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.
Teaching healthcare professionals about wound care has taken Nancy Morgan, MBA, BSN, RN, WOC, WCC, DWC, OMS, to dozens of places around the United States.
When the longtime RN began her career in wound care, she never imagined educating clinicians would take her to American Samoa, an unincorporated U.S. territory in the South Pacific Ocean located 2,200 miles southwest of Hawaii.
In June 2019, an education opportunity — and a newfound family connection — did just that. Morgan, who co-founded the Wound Care Education Institute (WCEI), spent three days consulting with Samoan clinicians on specific wound patients and presented a one-day formal wound care class in Pago Pago, the capital city of the island chain.
At the same time, she enjoyed a life-changing experience by connecting with her newly discovered people, culture and nation.
Adopted at 5 days old, Morgan grew up an only child. Even though she said her adoptive parents were “wonderful” and Morgan said she had a blessed life, she yearned to learn who her biological parents were as she grew up.
At age 18, Morgan discovered the identity of her biological mother and was able to meet her. However, her mother couldn’t provide any information about her biological father other than he was a performer in Honolulu.
“My biological mother passed away a few years back,” Morgan said. “While sorting through some of her belongings, I uncovered an old photograph which I believed may have been a picture of my father.”
Morgan’s missing link
Fast forward to December 2018. In her quest to learn more about her heritage, Morgan purchased a DNA kit from a popular website. One month later, she received some exciting news from the test.
“I discovered I had two cousins of Samoan descent,” she said. “I contacted one of them, told him my story and hoped to find my father.”
After speaking to her cousin, Morgan sent him the picture of the man she suspected was her father. Her cousin immediately verified the identity of the man pictured as his uncle, Tama Leao.
Instead of connecting with Leao on her own, Morgan and her cousin agreed he would call his uncle with the news that he had a daughter who was looking for him.
“My father agreed I could contact him,” Morgan said. “This soon resulted in a phone call between the two of us. We ended up meeting the following month at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I also met my two half-brothers as well as their children — my nieces and nephews.”
Morgan said she received an email shortly thereafter from Lyndon B. Johnson Tropical Medical Center, an acute care hospital in Pago Pago, requesting wound care education for the facility’s healthcare clinicians.
Wound care with her new people
When she learned of the request from the Samoan healthcare facility, Morgan was astonished.
“I took this as a sign from the heavens,” she said. “I just found out that I’m half Samoan and the hospital in Samoa is requesting my help with wound care education. I had to go. My immediate thought was, ‘These are my people and they need my help.’”
Six months later, Morgan visited American Samoa to provide wound care education to both patients and clinicians.
“I spent three days at LBJ Medical Center consulting with hospital staff on challenging wound patients and provided one full day of wound care training for multiple disciplines, from physicians and nurses to EMS workers and nursing students,” she said.
After teaching each day in Samoa, she then spent time with her father in the evenings.
“We coordinated our trips, so we would be there at the same time,” she said. “My father showed me around the island after I finished work. He took me to places where he spent time as a child, and we had dinners together.”
Wound care education is real and urgent
According to the World Health Organization in its 2013 STEPS survey, close to 50% of the population of Samoa between ages 25 and 64 years had type 2 diabetes.
“With high rates of obesity, a high-carbohydrate diet and ongoing high temperatures that make it difficult for people to exercise, those living in American Samoa have high rates of diabetes and diabetic foot ulcers,” Morgan said. “There is a cultural practice in which some Samoans with wounds seek care from their local healer first. Thus, when we do see patients with wounds at the hospital, they’re presenting to us later, rather than sooner. They’re also in extreme pain and many times septic.”
The training Morgan provided this summer was the first formal wound care education event ever held on the island, she said.
“It was a thrill to teach local clinicians about wound care so they can in turn teach patients, their families and others,” she said.
Goals for wound care education in Samoa
After the life-changing trip, Morgan said, “My goals for the future of wound care in American Samoa are to work with medical professionals and focus on the root cause of the problem — diet and increasing physical activity.”
In addition, she would like to expand access for advanced wound care education to more clinicians on an ongoing basis.
Forming a partnership with local folk healers so that they receive formal wound care education to help patients who come to them first is another idea.
“Teaching about caring for various wounds, and when to refer patients to licensed medical professionals if a wound is not healing or has already progressed to a dangerous place is important,” she said.
What Morgan loves about American Samoa
The many highlights of her journey were meeting the people and learning about her new culture.
“The people are beautiful, warm, loving and welcomed me with open arms as part of their culture and nation,” she said. “They constantly expressed their gratitude for my visit, the wound care training and showered me with lovely gifts.”
Teaching others about wound care is a passion for Morgan.
“I enjoy seeing that ‘aha’ moment in a student, when all the new concepts come to life and click,” she said. “’Learn it today and use it tomorrow’ is our motto, and our students tell us just that. They use their new knowledge and skills from our training immediately. There is no limit to where a career in wound care can take you,” Morgan said.