The Gift of Healthy Feet2014/15 Projects
Podiatry students and staff offered Podiatry services to homeless people in Galway during January 2015 in collaboration with local charities COPE Galway and Galway Simon Community.
The service included foot screening and foot treatment, as well as foot care advice, and provision of new socks and shoes, where necessary. The project proved to be a great success and was very rewarding for everyone involved. The team is now working on submitting an article to Podiatry Now, a podiatry journal published by the College of Podiatry UK. Some of the team members will return next year to present the project to Podiatry students and get a team together to carry out the project again.
Project Team & Links
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Dr. Elaine Hyslop
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The project began in December when we started a shoe drive asking our local shoe stores and members of the public for donations. We received an extremely generous donation of 126 pairs of shoes from a shoe company (who wish to remain anonymous) which was a great boost for the project. There were drop off points throughout Galway city and in the college for members of the public to donate. The Lead Staff member Dr Elaine Hyslop was interviewed on local radio and an article was printed in ‘Sin’ the college newspaper to promote the project and seek donations.
In January the team members collected donations, cleaned up shoes and went to work at sorting out all shoe sizes and suitability to provide to the men at the homeless shelters. Collection of the generous donation of 126 pair of shoes was kindly facilitated by Galway Express Couriers for free to help with the project! Thanks to Derek and his team! Brand new socks were purchased from a local department store. Prof. Caroline McIntosh the Head of the Department of Podiatry permitted us to borrow equipment from the podiatry clinical skills lab and further equipment was donated from David Watterson the clinical manager of Merlin Park Podiatry Clinic (which is where the students usually carry out their clinical practice).
We have completed the planned 5 homeless shelters to date
• Fairgreen Hostel
• Hazel Park Care Home
• Abbey House Care Home
• Ballinasloe Day Centre
• St. Anthony’s SVP Care Home
At each site we brought along all the equipment, shoes and socks and set up mobile work stations in the settings. This was a totally different experience compared to working in the well-equipped and ergonomically designed Merlin Park Podiatry Clinic! We provided podiatric treatments such as nail and skin care and provision of orthoses and offloading material where needed. New socks and shoes were fitted to each patient following their foot care.
The project has been rolled out in co-ordination with Nurse Joan Gavin. Joan is a Community Registered General Nurse for people who are homeless and has been a pleasure to work with throughout the project. The project would not have been such a great success without her and all the team members. Everyone has contributed their best and each team member has thoroughly enjoyed spreading the Gift of Healthy Feet throughout Galway!
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With all the planned sites completed we put the project on hold for a couple of months because we were all busy with final year dissertations and block placements.
Once back to Galway we organised a team meeting to discuss where the project would go from here and thought about ways to sustain the project so that it could become an annual initiative run by the podiatry department.
In order to ensure the project could be maintained we need to buy instruments that can be sterilised and reused. So the remaining funding will be used to purchase as many sets of podiatry instruments as possible. With regards to publicity for the project we are working on an article that we will publish in Podiatry Now which is a podiatry journal published by the College of Podiatry UK. Finally we have decided that some of the team members will return next year to present the project to podiatry students and get a team together to carry out the project again. Leftover shoes and socks which were donated this year will be kept stored in the podiatry department for use next year.
Overall the project has been a huge success and very rewarding to everyone involved. We sought to reach out and help some of the more vulnerable people in the community and in doing so we have benefitted greatly from the experience and become better health care practitioners.