has many opportunities to develop her special interest in paediatrics and biomechanics. She can be contacted at email@example.com if you have any questions about anything!
My initial reason for starting podiatry was not a unique one. Having not attained a place in Medicine, I was torn between studying a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Podiatric Medicine and looking back now, I believe I made the right choice. Working as a podiatrist has been the most exhausting, crazy and rewarding few months I’ve ever experienced and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Any doubts that I had whilst studying have disappeared in a puff of smoke, of which I must predominantly thank my boss for!
I began work in an observational role for 2 weeks, ‘finding my feet’ within the clinic and understanding the ins and outs of both the treatment and business side of things. Once I felt confident enough I launched myself into working solo, knowing that my boss was in the other room if I had any concerns. This changed about 6 weeks into my employment, when my boss went on holiday for 3 weeks. Within 2 months of graduating, I was suddenly in charge of running two clinics, handling patient bookings, billing and sterilising instruments on top of the patients and paperwork I already had to attend to. Being thrust in the deep end so suddenly was hard, but it was the time that I learnt the most about myself as a practitioner and what it would be like to own a clinic myself. I can safely say that I am much more confident now because of it, and even though there were times I felt like I was flailing around I never felt like I was drowning.
Thanks to the practical clinical skills and the wealth of knowledge gained from the course, I was quietly confident in my understanding of patient’s conditions and treating them from the moment I started working. In the moments where I did doubt something, and there have been a few of those moments, I am able to stop, think, and problem solve my way through difficult cases. It is this attitude that I believe is the most important thing to have once graduating. As a new graduate, you’re not going to be able to know how to address all your patient’s concerns straight away, but a lot of the time it is how you approach these dilemma that makes you a successful practitioner. I am a firm believer of management plans, utilising a range of treatment modalities and taking advantage of all the experienced podiatrists around you. Also, never be scared to ask a question as it will only benefit you in the long run. In addition to the other podiatrists that I work with, I have sought out the advice of Professor Foley, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital staff and fellow UWA graduates, all who have been happy to help me out every time.
Of all the things I wish I’d learnt at uni, it would probably be how to bill patients through HICAPS and Medicare. There are codes for different services you provide and some health funds will differ in the way they accept rebates. But hopefully you will find yourself in a clinic where there is a reception that can do all the work for you! If not just holler and I’ll be happy to give you a hand.
In terms of the job hunt, start compiling your CV as early as possible. Understand where your strengths and deficiencies lie and look to address those weaknesses while you’re still at uni. While networking is important, I would suggest that you do not attend professional events with the aim of finding a job. Go with the aim of advancing your own knowledge and skill set, whilst getting to know other podiatrists on both a professional and personal level. At the end of the day, they will hire someone who is clinically proficient with an attitude and character that they appreciate. Pestering them about employment isn’t necessarily going to put you in their good books. Also, I would recommend you start looking at the APodC and Podiatry WA websites in September/October of your final year as it is around this time that a lot of practices start advertising for graduate positions. There are generally a number of positions available in Queensland, as they seem to have a shortage of podiatrists at the moment. Unfortunately there are limited jobs available in the public system for graduate podiatrists, however don’t let this stop you from applying for those that are available over east or even the south west of WA. Also, be picky with the jobs you apply for. You can be. Don’t settle for anything less than you want as I believe we are some of the most well rounded graduates in the country and our skills should not be taken advantage of. Attend all the courses that you can while you’re at uni (and they’re still cheap!) and find ways to use these skills during your clinical placements. And once you start working, remember to take time for yourself. It’s important to have a social life. It can be a pretty hectic environment at work and there’s no point in you looking after all your patients if you’re not looking after yourself!