“Feet are a very good intro into the health of an individual. Every person's feet tell a story about them: Can you care for yourself? Are the socks clean and do the shoes fit appropriately? Are you capable of the activities of daily living (ADLs)?”
Foot care is a priority for Marlene Feagan, MA, BSN, RN-BC., a faith community nurse and Health Ministries Coordinator for St. Elizabeth Healthcare in Kentucky. Her work includes Hope for Soles, weekly community foot care clinics she staffs with five volunteer RNs.
This team sees 10 to 15 clients each week. The nurses assess the condition of the feet and pedal pulses, check for swelling, and observe how clean the feet are. “We work though a list for a complete foot and skin assessment from the lower leg down,” Marlene explained.
It’s All About Relationship
The nurses seek to build relationships with clients, making time to listen to their stories. “Our patients don't just have a foot problem. Some are employed, most are marginalized. Some are living in their cars.”
She said many clients have substance use disorders or mental health challenges; they've burned many bridges with family and community. “Many of these people have no one else who cares, so we express care and love as we care for their feet.”
During each client’s 30-minute visit, the nurses clean the feet, trim toenails, and remove corns and calluses. People with diabetes get extra assessment and, if needed, wound care.
Feagan said it's humbling to provide a pair of new shoes (grant-funded annually) to their clients. “We consider it an important part of the ministry to be able to give them new, correctly fitting shoes.” The nurses particularly appreciate the immediate gratification of doing something that brings results, and being able to hear clients' stories while giving care.
Seeing Jesus in Every Client
While these individuals don't always need foot care, they all crave attention and conversation; they leave with the feeling that someone is looking out for them.
“It's our ministry to be present, open, and accepting of every person who comes, to actively listen to their stories and provide the best care we can. If the person is interested in prayer, we may pray with them.”
“As with our other health ministries,” Feagan said, “we try to see Jesus in the face of everyone we serve, to remain judgement-free, and to have them know there's no place else we want to be while they're with us.”
This post is excerpted from the Nursing in the Church column in the current issue of the Journal of Christian Nursing.
Nurses interested in serving their community via foot care clinics can gain foot care training through the American Foot Care Nurses Association.
If you’re a faith community nurse or interested in serving your community or faith community as a Christian nurse, check out JCN’s Nursing in the Church column plus FCN features with CE in each issue. Also peruse the topical FCN article collection.