Nursing News

Nurses: Don’t Ignore Those Aching Feet

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By Megan M. Krischke, contributor 

December 21, 2012 - Most people who work in health care know that back pain is a common ailment for nurses. Nurses receive training on how to protect their backs and specialized equipment has been developed, and is often required, for moving patients. But besides the usual comments from your colleagues about tired,aching feet, there is little talk about the foot pain experienced by nurses and what can be done to prevent it.

A recent study published in MEDSURG Nursing, however, has found that the issue is widespread and might deserve more attention from employers and nurses alike. Researchers looked at the incidence of foot pain among nurses, the factors contributing to the pain and the potential impact on individual caregivers.

Nurses and Aching Feet
Dottie Roberts, MSN, MACI, RN, CMSRN, OCNS-C, editor of MEDSURG Nursing, encourages nurses to extend some of their caring spirit to their aching feet.

“So often, we publish research on patient care and outcomes,” commented Dottie Roberts, MSN, MACI, RN, CMSRN, OCNS-C, editor of MEDSURG Nursing. “A study about nurses, particularly a study that dealt with an underappreciated topic such as foot pain, definitely caught my interest as an editor. After nearly 20 years on my feet as a direct-care nurse and clinical nurse specialist, I thought the information would be helpful to other nurses who may feel good about their work but bad about their feet.” 

Russell Nealy, BSN, Clinician 3 at University of Virginia Medical Center and lead researcher on the study, became interested in studying foot pain because he heard so many complaints about it, but it seemed that no one was addressing this issue.

“What I believe is the ‘take-home’ information for nurses from this study is that nurses need to be made aware of the need to purchase new shoes more often,” he said. “Although shoes can stay looking neat and clean for a year or two, after six months of steady walking, the structural support you need for your arch is breaking down.”

“Another clear factor for foot pain was being overweight,” Nealy added. “We already know that weight is a significant issue for many nurses. When you are on your feet all day, often walking on hard concrete floors, adding extra weight puts a tremendous amount of pressure on your feet. The reality seems to be that if you are an overweight nurse, you are going to have foot problems.”

The survey of more than 500 nurses also produced striking evidence of an increase in plantar fasciitis, a painful inflammation of the connective tissue on the sole of the foot. Of the nurses surveyed, only 12 had experienced the condition before becoming a nurse, but 167 reporting developing plantar fasciitis after starting their careers.

The study authors also theorized that foot pain could affect patient care adversely, since previous research has shown that pain influences behavior.

Nurses and Aching Feet
After recognizing the prevalence of foot pain among his coworkers, Russell Nealy, BSN, surveyed over 500 nurses about their experience of foot pain.

“I think very few nurses come out unscathed from foot pain if they are in the business for very long,” remarked Nealy. “My own thought is that it probably impacts patient care in some fashion. The call bell rings and do you really want to go because your feet hurt? I’m not suggesting that nurses wouldn’t take care of the patient, but it is probably done with less joy if your feet are hurting.”

There are a number of measures nurses can take to relieve their pain, such as putting ice on their feet, taking anti-inflammatories, doing stretching exercises and using over-the-counter gel inserts and various shoe orthotics.

Nealy urges nurses who are experiencing foot pain to get a diagnosis and a treatment.

“Foot pain isn’t necessarily something you just have to put up with,” he said. “A specially-made orthotic might make a world of difference.”

While many of the factors contributing to foot pain are ultimately issues nurses need to deal with on a personal level--such as regularly purchasing new shoes and maintaining a healthy weight--hospitals can also take steps to protect nurses and to encourage them to pursue a healthy lifestyle.



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