March 31, 2022

How To Care For Your Feet As a Nurse, TLC's Dr. Ebonie Explains

How To Care For Your Feet As a Nurse, TLC's Dr. Ebonie Explains

If you’re a nurse, you know a thing or two about aching feet. 

This  is why Nurse Alice sat down with Dr. Ebonie Vincent, DPM, MBMS, board-certified ankle and foot surgeon and co-host of the hit TLC show, My Feet are Killing Me, to discuss just exactly how nurses can treat their feet after long hours of shift work and why our feet are our “foundation” (aka, we need to take care of them). 

Listen to this episode on the Ask Nurse Alice Podcast

>>Common Feet Problems For Nurses and How To Avoid The Pain (with Dr. Ebonie of TLC's "My Feet Are Killing Me)

Your Feet = Your Foundation

Dr. Benson, as she is known to her patients, started off her conversation with Nurse Alice with a bold statement: 

“The feet are seriously the most neglected portions of our body,” she declared. “But I would consider them the most important.” For instance, she pointed out that if you have foot pain, even your first steps in the morning to brush your teeth are going to be excruciating—and from there, the rest of your day will continue to be difficult. 

“I do think people don't pay attention to their feet, but they definitely should, especially in nursing and other medical professions because not only are you on your feet all day, but you are responsible for helping other patients,” added Dr. Benson. 

Dr. Benson also said that she does see nurses in her practice, with the most common culprit behind foot issues being nurses responsible for doing a lot of patient lifting. 

“You have to take care of yourself; otherwise you won't be able to take care of anybody else,” Dr. Benson pointed out. “And your feet are the foundation.”

Nurses are known for spending long hours on their feet, which Dr. Benson explained can lead to issues. While she explained that it really depends on your activity levels, how much you’re lifting, if you’re carrying extra weight, and your shoes, if you’re doing anything for extended periods of time, it’s going to affect your feet. 

>> Related: Are Nurses On Their Feet All Day? 

How to Prevent Foot Issues

So what can you do to help take care of your feet while working as a nurse? Dr. Brenson outlined some helpful tips. 

Get off your feet

Well, first of all—take your breaks! Even 10-15 minutes breaks can make a big difference when you’re spending 12+ hours per shift constantly on the move. 

Be aware of the risks to your feet

Next up, it can be helpful to be aware of some of the common foot issues that nurses are at risk for. For instance, Dr. Benson explained that the #1 issue she sees with nurses is plantar fasciitis. 

“I've served nurses for a long time and all of them at some point have plantar fasciitis and nobody's safe from it,” she said. “Even if you wear the best shoes, it really does depend on the amount of activity you're doing and also what you're doing to cause your foot to kind of get thrown into that inflammatory state.”

Plantar fasciitis is a swollen ligament on the bottom of your heel bone that can cause excruciating pain. 

“You're supposed to have a nice limber-like flexible kind of plantar fascial band, but if it gets swollen, it gets really tight, and then all of your weight on that plantar fascial band can cause the micro-tearing, which is really, really painful,” she explained. “Once you kind of get moving it loosens up, but as soon as you take a break and sit down and you stand back up again, it's rinse and repeat.”

To get rid of plantar fasciitis, Dr. Benson recommended a few steps: ice the area, stretch it, and take anti-inflammatory medications. In some cases, it may also require a cortisone injection. Lastly, you’ll also want to change up your shoes or consider adding a pad to the heel itself. 

Other common issues that she sees in nurses include bunions, corns, hammertoes, and arthritis of the toes. “Bunions are a huge deal because bunions over time will cause a lot of arthritis in the big toes and not only is it not stable, but your whole midfoot is not stable,” she pointed out. “12 hours a day on an unstable construct like that over time is eventually going to hurt.”

Invest in compression stockings

Dr. Benson recommended that nurses consider wearing compression stockings, especially if they spend the majority of their shifts standing. She explained that compression stockings can be helpful because veins have valves that push blood back up where it needs to go, but when you’re standing, gravity takes a huge toll on those valves and sometimes, blood can pool in the legs. The blood pooling can cause issues such as spider veins and varicose veins, so compression stockings can help push the blood back up where it needs to go. 

“I personally wear compression socks sometimes in surgery when I have long cases,” said Dr. Brenson. “I'm just like, ‘Put these on up because I'm trying to try to have sexy legs when I'm 70, you know what I mean?” she added with a laugh. 

Be savvy about your mani

If you chose to visit a nail salon for a pedicure or manicure. Dr. Benson noted that it’s important to choose a place that practices sanitary methods. Make sure they are never re-using instruments, sanitizing everything, and never let a manicurist go after an ingrown toenail. 

“That's a recipe for disaster,” she said bluntly. If you’re regularly relying on someone else who is not a foot doctor to cut out ingrown toenails, she explained that you’re basically training the nail to grow inwards, further exacerbating the problem. “What you need to do is cut straight and don't dig because you're opening up the skin and then the nail thinks it's supposed to grow down in there,” she said. 

Take care of your feet daily

While Dr. Benson did say pedicures can be a good starting point for self-care, more importantly, she pointed out that self-care for your feet needs to be a daily, not monthly, occurrence. She recommended taking the following steps for daily foot care: 

  • Apply moisturizer once in the morning and once at night. 
  • Regularly trim your toenails (but not too short).
  • Dry your feet after the shower to cut down on the risk of fungus. 
  • Regularly clean and dry the inside of your shoes (Lysol spray can help in a pinch). 
  • Replace your shoes regularly. 

Limit your time in high heels

If you’re a nurse who likes to kick back in high heels outside of the hospital, Dr. Benson noted that while she won’t put a hard and fast time limit rule to how long heels should be worn, she personally sticks to a 1-hour max in heels. 

“Heels really do put pressure on the ball of the foot and then that can cause a neuroma, which are swollen nerves in your feet,” she explained. “They can cause stress fractures; they can cause bruising. It’s just bad news.” She also added that there are more podiatry-friendly heels available now, so if you have to wear heels try to choose safer options and limit your time wearing them. 

Don’t ignore problems in your feet

If you do find an issue in your feet, don’t delay seeking out a professional opinion, because a problem in the feet can indicate a systemic issue in the body. “There are a lot of issues that can manifest in the feet first, that are actually more systemic problems,” she said. 

The feet are the farthest point away from the heart, so they’re the last place to receive blood circulation, so things like swelling or even in one case, what appeared to be an ingrown toenail (spoiler: it wasn’t) can point to other problems. And while she said it’s common for people to feel embarrassed to get their feet checked out, she sees no reason for people to be embarrassed. 

So nurses, take care of your feet, don’t forget to check your patients’ feet, and be sure to follow Dr. Brenson on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube

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