Over 50% of podiatrists sit within private practice. A recent survey by Cameron et al (2023) indicated over 84% (n=53) of respondents said they would like to get involved in research or expressed a desire to find out more. More than 90% (n=61) of respondents said they feel research adds value to private practice and this suggests that private podiatrists would like to be more actively involved in carrying out research. In support of this the Royal College of Podiatry (RCPod) carried out a membership survey as part of the HEE workforce reform projects in 2022/2023 with findings suggesting members were interested in being involved in research, there was a lack of understanding of the process and where to start and the RCPod could support this by providing guidance and resources.

Find out more: A survey to investigate the current position of private podiatrists in the research ecosystem. Dr Vicki Cameron, Dr Charlotte Dando, Dr Emma Cowley and Professor Cathy Bowen. The Podiatrist, March/April 2023.

Types of research and where do I sit?

Involvement in research can be varied and at whatever level is comfortable and fits with your role. You can be a ‘doer’ in research and heavily involve it in your clinical practice or become an academic. You could simply be a reflective practitioner in daily practice, or you may wish to assist in data collection as a participant site for a larger-scale research project. Outlined below are explanations of the levels of research within our profession.

Level 4, 5 and 6 Honours Degree

These levels are seen as gaining knowledge in your field and using the standard undergraduate degree through to graduation as an example.
Year 1 = level 4, year 2 = level 5, year 3 and graduation = level 6.
This largely incorporates learning fixed content and skill building ready for the career of podiatry. Foundations of reading, research and process will be in place following the research project or dissertation and should be continued and built upon following graduation.

Post-graduate research and ongoing professional development

From honours completion it is essential to continue to demonstrate ongoing professional development in research, for audit purposes in line with HCPC standards for proficiency and to ensure you are providing evidence-based care for your patients and evaluating your outcomes. Examples of this include producing:

  • Evaluations of practice
  • Submission of audits and case histories for publication

Interesting cases in practice could include examples of:

  • Complex case management with intricate medical history or unique presentations
  • Examples of preventative care, MSK, dermatological or vascular cases for example
  • Near misses or reflections of what didn’t go well and what you learned

These are simple to follow through and produce with patient consent to demonstrate your achievements, reflections, and patient outcomes.

Resources to help

As part of the RCPod membership benefits, there is access to the TALUS (Teaching and learning update system) system and eLearning for Heath (ELFH), both of which can hold supportive resources to develop skills in both research and many topics clinically.

A research-specific module is available via the ELFH portal; research, audit and quality improvement as an e-learning resource for healthcare professionals. Find out more

Additional resources via NHSE, HCPC

Level 7 Masters degree (pre-doctoral pipeline)

This is demonstrating specialist expert knowledge in your field. It aims to identify gaps and key questions in the topic.

Level 8 PhD/Professional Doctorate

This level of research focusses on addressing the gaps, or is a theory correct? Where can the area be tested and improved? Both the PhD and professional doctorate are the highest degrees in this field. As the title suggests the PhD is a Dr. in philosophy; philosophical questioning is required, bursting the paradigm and coming up with new knowledge. It is an academic degree, an original piece of research with data analysis and evaluation of theory. The professional doctorate applies research to practical problems and designs professional practices within the field.

Case study: Paul Harradine: Paul tells us about his journey as a podiatrist working in the private sector who completed his PhD.