Published Sep 23 2019
Merri Health podiatrist Jessica was awarded a scholarship to attend the 2019 DFA (Diabetic Foot Australia) Conference.
This is a yearly conference which delivers the latest on diabetic foot disease research by the DFA who are dedicated to delivering preventable amputations.
We asked Jessica a few questions about the scholarship and her learnings to further spread the research findings for the year.
Tell us a little about how you got the scholarship to attend the Diabetic Foot Australia Conference
When I saw the program advertised for the conference, I was immediately excited to register and be a part of the large cohort of health professionals working towards “ending avoidable amputations within a generation”. My team leader, Christine Kendall supported my cause and could see how the conference would nurture our evidence-based practice approach to health care and then liaised with HR about scholarship opportunities. I was extremely proud to wear the Merri Health badge at the Conference while collaborating with key stakeholders, networking with other health professionals, meeting company representatives and of course getting a selfie with the "Diabetic Foot Ulcer Queen", Prof. Fran Game from the UK.
What are some key learnings you took from the conference?
Every four years the International Working Group on the Diabetic Foot (IWGDF) produces international, multidisciplinary, evidence-based guidance documents to inform health professionals all over the world on the prevention and management of diabetic foot disease. In the 2019 document, the IWGDF group made 23 new recommendations. The new recommendations were presented to the DFA delegates and put in context for the Australian Healthcare system. They were discussed by the writers themselves and unpacked throughout the two-day conference meaning I now feel more confident in supporting the podiatry team to implement these clinical pearls into our everyday care. I could proudly walk away from the DFA conference knowing that our team at Merri Health will be in the best position to provide evidence-based foot care for our community with this new knowledge.
What did you expect to get out of the conference?
The conference was everything I expected from world class presenters in the diabetic foot field. On the flip side, what I didn’t expect from the conference, was how valuable the networking opportunities would be. In the workshops and lunch breaks, it became apparent that many of my colleagues from other community health organisations were all facing the same challenges in leading podiatry teams in the ever evolving world of modern healthcare. With our managers' support, we have now formed a quarterly network meeting for senior podiatrists in the North West Melbourne region to provide support to each other, share clinical knowledge, benchmark and collaborate where possible.
Where did your interest begin in podiatry?
Like many first year podiatry students, I had just missed out on place in the physiotherapy course at La Trobe University and was hoping to transfer at the end of the first year. I decided to stick with podiatry after enjoying my first year and realising the breadth of the profession. I would love a dollar for every time someone has said to me "how do you deal with feet all day?" My response always is "those feet are attached to someone; therefore, I deal with people!" The undergraduate podiatry course covers so many interesting avenues such as paediatrics, pharmacology, surgery, research methods, biomechanics and ethics, so my interest in podiatry naturally grew as I was exposed to all the different subjects. Podiatry has given me so many opportunities that I will always be grateful for - from completing post graduate diabetes education, to volunteering in the homeland communities in North East Arnhem Land, NT in 2018 to being on Channel 7’s Sunrise talking about kids footwear. While podiatrists have a typical lifespan of seven years in the job, I’m relieved that after 10 years I still thoroughly enjoy my career!
After attending the conference, can you see yourself applying anything you learned into your job?
Flying home from the conference in Brisbane, whilst exhausted from such a rewarding two days, I was so excited to start brainstorming how we could apply the conference findings into our clinical practice at Merri Health. As health professionals, we have a responsibility to provide evidence-based care and treatment to our patients, so planning a way to deliver the conference content back to my team members was high on my priority list. The next quality improvement project I plan to implement is updating our patient assessment forms to ensure they reflect the recommended tests to conduct, pathways to follow and treatment options to explore. The conference has given me a huge burst of motivation and energy to keep improving our service for the best outcomes for our patients.
Jessica would like to thank Christine Kendall and Merri Health for the opportunity to attend Diabetic Foot Australia 2019 Conference.
National Foot Health Week runs from 14-20 October 2019.