Discolored toenails is a common complaint presented to podiatric physicians, dermatologists, and primary-care physicians. Although various local and systemic conditions influence changes in nails, nearly 50% is due to fungal infections. We surveyed the health professions student population to gain insight into how future medical professionals may approach this condition and to explore perceptions of onychomycosis, treatments, and effects on quality of life.
The primary outcome measure was a self-reported online Google Forms survey developed by the authors and sent to podiatric, allopathic, and osteopathic medical students and nursing students in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Of the 245 respondents, 92% agreed that toenail fungus is both a health and a cosmetic concern. Seventy-seven percent of respondents said “yes” when asked if they would seek treatment, and 67% would wait 1 month to 1 year to see a medical professional. When seeking treatment, 57% reported that they would see a primary-care physician initially, and 27% and 5% would seek care from a podiatric physician or dermatologist, respectively. A total of 91% would spend up to $300 annually for treatment, with only 4% willing to spend more than $500 per year. Respondents' greatest concern would be physical appearance.
Although agreement exists among the health professions students surveyed that toenail fungus presents both a cosmetic and a health concern, inconsistencies regarding time to treatment, treating professional, and effects on quality of life persist. It is not reasonable for all medical professionals to effectively recognize and treat nail disease, but it is paramount that patients are directed to medical professionals who can accurately exclude other conditions to alleviate social and financial burdens patients may face due to onychomycosis.
Medical students (MSs) in allopathic and osteopathic medical programs may not be adequately exposed to the role of podiatric physicians and surgeons in health care. We explored perceptions of the specialty field of podiatric medicine from the perspective of MSs in the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area.
In this cross-sectional survey study, responses regarding podiatric education and scope of practice were collected via a 16-question, self-reported, anonymous online survey distributed to MSs at one osteopathic and three allopathic medical schools in the Philadelphia area. Inferences and conclusions were drawn from the percentages of respondents. Statistical analyses for school of attendance, year of study, and physician relative subgroups were performed.
The 129 survey responses obtained revealed misunderstandings regarding podiatric education and training. Only 45.7% correctly answered that podiatric medical students do not take the United States Medical Licensing Examination. The results also showed the perception of podiatry in a positive light, with approximately 80% of respondents agreeing that the term doctor is applicable when referring to a podiatrist. Respondents with a physician relative were more likely to rate podiatry's role in health care higher on a scale from 0 (inessential) to 5 (equivalent to MDs/DOs) than those without a physician relative.
The results of this preliminary survey were generally positive and optimistic while also identifying some misconceptions regarding MS perceptions of podiatric medical training and scope of practice. Further studies are needed to evaluate perceptions of podiatry from the perspective of other members of the health-care team to improve interprofessional relations and understanding.