If you can tolerate smelly feet, the public belief that you are only
a corn cutter and, to quote one chiropodist, "the blue-rinsed
matrons who believe that they can get away with putting size eight
feet into size five winklepickers", this is one of the more
attractive paramedical careers. There is a nationwide shortage of
qualified people: a high professional retirement rate in the near
future, growing public consciousness of footcare, and the national
craze for jogging are likely to increase opportunities over the next
decade. Chiropodists treat feet, prescribe the necessary appliances
and sometimes make them, though anything but the most minor surgery
must be performed by a doctor.
"I can't sew, knit, draw or make cuddly toys," said one occupational
therapist desperately. The profession still suffers from its
historical associations with basketwork in bleak rooms in hospital
annexes. Modern therapy is far more sophisticated; its general brief
is to help people who are handicapped or recovering from serious
mental or physical illness (including alcoholism or drug dependence)
to adapt to normal life. As well as devising courses to exercise
body and mind, occupational therapists teach people how to live in
wheelchairs or to work with one arm. They are more concerned with
operating washing machines, cookers and lathes than with knitting
Veterinary science is one of the most competitive subjects for
university entry - a few years ago, there were five applicants for
each of the 335 annual places. But the work to get there is nothing
to what's involved in the five or six-year course itself. Many
students are shocked by the sheer volume of facts. Remember that,
while doctors specialise in particular branches of human medicine,
vets must cover all aspects of a huge variety of living organisms.
That is the attraction, as well as the difficulty of the job. "I can
be diagnostician, physician, surgeon, radio-grapher and all,
following the case through from start to finish," said one vet.
Dietetics is a rising profession, which has become more
authoritative, vocal and self-confident over the past decade. Not so
long ago, doctors tended to regard dietitians as fussy busy-bodies
who should be kept out of harm's way in the hospital kitchens.
Nowadays, they are treated with increasing deference, particularly
since high-fibre diets started reducing hospital bills for
constipation drugs. The public still assumes that their main job is
advising people how to lose weight. But this is only a very small
part of their work.