Switching careers is a brave decision but for one student at the University of Northampton (UON) who has moved from pulling pints to podiatry, it’s been quite a shift.
39-year-old Claire Eyles is in her second year of a degree in podiatry. After co-running The Wheatsheaf pub in Braunston with husband Chris since 2016 and, many years working in the hospitality sector, she has jumped professional ships to a radically different career in a healthcare role.
A Podiatrist’s primary aim is to improve the mobility, independence, and quality of life for their patients. They specialise in the foot, ankle and leg, leading the patient care through the whole journey including prevention, diagnosis and treatment[i]. It’s an area that can appeal to people looking to re-train and change careers. This is exactly what happened to Claire, who decided after having a family young and running a successful pub with her husband to do something “just for her”.
Claire says, “We have two teenage children, and my career has taken a bit of a backseat because of family commitments, running a home and supporting my husband’s career. But I’ve always wanted to do something for me, so when the pandemic hit and with the toll it wreaked on the hospitality sector, I thought it was a good time to do something different.”
While Claire had originally planned to go to university aged 18, after meeting her husband, taking a gap year and then enjoying working she chose not to. Fast forward 20 years and after completing a 12-month access course to apply to university she got offered a place on the BSc in Podiatry at the University of Northampton.
Claire explains why she chose podiatry: “I wanted to work in healthcare, so I researched the courses at my local university to see what they offered. My daughter Pippa is a budding gymnast and is an elite tumbler for Team England. Over the years she had been treated by several podiatrists and the discipline fascinated me. You don’t realise the diversity there is even in one podiatric specialism, it is so interesting.”
She says most students on her course are mature because it’s a career most don’t think about at school. She hopes this perception is changing and likens ‘podiatry’ to what ‘dentistry’ was in the 1950s – and that over time it is slowly being seen as a healthcare discipline that goes way beyond cutting toenails.
She said: “People think it’s just treating feet, but it’s so much more. From treating patients with diabetes and those with sports injuries, to working with patients with musculoskeletal conditions and even spotting skin cancer in people’s lower limbs. People understand how varied dentistry is now. I believe podiatry is going through a similar transition. It’s a fast-evolving profession and an exciting part of healthcare to work in.”
One of the benefits of studying podiatry at UON is the university runs a Podiatry Clinic based at Northampton General Hospital which enables students to gain practical, hands-on experience from year one, something not every university offers. For Claire this is one of the stand-out features of the degree course at UON as it means students don’t feel they are thrown in the deep end when they head off on NHS placements.
She adds that the university is incredibly supportive, with great lecturers and facilities. Also, because there is a smaller cohort of students studying this subject, lectures are friendly and more like seminars in their approach, which enables people to ask lots of questions as they go along – ideal for those returning to academic study.
Claire highly recommends the course, especially for people switching careers who can bring their skills and experiences to the role. She said: You wouldn’t immediately think there are similarities between being a publican and a podiatrist, but there are transferrable skills. Many podiatrists work privately, so my experience managing a business, working with an accountant, and handling marketing and social media will come in handy in the future.
“Communication for any healthcare professional is hugely important, being able to relate to and talk with a wide variety of patients. I have worked with diverse communities of people in hospitality, young and old, who I need to engage and empathise with.”
Claire concludes about how to approach ‘dipping a toe’ in new, professional waters: “Sometimes you have to take a step to one side and look at where you are, because if you need something fulfilling, something you’ve always wanted at the back of your mind, then if you want to do it then you absolutely should.”
For more information on the BSc in Podiatry at the University of Northampton, click here.
The University of Northampton is part of the Best of Both Worlds recruitment campaign which is shining a light on healthcare careers across the county.