There is a serious gap in health care, overlooked by some doctors, insurance companies and sometimes even patients themselves: foot care for the elderly.
Heather Wilson is on a mission to solve this problem.
Heather Wilson RN, CFCS Founder/Owner of Everyday Divinity and Foot And Nail Institute started her senior foot care business in 2011 to provide services such as nail trimming and corn and callus reduction. At the time, she was working as a charge nurse at a Thoracic Vascular Surgery (VTS) unit in Ohio, where she first saw the need for foot care services for the elderly.
“Older people were forced to seek help from family members or salons,” Wilson says. “It was around this time that I saw the influx of lower extremity infections that we were treating in my unit. These infections were the direct result of inadequate foot care services or the lack of safe and appropriate services. Older people had limited resources for foot care services and nurses were the obvious solution.
From there a successful business was born and now Wilson is now teaching what she learned to other nurses.
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Wilson tells Nurse.org that she was first inspired to become a nurse when she saw her grandfather having a really bad stroke when she was in second grade. She explained that overnight Grandpa – a hardworking veteran – was stripped of his abilities to care for himself and Wilson explains that as a result he became “very verbal and controversial at times”.
But the nurses caring for him demonstrated the “power of good nursing care,” responding to him while providing medical care to help improve his overall health. “In my eyes, these nurses were powerful angels,” she says. “They could manage while providing the medical care and attention he needed. I think that’s when the nursing seed was planted.
Wilson explains that just as she saw her grandfather’s need for skilled nursing care in his older years, elderly foot care is another area that is both necessary and often overlooked.
“As we age, the ability to provide our own foot care becomes more difficult due to declining vision, lack of dexterity, and simply the inability to reach,” she explains. “Changes that occur in our feet, nails and skin can contribute to our inability to take care of our own feet. You don’t realize it’s a problem until you can cut your nails.
Additionally, foot care is an important part of the overall health of seniors. “If safe foot care services are not provided to our aging population, that is when we see lower extremity infections,” she adds. Foot infections can lead to difficult complications such as osteomyelitis, amputations and even death. Even seemingly minor things like corn and thickened fingernails can lead to improper gait, risk of falling, and reduced mobility.
Nurses responding to a need
Despite the importance of foot care for the elderly, Wilson points out that nurses aren’t always taught to provide foot care services in nursing school. Also, as insurance regulations have changed, podiatrists no longer provide foot care services as they once did, which prevents many seniors from accessing services.
And that’s where nurses come in. Wilson explains that most nursing boards don’t have established foot care policies, which means nurses can legally provide foot care services. feet as individual business owners. While Wilson says she would like to see standards and practices established across all state boards defining the nurse’s role in foot care, for now nurses are the perfect fit to fill. this gap in the health system.
Nurses can provide
- General foot assessment
- Nail filing
- Reduction of corn and calluses
Services may be provided in individual home settings or through foot clinics held at third-party facilities such as senior centers, community centers, assisted living facilities, doctors’ offices, churches and small private pharmacies.
“As foot care nurses, we are on the front line with the elderly in our communities,” she explains. “We are perhaps the first pair of eyes in the healthcare industry to see a patient’s feet for the first time in years. This is of great importance, especially when we discover a wound that needs to be treated further by a qualified medical professional, such as a wound clinic. We are a great resource when it comes to providing education related to all things foot care.
Wilson launched her foot care services for seniors, Everyday Divinity in 2011, it was a private compensation-based business model, so she had no idea if it would actually succeed. However, word of mouth spread even faster than she had anticipated. She soon had patients calling her from other states.
“I knew then that the lack of foot care services was a health issue affecting our seniors nationwide,” she says. After successfully serving 24 different markets in Ohio, where she originally launched, Wilson decided it was time to duplicate her business model so other nurses could incorporate it into their own markets. “It seemed like the solution to giving nurses back the empowerment that I think has been taken away from them over the years,” she explains. “It was a victory for the nurses as well as the elderly.”
For nurses, by nurses
As Wilson’s tagline explains, her second company, the Foot and Nail Institute (FNI), provides foot care and business education for nurses, by nurses.
“It was important for me to be able to provide mentorship to the nurses who participate in our program,” she explains. “Starting a business can be daunting and overwhelming for any nurse. As nurses, business ownership is not in our wheelhouse, but we are endowed with so many characteristics and traits that it takes to run a successful business.
FNI works by offering an online course for nurses who want to start their own foot care service business. The course consists of three modules to teach nurses how to start, manage and grow their own foot care business:
- The foot care company
- The practice of foot care
- The foot care community
NIF also offers hands-on training, website creation/hosting, webinars, a membership community, and a private social media app that allows nurses to be supported through the process. “Nurses will never feel alone when they take the path of nursing entrepreneurship,” she explains.
Just as his initial business filled a need almost instantly, FNI also proved to be a needed service. FNI has officially helped nurses in over 25 states start their own foot care businesses and consulted with thousands of nurses nationwide.
NIF can also inspire a nurse to own their own business very quickly – Wilson even notes that she has seen nurses start a business in less than four weeks. Factors ranging from what the nurse is currently working on to the financial means to her own goals all play a role, but Wilson explains that ultimately the beauty of being a business owner means you are the ultimate boss. .
“I am the portal that guides you on the path,” she says. “The deliverable lies with the owner of the nursing business.”
Wilson is passionate about her business because she believes it offers nurses the opportunity to provide needed service to their patients while fighting the burnout that so many nurses face and instead building a successful and financially secure life.
For example, Wilson explains that personally, she was able to triple the income she made from bedside nursing by working only four 5-hour days and that owning your foot care business provides the opportunity for “unlimited income. “. However, she also adds that how much you will actually earn will depend on many different factors, such as the market you work in, the number of hours you want to work, the services you provide, and the competition.
Additionally, Wilson believes that a foot care business offers nurses the opportunity to build a healthy lifestyle with a fulfilling career.
“I started a business, for a better overall quality of life,” she explains, adding that for her it was important to be home before and after her son’s school day. Taking two weeks off in December and working 5 hours a day, 4 days a week with no nights, weekends or holidays spells success for her.
“If it snows one day or my child is sick, I reschedule the clinic—it’s as simple as that,” she adds. “Footcare gave me a lifestyle I loved while working with a population I loved! Caring for the elderly cured me of the exhaustion I endured at the bedside.
Whether or not foot care is part of their future, Wilson encourages any nurse looking for something more to consider exploring all of their career options. “I want nurses to know that there is power in their nursing degree, regardless of their educational background,” she says. “There is a joyful life beyond the bedside as a business owner nurse. I invite nurses to explore all the options that are available beyond the bedside as a business owner nurse .
Images courtesy of Heather Wilson