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Orthopaedic Nurses support families through clubfoot treatment

Nurses in masks stand holding a board with an array of small leg casts attached.

(pictured Karen Bartlett and Amanda Grace, photo by Ryan Wilson IWK)

“It is incredibly satisfying and motivating to watch a toddler, who was once a baby with clubfoot, run down our hallway with a big grin on their face,” says Amanda Grace, a registered nurse (RN) in the IWK Orthopaedics Clinic. “The day that a four-year-old graduates from their boots and bar and finishes treatment is a big moment for us. I love those days.”

Grace, along with RNs Karen Bartlett and Jennifer Muirhead, runs two clubfoot clinics a week in the Ortho Clinic where they see 10-12 families each clinic. She is also the point of contact for all the families once their child receives a clubfoot diagnosis.

“I’m passionate about making my families understand the importance of following through on the whole process of the clubfoot journey so that they can see their children thrive and accomplish anything and everything,” says Grace.

About one infant in every 1,000 live births will have clubfoot, a deformity in which the infant’s foot is turned inward, sometimes so severely that the bottom of the foot faces sideways or upward.

“The clubfoot clinic has a multidisciplinary approach to care,” says Bartlett. “We work as a team - from parents who know the child best to physicians, nurses, Child Life specialists and ortho techs.”

At the clinic orthopaedic nurses teach families about clubfoot casting and help navigate them through clubfoot treatment. They respond to questions and concerns from day one until the end of that journey. Their support can run from extra tips on cast care and skin care to letters of support for parents needing to raise money for their boots and bars.

“Over the course of treatment, the role of the health care team is relatively small,” says Bartlett. “It is the families that manage this daily at home.  We work to provide them with the support and resources they need to do this at home without feeling alone.”

“Clubfoot treatment has come a long way since I started nursing,” says Grace. "What once was a terrible painful surgery is now a series of casts with a minor procedure at the end. These babies do well and go on to do so many great things!”

“We strive to help these children reach their milestones as expected and go on to participate in whatever activities they want to do,” says Bartlett. “These children can be as active as any other child their age.  We don’t want the treatment to hold them back.”

Orthopaedic Nurses Week begins on October 30 (Orthopaedic Nurses Day) – and runs until November 3, 2023.