Meet the Expert: podiatrist Hannah and dietitian Scot

Meet the Expert is a live video session run by My World of Work, where experts discuss their roles and offer tips to young people considering a similar career. In the session, young people can ask questions and gain insight into the expert’s work.

NHSScotland allied health professionals Hannah, a podiatrist, and Scot, a dietitian, talk about their work at a recent session.

Hannah’s role as a podiatrist involves diagnosing and treating lots of different foot and lower-limb conditions. Podiatrists work to improve a person’s movement, independence and quality of life.

As a dietitian, Scot gives advice on food and diet to encourage people to make good choices about food. Only dietitians can assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems.

Hannah and Scot are both keen to discuss their career progression to make sure everyone knows that there’s always a way to return to education and become an allied health professional.

Hannah’s journey to becoming a podiatrist

Hannah left school at 17 to work in customer service with Lothian Buses. Her sister started studying nursing, which got Hannah thinking about different healthcare roles. It was then that she discovered podiatry and applied for the BSc in Podiatry at Queen Margaret University. After her degree, she worked with NHS Lothian, before moving to NHS Fife.

Due to lockdown, routine treatment is closed, so Hannah focuses on critical care work. She’s treating people with life-threatening or limb-threatening conditions. As a podiatrist, she can admit people to the hospital, if necessary.

Hannah also treats foot wounds, usually caused by underlying medical conditions like diabetes. In some cases, she uses larvae therapy. This is when sterile, laboratory-grown maggots clean a wound by eating the dead tissue.

Gait analysis, where podiatrists examine how people walk, is also part of Hannah’s role. She prescribes stretching and strengthening programmes, orthotics or a referral to a specialist musculoskeletal podiatrist. These specialist podiatrists might do:

  • more extensive gait analysis
  • acupuncture
  • steroid injections
  • laser therapy

Podiatrists also care for ingrown toenails, corns, calluses and hard skin.

Hannah explains that she works closely with nurses, doctors, physiotherapists and lots of other NHS colleagues in the vascular, orthopaedic and dermatology departments.

Hannah says podiatry is a varied and exciting role: ‘You’re not treating feet, you’re treating the whole patient’. She speaks about gaining a qualification in non-medical prescribing, so she can prescribe:

  • anti-biotics
  • painkillers
  • anti-fungal creams
  • steroid creams
  • moisturisers

As well as being a general podiatrist like Hannah, you can also become a specialist. Some podiatrists focus on treating:

  • Children and young people
  • Older people

Hannah says being a podiatrist is a great job: ‘it's really rewarding to make a difference to peoples’ lives!’

Have a look at our job profile to learn more about becoming a podiatrist.

Scot’s journey to becoming a dietitian

Dietitian Scot left school at 15 to become an apprentice joiner. On completing his apprenticeship, he moved to Glasgow to work as a self-employed joiner for 8 years. He’d always had an interest in health and sport, so decided to explore doing a degree in dietetics.

Scot completed an access to university course, so that he could apply to university. He was then accepted onto the BSc in Dietetics at Queen Margaret University. Just before graduating, he secured a role with NHS Fife and has been working there for 5 years.

Alongside work, Scot also completed an MSc in Sports Science with the University of Glasgow. He was able to do the degree part-time through distance learning, which took 3 years.

Scot worked with cancer patients in both curative and palliative settings. In this role, he did a mix of home and care home visits, often helping with end-of-life care. He says food can often be a difficult topic for patients and their families when a patient is dying. Scott uses his excellent communication skills to help the patient and their loved ones understand the best treatment.

Scot now works in an acute setting, helping gastroenterology patients. Lots of people might think that dietitians focus mainly on helping people lose weight, but in this role, Scot works hard to help patients gain weight. In particular, he helps patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) to gain back the weight they’ve lost due to their condition.

Have a look at our website to find out more about becoming a dietitian.

Audience questions

Hannah and Scot answer lots of great questions at the end of the session.

One pupil asked about the best part of being a podiatrist or dietitian.

Scot says that his supportive dietetics team is the best part of his job because they work well together to improve patient outcomes. Hannah talks about doing her best for patients and making sure they’re happy with any decisions about their care.

Another pupil asked about what skills Hannah and Scot were able to bring from their previous roles to their current work.

Hannah spoke about her transferable skills including helping customers, problem-solving, effective communication and teamwork. Scott focuses on teamwork, explaining that his earlier work with a team of joiners meant that he found it easy to collaborate with healthcare professionals to help patients.

You can find out more about transferable skills by watching our transferable skills video.

Attending Meet the Expert sessions

If you’re a school teacher interested in having your class attend future Meet the Expert sessions with NHSScotland employees, get involved by signing up at My World of Work.

View Hannah and Scot’s Meet the Expert Session on YouTube.

Find out more about careers in the NHS, by reading our blog about clinical biochemist James and bioengineer Andy.