School of Nursing alumna and street-medicine volunteer finds renewed purpose in retirement.
After a 43-year career, Nan Wild MS ’99 was ready to retire. With decades of practice as both an RN and a nurse practitioner, Wild wanted to shift her focus to developing her personal interests rather than purely professional ones.
“I decided in my retirement I was going to try to cultivate compassion and practice compassion,” she says.
That led her to Madison Area Care for the Homeless OneHealth (MACH OneHealth), a nonprofit organization that provides health services to housing-insecure populations in Madison. She learned about it from her daughter, the organization’s volunteer coordinator, who was recruiting health care professionals to staff the foot-care clinic MACH OneHealth runs with Homeless Outreach Ministries at First United Methodist Church several times a year.
Wild was immediately intrigued by the opportunity to use her nursing skills in a new and meaningful way. “It is that connection,” she says, “the personal connection with people who have had quite amazing lives but who have had a difficult journey in life for a variety of reasons.”
At the clinics, Wild typically volunteers for the foot spa services because that allows her the most time with patrons. Wild cleans and bandages wounds, checks on circulation issues, and washes and massages the client’s feet. Each clinic patron leaves with a new pair of socks and new or gently used footwear. The clinic also offers a hot breakfast and a secure place to store belongings.
Dr. Ann Catlett, a UW Health physician who co-founded MACH OneHealth in 2015 and helped launch the foot clinics a year later, says Wild was a natural fit at the clinics and the organization. “She has been a stalwart, regular contributor to our mission from the beginning,” Catlett says.
In fact, Catlett credits Wild for helping make the foot clinics about more than simple foot washing and developing them into a signature program for the organization. Wild’s nursing perspective, Catlett says, has a lot to do with it. “She scans for system issues, cultural issues, family issues, safety issues—all of those issues at once,” she says. “That is what nurses are very skilled at doing, and that is what Nan does. She uses all those nursing skills, all while being exceptionally kind.”
Last year, MACH OneHealth received a UW–Madison Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment grant to develop and launch a new street medicine project. The Madison Street Medicine Initiative will bring healthcare services to homeless populations through walking teams and mobile and outdoor clinics, and Wild is part of the planning group.
Wild says she is honored to serve the populations who currently use the foot clinics and will eventually use the street medicine services, and she is eager to continue developing new administrative and leadership skills. “This organization has been a really great opportunity for me,” she says.
She also believes it would be a great opportunity for other registered nurses and nurse practitioners in the area. As the street medicine initiative ramps up, MACH OneHealth will need more volunteers like Wild to staff its programs.
“In particular, we really recognize the need for mental health or addiction specialists. Many nurses, with their understanding of mental health and addiction, have a really great skill set for this,” Wild says. “All nurses have a lot to offer.”
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