It’s funny how seemingly random, unrelated events all come together to influence a major career decision. Former patients, past incidents, personal circumstances all played a role in getting me where I am today.
As an RN working in both acute care and continuing care, I often cared for patients with different conditions. My focus was always on the medical issues, the post-op complications, the controlled chaos of a busy unit. Even though I sometimes encountered patients with foot issues, I was unprepared to do anything about them. Even if I did feel compelled to address their overgrown nails and other problems, I didn’t have the time.
I still remember the first time I saw onychogryphosis nails (toenails that look like curled ram’s horns). I was a brand new RN working on an orthopedic floor and I was so shocked I stared at the patient’s feet. I didn’t know nails could do that! They were extremely fungal as well. That disturbing image has stayed with me all these years.
Fast forward to about 5 years ago. My dad had Parkinson’s Disease. He only allowed my mom to care for him and refused all of my pleading to bring in home care. Dad’s feet were not as bad as that onychogryphotic patient of years ago, but he needed foot care badly. Unfortunately, he refused all efforts to have his feet problems addressed and we were powerless to convince him otherwise.
On Christmas Day one year before he passed away, dad slipped and fell on the ice after Christmas Day Mass and ended up in the Emergency Room. As I was prepping him to be seen by the doctor on call, I took off his socks and he became very upset. He begged me to cover his feet because he was ashamed of their appearance.
When dad was in palliative care in the hospital, two weeks before he died, mom overheard a nurse remark on the awful condition of his feet. She was certain my dad was neglected at home because his feet were horrendous. The nurse’s unfair assessment hurt my entire family, most of all my mom.
After dad passed away, I convinced mom to let me hire a foot care nurse for her. She hesitated at first, even argued and yelled at me the morning of the nurse’s first visit, but eventually she began to enjoy the wonderful care. I was always present when mom was having her foot care appointments and would watch with fascination while the nurse did her thing.
So what do all these experiences have to do with my career move? I needed a change from my increasingly demanding job as a visiting nurse in community. While I loved my work seeing patients in their homes, the pace and hours of my job left me with little time and energy for the most important people in my life, my family. I wanted to work; I needed to work, but I needed balance most of all. So, I handed in my resignation despite that fact that I had no other position to go to.
After much thought, and even more prayer, I felt that foot care nursing was something I should pursue. I went back to school and realized that I really enjoyed my course. Because I was striving for balance between my professional and personal life, I decided that my best course of action was to be an RN in independent practise – start my own nursing business – as a foot care nurse.
I am very much aware of all the foot care episodes of the past when I visit my clients. I remember all the patients who would have benefited from foot care; dad’s shame when his feet were exposed; mom’s initial reluctance and eventual pleasure from good foot care.
My dad has taught me to be aware that some people are embarassed when they first show me their feet. Many clients are certain that I have never seen anything worse! (oh yes, I have) Feet are very intimate and people need to feel they won’t be judged if they place this part of their body in my hands. A level of trust develops between my client and myself as I spend 30 minutes or more talking and listening to them as I do their foot care. Many times, I will be the only person they see that day. I may be the only one to remind them to take their pills, make sure they eat on time and just ask them how they are.
I enjoy my work – I really do. The people who hire me, either for themselves or for a family member, seem to like my work. They arrange regular foot care visits with me every 4 to 7 weeks. That’s a pretty good indicator! It’s a privilege to be allowed into clients’ homes and an even greater privilege to be asked to care for their feet.