Problems ahead for footsore nurses

Don’t ignore sore feet, experts warn

Australia’s nursing workforce may face an ‘epidemic’ of foot problems as it ages, a podiatric researcher has warned.

Queensland University of Technology lecturer Lloyd Reed says foot problems are widespread among nurses and are likely to worsen as the nursing workforce ages and spends more time on its feet.

‘The average age of nurses in Australia is 43 years and we know that as they age, they are more vulnerable to foot problems,’ he said.

Age, combined with longer working hours could create an increasingly painful mix for nurses, he said.

Mr Reed conducted a study among nurses at a major Brisbane hospital earlier this year.

He said preliminary findings showed that:

  • 17% of nurses had foot problems severe enough to prevent them from performing normal activities including working
  • Foot problems were the third most common workplace musculoskeletal complaint among nurses after back and neck problems.

Mr Reed said overseas research showed workers who spend more than 30% of their working day on their feet were at increased risk of significant foot and lower limb discomfort.

‘The danger is that nurses just put up with the pain and say it’s part of the job. That’s when problems develop.’

The Australasian Podiatry Council lists stress fracture, sprains, corns, calluses, in-grown toenails, chilblains and tinea as some of the problems that can occur in the workplace or be aggravated at work.

Council president Matthew Slattery urged nurses who spend long hours on their feet to monitor their feet and lower limbs and to seek help from a podiatrist if pain persists.

‘Podiatrists are experts at evaluating general foot health and are able to identify and treat problems,’ Mr Slattery said.

‘They are also able to make recommendations that could improve workplace foot health and avoid crippling injuries on the job.’

Solutions include properly fitted shoes, anti-fatigue matting and orthoses or shoe inserts designed to support, align or improve the function of the foot.