Niagara College students help local shelter put their best foot forward

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Angela Seng is doing her part to help Niagara’s vulnerable community put foot care first.

The second-year paramedic was recently hired to help establish a foot care pilot program at Southridge Shelter in St. Catharines.

The program helps develop the skills of students in various Niagara College health care programs, while assisting shelter residents.

“Foot health is overlooked,” Seng said. “Most people have no knowledge of foot health. It is education. Good foot care is good health.

Seng and four other students assessed, triaged and provided referrals for more in-depth foot care by doctors and nurses when shelter residents needed it.

Annie Froese, director of the shelter in Southridge, said residents come to the clinic with a wide range of issues, including those that need only one treatment, such as nail trimming.

Some residents require ongoing therapy, which is provided by REACH.

“A lot of our guys wouldn’t self-assess where their feet are,” Froese said. “It’s one of those aspects of health that comes from a special place. Other things are going well in life, so you can pay attention to them.

Some clients even needed new, better-fitting shoes, which students in the social service worker program were able to obtain through donations.

A statement from the college said paramedics, such as what is offered at the Southridge Foot Care Clinic, are increasingly becoming part of the paramedic job description and Niagara is a leader in this with paramedics on mobile health teams that provide targeted services to reduce 911 volume and ease emergency triage pressures.

The project was created in collaboration with the Michener Institute of Education of the University Health Network Podiatry Program.

Catharine Gray, academic chair of the Michener Institute and discipline lead for podiatry, said the care provided by the pilot is essential.

The rate of lower limb amputation in Ontario, particularly linked to diabetes, is one every four hours, putting a strain on the healthcare system once hospitalization and rehabilitation are taken into account.

She said programs like this can help change that statistic.

“For the most part, people don’t think about feet until there’s a problem and by then it may be too late,” Gray said.

Seng’s position at Southridge was made possible by a $209,576 grant over two years from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) College and Community Social Innovation Fund (CCSIF).

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