Medical pedicures give clients peace of mind
Editor’s note: This story appeared in the Healthy Living section on April 29, 2012.
BY FRANCES WOMBLE
Sharon Westerlund is a big fan of pedicures. But she doesn’t frequent a salon at the nearest shopping center for her foot needs. Instead, Westerlund goes to Anh Hastings, a certified medical nail technician who works in the office of Rappahannock Foot and Ankle Specialists.
Hastings provides a level of knowledge and experience that Westerlund said exceeds what she has found at nail salons.
“I’ve been seeing Anh for about two years now,” Westerlund said. “If something is wrong with my foot, she can tell. I just like going to the doctor’s office better.”
Hastings worked as a nail technician at salons for years before deciding to pursue certification as a medical nail technician in 2002.
Medical nail technicians are licensed by the state after successfully completing advanced education and training. They are taught to recognize problems such as fungus, and they learn advanced nail and foot care. An internship with a podiatrist is a standard part of MNT training.
“Many people are surprised to learn I completed internships,” Hastings said.
Hastings’ work space resembles a typical room at a doctor’s office—except that a salon chair with a foot bath stands in the middle of the room instead of an examining table.
Working out of a physicians practice gives her clients peace of mind, she said. It’s what prompted Westerlund, of Fredericksburg, to seek out Hastings for pedicures.
“I know I’m never going to have to worry about my health with Anh,” Westerlund said.
‘THEY ARE SAFE’
The $45 pedicure Hastings provides includes everything people expect from a salon pedicure—nail polishing, callus removal, filing and a foot bath. But there are additional benefits.
Medical nail technicians like Hastings use special cleaning protocols for equipment and tools that aren’t required at all salons. The protocols are in sync with experts’ advice on how to ensure safety during pedicures.
The American Podiatric Medical Association urges people to be aware of the risks involved in getting pedicures. Unsanitary conditions can lead to the spread of foot funguses and bacteria, for example, and sharp tools in inexperienced hands can lead to wounds.
Because of the risk of suffering a cut during a pedicure as the technician tackles calluses and nails, experts say pedicures should be considered surgical procedures, not beauty procedures.
The podiatry association warns that people with diabetes or poor circulation need to be especially careful, as they are more susceptible to foot infections and complications from wounds.
Pedicures should be scheduled first thing in the morning—whether you’re diabetic or not—because foot baths are cleaner earlier in the day, the APMA says. The association encourages clients to bring their own pedicure utensils to salons to prevent the transfer of bacteria and funguses. The association also encourages people to be “picky” about whom they trust to give them a pedicure.
Those who see a medical nail technician have less to worry about; Hastings said her training has guided her to go above and beyond state cleaning guidelines.
The guidelines include sanitation procedures to prevent the spread of germs. Fewer than 25 percent of salons follow state disinfection protocols, OSHA reports, leading many to seek out nail technicians with extra training.
“It doesn’t matter [what time of day] patients come,” Hastings said. “The water is changed and sterilized between everyone, so it is always clean.”
In addition to changing the water after each client visit, Hastings said that between appointments she uses medical-grade bleach to sterilize everything that comes into contact with patients.
She soaks pedicure utensils in a cleaning solution, similar to what patients see at a dentist’s office. And Hastings said she goes one step further than the state’s health guidelines: Every month, she sends cultures from pedicure equipment in her office to a laboratory to make sure bacteria are not transferred to patients.
The end result, she said, is that clients can “feel very comfortable.” She said health care professionals including nurses and pharmacists see her for pedicures on a regular basis.
“They like pedicures but know the health risks,” she said. “Here, they know they are safe.”
Medical pedicures are ideal for people who want to be pampered but have health problems such as diabetes or poor circulation, the APMA says. A great number of Hastings’ patients are diabetics and people taking blood thinners.
“Those patients can’t go to salons because of their health, so they come see me,” she said.
Medical nail technicians such as Hastings are trained to know when something is wrong with the foot. The APMA says lack of visible injury does not necessarily mean the foot is healthy, and a medical nail tech is trained to determine if something is wrong.
“I always begin a pedicure with examining the feet,” Hastings said. “If something is wrong, the doctor is right here. It’s easy for patients to get a problem taken care of.”
Barbara Malloy, 90, said her husband first went to see Hastings because of a fungus, and Hastings saw a bigger concern.
“[Hastings] did us a great favor,” Malloy said. “She noticed a lump on my husband’s foot. She told us he needed to see the doctor.”
The lump was pre-cancerous and, fortunately, treatable.
“I’m very blessed to catch problems and help people,” Hastings said.
Malloy now regularly visits Hastings for foot care.
“It’s difficult for me to cut my nails, and Anh takes great care of me,” Malloy said. “She is very knowledgeable.”
The Malloys aren’t the only couple to visit Hastings together. Hastings said a large number of men come to her for foot services.
“Women refer their husbands and boyfriends,” she said. “The men like the privacy of the doctor’s office. I can close the door, and they don’t have to tell anyone they like pedicures. It’s much more unisex than a salon.”
The American Podiatric Medical Association recommends pampering your feet and offers tips for keeping them healthy when getting a pedicure. You can read the advice at apma.org/pedipointers.
To read the government’s recommended disinfecting protocols for nail salons, visit epa.gov/pesticides/factsheets/footspa_disinfection.htm.
Frances Womble: firstname.lastname@example.org