There is a serious gap in healthcare, overlooked by some doctors, insurance companies, and even sometimes, patients themselves: senior foot care.
Heather Wilson is on a mission to fix that.
Heather Wilson RN, CFCS Founder/Owner of Everyday Divinity and the Foot And Nail Institute first launched her foot care for seniors business in 2011 to provide services such as nail trimming and corn and callus reductions. At the time, she worked as a charge nurse on a vascular thoracic surgical (VTS) unit in Ohio, where she first saw the need for senior foot care services.
“Seniors were forced to seek help from family members or salons,” Wilson explains. “It was during this time that I saw the influx of lower extremity infections that we were treating on my unit. These infections were a direct result of improper or lack thereof safe, appropriate foot care services. Seniors 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 witnessed her grandfather have a very bad stroke when she was in second grade. She explained that overnight, grandfather—a hard-working veteran—was stripped of his abilities to care for himself and Wilson explains that as a result, he became “very verbal and contentious at times.”
But the nurses that cared for him demonstrated the “power of good nursing,” responding to him while still providing medical care to contribute to his overall health improvements. “In my eyes, those nurses were powerful angels,” she says. “They could hold their own while delivering the medical care and attention that he needed. I think that’s when the nursing seed was planted.”
Wilson explains that just as she saw the need for her grandfather to receive skilled nursing care in his older years, senior 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 just the inability to reach,” she explains. “Changes that take place within our feet, nails and skin can contribute to the inability for us to care for our own feet. You don’t realize this is a problem until you can’t trim your own nails.”
Additionally, foot care is an important part of overall health for seniors. “If safe foot care services are not delivered to our aging demographic, this 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 nails, can lead to improper gait, fall risk, and declining mobility.
Nurses Filling a Need
Despite the importance of senior foot care, Wilson points out that nurses are not always taught to provide foot care services in nursing school. Additionally, as insurance regulations have changed, podiatrists are not offering foot care services as they used to, leaving many seniors unable to access services.
And that’s where nurses come in. Wilson explains that most boards of nursing do not have established foot care policies, which means that nurses can legally provide foot care services as individual business owners. While Wilson says she would love to see established standards and practices made within all state boards defining the nurse’s role in foot care, for now, nurses are the perfect solution to fill this gap within the healthcare system.
Nurses can provide
- General foot assessment
- Filing of the nails
- Corn and callus reduction
Services can be provided in one-on-one settings in the home or through foot clinics that are conducted at 3rd party facilities such as senior centers, community centers, assisted living facilities, physician offices, churches, and small privately owned pharmacies.
“As foot care nurses, we are on the frontline with seniors within our communities,” she explains. “We may be the first set of healthcare eyes 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 addressed further by a qualified healthcare provider 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 senior foot care services, Everyday Divinity in 2011, it was a business model based on private pay, so she had no idea if it would actually be successful. However, word of mouth spread even more quickly than she anticipated. She soon had patients calling her from other states.
“I knew then, the lack of foot care services was a healthcare problem affecting our seniors nationally,” she says. After successfully serving 24 different markets in Ohio, where she initially launched, Wilson decided it was time to duplicate her business model for other nurses to take into their own markets. “It seemed like the solution to give nurses back the empowerment that I feel was stripped away over the years,” she explains. “It was a win for nurses as well as seniors.”
For Nurses, By Nurses
Just as Wilson’s tagline explains, her second business, the Foot and Nail Institute (FNI) provides foot care and business training for nurses, by nurses.
“It was important for me to be able to deliver mentoring to the nurses who come into our program,” she explains. “Starting a business can be daunting and overwhelming to any nurse. As nurses, business ownership is not in our wheelhouse, yet we are equipped with so many of the characteristics and traits that it takes to execute a business successfully.”
The FNI works by providing an online course for nurses wanting to start their own individual foot care service businesses. The course consists of three modules to teach nurses how to start, run and grow a foot care business of their own:
- The Business of Foot Care
- The Practice of Foot Care
- The Community of Foot Care
The FNI also provides hands-on training, website building/hosting, webinar meetups, a membership community and private social media app that allows nurses support along the way. “Nurses will never feel alone as they walk the nurse entrepreneur path,” she explains.
Just like her initial business served a need almost instantly, the FNI has also proven to be a necessary service. The FNI has officially helped nurses in over 25 states launch their own foot care businesses and consulted with thousands of nurses nationally.
The FNI can also launch a nurse into owning their own business very quickly—Wilson even notes that she has seen nurses launch a business in under four weeks. Factors from what the nurse is currently working to financial means to their own goals all play a role, but Wilson explains that at the end of the day, the beauty of being a business owner means you are the ultimate boss.
“I am the portal guiding you down the path,” she says. “The deliverable lies within the nurse business owner.”
Wilson is passionate about her business because she believes that it provides nurses the opportunity to provide a necessary service to their patients while battling the burnout that so many nurses face and instead, building a successful, financially secure life.
For instance, Wilson explains that personally, she was able to triple the income she made from bedside nursing working only four, 5-hour days and that owning your foot care business provides the potential for “unlimited income.” However, she also adds that how much you will actually make depends on many different factors, such as the market you’re working in, how many hours you want to work, what services you provide, and competition.
Additionally, Wilson believes that a foot care business provides nurses the opportunity to build a healthy lifestyle with a fulfilling career.
“I started a business, for a better overall lifestyle,” 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-hour days, 4 days a week without nights, weekends, or holidays equals success to her.
“If there is a snow day or an illness with my child, I reschedule the clinic—it’s that simple,” she adds. “Foot care provided me with a lifestyle I loved while working with a population I adored! Providing care to seniors healed me of the burnout I endured at the bedside.”
Whether foot care is in their future or not, Wilson encourages any nurses 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 joyous life beyond the bedside as a nurse business owner. I invite nurses to explore all the options that are available beyond the bedside as nurse business owners.”
Images courtesy of Heather Wilson