To some, wound care nursing may evoke discomfort. But the importance of this specialty goes well beyond what’s on the surface.
Currently, there are 8,627 nurses certified in wound care through the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB). Whether treating diabetic foot ulcers, pressure injuries, and everything in between, wound care holds an important place in nursing.
The role of a wound care nurse is critical. They must stay current on technology and trends, develop and execute treatment plans, treat patients with all wound types, and much more. From patient education to improved care outcomes, wound care nurses reach patients, families, caregivers, and other clinicians in ways that are both meaningful and lasting.
Patient education and connection
Research has shown that education coupled with patient-centered care improves health outcomes and increases patient satisfaction. This also serves to give patients some agency over their own care, which yields better results once they return home and continue the wound care practices they’ve been shown.
In a NurseDot Podcast episode, host Cara Lunsford, RN, Vice President of Community at Relias interviewed Tracy Lynn Rodgers, RN, BSN, WCC, Legal Nurse Consultant Certified about her experiences with wound care nursing — both as a patient managing her own care and a clinician educating her patients.
Rodgers, who has been a registered nurse for 34 years, was in a car accident in 2011 that left her with 22 broken bones from the neck down and a traumatic brain injury. This event gave her new perspective as a patient, emphasizing the importance of taking ownership of your care and adhering to care instructions.
“I tell every time I have a speaking engagement that bodies are meant to heal — how [you] get them there and what you do with it is…up to you,” she said.
She added that learning how to let other people care for her was humbling. Something as simple as not bearing weight on her arms was a learning experience.
Patients’ everyday choices and activities can drastically shape the course of their healing. But by considering their input and providing individualized and transparent care, wound care nurses set patients up for success.
Educating to boost well-being
Patient education doesn’t stop at dressing changes and proper cleansing. Wound care nurses educate on holistic perspectives too. They inform patients about nutrition, mobility, mental well-being and how all of it relates to their healing and overall health. For example, research has shown that patients with diabetic wounds heal better with good nutrition.
In addition to more efficient wound healing, educating patients also empowers them and establishes a stronger nurse-patient relationship. This is critical, as wound care nursing involves a great deal of emotional support and patient connection.
Because of the complexity and seriousness of wound care, patients can sometimes experience anxieties, fears, and even frustration related to their wounds. Providing sincere emotional support helps nurses alleviate these feelings and contribute to improving patients’ well-being, which in turn can positively impact healing.
Wound care nurses improve lives and reduce costs
Wound care management can be costly and felt by both healthcare facilities and patients alike. Such is the case with pressure injuries.
These wounds are prevalent, with around 1 to 3 million people affected by pressure injuries each year. The cost of patient care for pressure injuries can range from $20,900 to $151,700 per injury, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. And overall, hospitals and health systems spend between $9.1 and $11.6 billion each year treating these injuries.
But one study reported that when pressure injury prevention programs were implemented (under the supervision of wound care nurses and other clinicians), wound management costs decreased year after year.
Wound care nurses are in a position to facilitate changes that improve the lives of their patients while saving organizations money. Through specialized competencies and skills like the following, wound care nurses and other clinicians make a difference in achieving these goals:
- Wound prevention and early intervention: Through programs like pressure injury prevention and regular patient assessments, wound care nurses can identify risk factors of wounds and implement preventive measures. This reduces the likelihood of wounds occurring or more serious complications.
- Evidence-based practice: Staying current and knowledgeable about practices, products, and technologies in wound management allows clinicians to tailor treatment plans, reduce healing times, and minimize the need for costly interventions.
- Optimizing resources: Choosing appropriate wound dressings, therapies, and treatments based on the specific needs of each patient ensures that resources are used effectively and efficiently.
Facilitators of healing
It’s important to remember the large part the human body itself plays in wound healing, Rodgers said.
“Only a body can heal. I can’t build new tissue in a wound,” she said. “I cannot build new skin on a patient. I cannot build a new epidermis, dermis, granulation tissue. But I can facilitate an environment for that body, to help the body do what it does best.”
Nurses are essential to the healthcare paradigm, Rodgers said. They put appropriate dressings on, make sure there’s no infection, remove dead tissue, and more, she added. The role they play in getting patients where they need to be is so important, and that’s why they’re “facilitators of healing.”
Wound care nurses play a vital role in health care. They create an environment of support and trust and work alongside patients to help them think more critically about their treatment. Using education as a tool, they empower patients to self-manage their care. From their expertise to their compassion, wound care nurses cultivate an environment that ultimately enhances the quality of life for their patients.
“I am so glad that I chose the path of becoming a nurse,” Rodgers said. “I love taking care of people. I love seeing progress. I love seeing things heal. And I think that’s one reason why wound care specifically was a natural fit.”
If you’re interested in learning more about wound care nursing, explore our catalog of continuing education (CE) courses.