Marsha Thompson, CPed, says she couldn’t bring herself to quit her “grownup job.”
Never mind that she was hired to run the preschool program at her church and her “grownup job” was in St. Louis, 60 miles away.
“I love children,” she said. “This is my ministry. But I also love pedorthics.”
She works at both, commuting between the Sullivan Christian Church in Sullivan, Mo., her hometown, and St. Louis, where she is still on the staff at National Pedorthic Services (NPS).
“It’s a long drive, but it’s worth it to me,” Thompson said. “Erick is such a great guy to work with.”
“Erick” is Erick Janisse, CO, CPed, who manages the St. Louis branch of Milwaukee-based NPS. He hired her away from a Sullivan drug store where she dispensed durable medical equipment and footwear for people with diabetes.
Step of faith
“Before that, I had been a social worker for many years,” she said. “I started out of college in 1988. I mostly worked with children at Big Brothers-Big Sisters, a program that matches adults with single parent children.”
Thompson said leaving social work for the drug store in 2003 was “a big step of faith.”
She said she became the diabetic shoe fitter at the drug store by default.
“A man came in and gave us one day’s training in how to fit shoes, but nobody else wanted to touch people’s feet except me,” she said with a smile. “So I was the lucky one who got to fit the shoes.”
Discovery of passion
Thompson said it didn’t take her long to figure out she needed more expertise.
“I was working with people who had serious problems with their feet,” she said. “I really didn’t feel that I knew what I was doing.”
She did some research online, discovered pedorthics and decided to get certified.
Thompson enrolled in pre-certification classes at NPS headquarters.
“I wasn’t all that passionate about it at first. I was going to go back and operate a pedorthics facility at the drug store. But once I met Dennis, I became inspired.”
“Dennis” is Dennis Janisse, CPed and Erick’s dad. A pioneer pedorthics practitioner and educator, the senior Janisse founded NPS.
Desire for knowledge
Thompson wanted to learn more about pedorthics, even after she was certified in 2006.
“I wanted more than just going to classes,” she said. “I wanted training. I wanted to follow somebody around and see what it was like to be a pedorthist and work with patients.”
She contacted NPS in St. Louis. Erick Janisse agreed to tutor her.
“I was really excited and a little bit nervous about training under one of the best pedorthists in the country. But he put me at ease. He is so humble and easy to talk to,” Thompson said. “He told me, ‘I can teach you things like how to work on the grinder and mold the patients correctly.’ But he said what he couldn’t teach me was character and integrity. Those personal qualities are so important in pedorthics because what you do has a significant impact on the person’s health.”
Meanwhile, Thompson started having doubts about the drug store pedorthics facility.
“The more I thought about it, the more I realized that would be a big mistake – that I wasn’t ready for it.”
Janisse offered a counter proposal.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you come to work for me?’”
I told him that I was thrilled but that I lived in Sullivan, 60 miles away.
“Now I had another big decision to make in my life. The people at the drug store weren’t very happy with me when I decided to move on, but I think I saved them from making a big mistake.”
She went to work for Janisse in 2006. She became a church worker-pedorthist in 2008.
“At first, I told Erick I would stay around until he found somebody to replace me,” she said. “But I stayed. I work Monday through Wednesday at the church and he calls me in on Thursdays and Fridays when he needs me. It’s great because I get to be a part of a ministry which I love but still get to work with Erick, too.”
She added, “I wouldn’t want to work for anyone else in pedorthics but Erick. He had made me want to strive even more to be a good pedorthist.”
Thompson said her social work background helps, too.
“To be a good social worker, you have to have good people skills. As a social worker, you have to interview people, ask the right questions, and then make a judgment based on the interview process,” she said.
“You also have to be able to shrug off a lot and get people to trust you. It’s the same way with pedorthics. Patients are hurting. Sometimes, they are angry and frustrated because they have gotten the runaround at other places. They think, ‘Yeah, and what are you going to do for me?’
I don’t take it personally, and I keep plugging, just as I did when I was a social worker.”
Empathy for others
Like social work, pedorthics calls for some applied psychology, Thompson added.
She said that’s especially true with middle-aged and older women who don’t want to forsake fashion footwear for “sensible shoes.”
“I explain to them that the doctor has written a prescription for what is best for them. But I also try to be empathetic,” she said. “I tell them that as a woman I understand how they feel. I would never say, ‘Tough, you can’t wear fashion shoes anymore.’”
Thompson also said most women wear shoes too small for their feet. Few get their feet measured regularly, she added.
“So when I measure their feet and tell them they need a larger size, I explain to them that as we get older, our feet get bigger,” she said. “I also use myself as an example. I tell them I used to be a seven but that now I measure almost a nine. But once I get them in the right shoe in the right size and they can walk comfortably, they’re usually all right.”
Thompson thinks sticking with the same size shoe – even when it pinches and feels uncomfortable – is likely “a control thing.”
“As we get older, our pants size gets larger,” she said. “But we can always count on our shoe size – it doesn’t change. Of course, it does.”
Berry Craig is a correspondent for O&P Business News.