Carmen WhittakerPodiatrist, Waitakere Foot Podiatry
Carmen Whittaker, 42, is a podiatrist living in West Harbour with her son Jackson and partner Paul. She talks to us about her job delivering podiatry services to the community including the elderly residents at West Harbour Gardens Residential Care.
How did you gain an interest in podiatry?
I remember one day when I was sitting at the RSA and I saw this elderly woman walk in. She was wearing the most uncomfortable looking court-type shoes and her feet were overhanging in them. I started thinking to myself, “I wonder who looks after her feet? I wonder if anyone cuts her nails for her and if she has anyone she can rely on for advice on what shoes she should be wearing.”
I guess that is when the seed was planted and my interest in podiatry came to fruition.
So how did you get involved in podiatry?
Well, I had already developed an interest in the care of feet, and so I visited the nearby foot specialists, which was Waitakere Foot Podiatry. The principal podiatrist there Kiseon Hong was very helpful and by the time I left there I was convinced I wanted to become a podiatrist.
|I then visited a careers’ adviser at AUT University who was able to direct me into the right direction. She suggested I study one paper in the field of podiatry and I absolutely enjoyed it. I completed my Bachelor of Health Science with my major in Podiatry at AUT University in 2013.
What does your role as a podiatrist involve?
My role as a podiatrist is to help meet the need of older people in residential aged care. I visit residential aged care facilities and diagnose and treat skin and nail disorders of the foot. Our feet carry the weight of our body and can walk over 128,000 kilometres in a lifetime - that’s more than three times around the earth. Painful feet are not a natural part of growing old or something to “put up with”.
I visit residential care facilities and tend to the needs of elderly who suffer from nail conditions, painful skin lesions and other conditions of the feet and lower limbs. I work to diagnose and treat skin and nail disorders of the foot and common podiatric problems including ingrown toenails, corns and calluses, so I can work together with RNs and come up with a treatment plan.
Regular podiatry treatments and general foot care can help keep people on their feet for longer.Our treatment adheres to strict aseptic techniques and all instruments are autoclaved and handled in a clean environment.
What’s the secret to your success?
Before I became a podiatrist, I served 17 years with the New Zealand Defence Force as Air Force and Security Police within New Zealand and abroad. It wasn’t until I took a break in Ireland for about a year when I started thinking about my future because I couldn’t remain in the Defence Force for the rest of my working career. So I began thinking about what potential job prospects I could see myself doing.
It was important for me to work with people, and with a background in the Defence Force, I am highly disciplined, resilient and motivated to strive for success. I believe it is these traits combined with the skills and qualifications I’ve acquired through my life’s journey, which has enabled me to be the best I can be.
I think the secret to my success is definitely knowing what you want in life, going for it, and giving it 100 per cent every step of the way. I put my all into everything I do, and especially in my work. I love working with the elderly residents and it makes me incredibly happy to know I am doing something good for them which provides them comfort and that enhances their quality of life.
Tell us how the staff are responding to your support at West Harbour Gardens
I have been providing podiatry services to residents of West Harbour Gardens for a few months now and it is essential I work closely with both the carers and RNs of West Harbour Gardens.
Podiatrists have an important role in residential aged care and especially for elderly people who have difficulty reaching down to their feet, we, as podiatrists, can assist with complete foot care including cutting nails. It is important to use the correct techniques in clipping toenails, and especially important for those who have diabetes.
While I carry out the services, it is important to have great competent RNs and carers to support me.
I will diagnose and work with the care team to treat but in a way where we both understand the needs of the residents. I don’t like to appear as though I am telling the staff what to do. Essentially, I present the facts and provide expert advice on methods of treatment and enable the team to make informed decisions about the residents’ care plans.