Editor’s note: We have partnered with The Wound Care Education Institute to raise awareness about the devastating effects of wound care knowledge gaps in the U.S. healthcare system. Our goal is to educate clinicians to empower themselves and their organizations to combat these gaps through wound care education.
When Nancy Morgan, MBA, BSN, RN, WOC, WCC, DWC, OMS, explains the need for healthcare facilities to have a wound expert on staff, she starts simply with the numbers.
“As of last count, there were 6.5 million chronic wounds in existence in the U.S., which resulted in a cost of $11 billion,” said Morgan, cofounder and clinical consultant for the Wound Care Education Institute.
The prevalence of wounds in healthcare today is undeniably enormous.
One of the most chronic problems a wound expert deals with regularly is pressure injuries, which can have a devastating impact on patients and are a potential legal concern for healthcare facilities and clinicians.
“Sixty-thousand patients die each year as a result of complications of pressure injuries,” Morgan said, “and approximately 17,000 lawsuits take place related to pressure injuries annually.”
Morgan, who has more than 20 years of experience as an RN and is board certified in wound care, ostomy and diabetic wound care, discussed wounds and how a wound expert can make a difference in any healthcare organization.
Q: What role do chronic diseases play in the need for a wound expert?
People are living longer with chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, which predisposes these patients to the development of chronic wounds.
Chronic wounds require treatment with the skills and knowledge of a wound expert over the course of several weeks, months and sometimes years.
Q: What about acute wounds? How do they impact patients?
One hundred million acute wounds occur in the U.S. each year — 50 million as a result of surgical incisions and 50 million because of trauma from various mechanisms, such as lacerations, bites and burns.
Acute wounds occur suddenly and usually heal within 6 to 12 weeks without complications. If they don’t, they become chronic wounds.
Q: What are some of the most common chronic wounds patients have?
It’s important for a wound expert to provide optimum care to improve a patient’s quality of life, activity tolerance and ability to socialize, while also reducing pain, embarrassment and anxiety related to the wound or wounds.
Q: Are there other important reasons for clinicians and organizations to ensure the delivery of excellent wound care?
There are several other reasons, including to:
- Contain costs
- Reduce the length of hospital stays
- Avoid organizational fines
- Maximize reimbursement
- Avoid a bad reputation for oneself and one’s organization
- Avoid or reduce legal risk and liability
Q: Given that millions of people have diabetes in the U.S., how does this impact the need for a wound expert on staff?
The large numbers of people living with diabetes creates an additional and urgent need for certified wound care clinicians.
Currently, there are more than 30 million people in the U.S. living with diabetes, and one out of every six people with the disease will develop a diabetic foot ulcer.
Q: Is wound care taught in professional education programs, such as nursing schools?
Wound care is not taught much in schools and when it is, there are many occasions when outdated methods are being taught. This results in clinicians practicing poor wound care and an increase in cost to patients’ well-being and finances.
Also, wound care products are many times not being used properly or as intended by the manufacturers. Another issue is a lack of uniformity in teaching wound care to clinicians from a variety of disciplines.
Q: Do you have any eye-opening statistics or survey results regarding wound care?
Yes, three come to mind that highlight the lack of wound care in professional healthcare education programs, including:
- One study found only 8 of 50 medical residents scored better than 50% on a 20-question test measuring pressure injury knowledge.
- A recent survey of RNs found that 70% considered their basic wound education insufficient.
- Another study revealed that nursing textbooks contain sparse or outdated information and some books contained as little as 45 lines of text on pressure injuries.
Q: Are there any other circumstances that will likely increase the need for a wound expert?
Yes. Another factor that will most likely increase the need for a wound expert in the immediate future, is a change in the way the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will soon categorize patients with regards to reimbursing payments.
Known as the Patient-Driven Groupings Model, patients in community or institutional admissions soon will be categorized by 12 clinical subgroups — with wounds being one of the subgroups considered.
This CMS model is something new we must examine more thoroughly. However, we know this process is scheduled to take effect Oct. 1, and this is one of the many reasons why a wound expert is such an important part of healthcare organizations.