11 August 2016
Joanna Woollard is a band 7 podiatrist and out-patient lead in the advanced wound care team at the Royal Free Hospital.
“I started thinking about podiatry as a possible career after it was recommended to me by a tutor at college. I was looking at ways of getting into healthcare and he said that it was an interesting, growing specialty that needed more people to take it up.
“He was right. Since finishing my undergraduate degree I’ve progressed fairly quickly in my career and there is a lot of funding for education and development, which has allowed me to do a Masters in podiatry.
“In podiatry you have to build experience in the community before you get a job in a hospital, so after leaving university I worked as a community podiatrist in Greenwich before joining the Royal Free as a vascular podiatrist in 2012.
“In 2014 I was promoted to a band 7 role of out-patient lead in the advanced wound care unit. We see anybody that has got a foot ulcer for whatever reason - a lot of the time it is caused by diabetes, while others have vascular problems. With these kinds of patients there is high likelihood that the wound will fail to heal, leaving amputation as the only option. So our aim is basically to do everything we can to help the wound heal and hopefully save the limb.
“There are usually three reasons a wound hasn’t healed: it’s infected, there’s not enough circulation or it is under pressure. We would make an assessment and work closely with colleagues in infectious diseases and vascular teams to come up with a plan for treating the wound.
“The wound care department is often the first place a patient will attend. We will make an initial assessment and decide where they should go next. It’s good for patients as they don’t have to go to three appointments.
“It’s a great team to be part of. Among the wound care, vascular and infectious diseases teams everyone is an equal partner. Every therapist, nurse, medic works really well together, so it’s a nice environment. That’s not something you get everywhere.
“We provide guidance to patients on how to look after their wounds day-to-day – looking after their wound dressings and relieving pressure, etc. This is important to healing but it can be difficult to get patients to comply with our advice. A lot of people don’t realise how bad their wound is because their condition means they cannot feel them.
“We get a lot of the same patients coming back, sometimes for years, so you get to know them quite well. It’s nice to be able to help them and see things getting better over time.”