June is Wound Healing Awareness Month, an important time to raise awareness for individuals whose daily lives are affected by chronic wounds. Some common challenges they face include persistent pain, immobility, insomnia, and depression. Considering a 2018 study, it's surprising to learn that approximately 8.2 million Medicare recipients struggle with chronic, non-healing wounds. At Interim HealthCare of the Upstate and Midlands, 35% to 45% of our patients require wound care services. Our goal is to help them reclaim their quality of life.
Katie Hoffmann, RN, CWCN, is our wound care program manager and has worked in the home health field for over sixteen years. In a recent conversation, we asked Katie a few questions about wound care and what we're doing to ensure our patients have the best chance of healing. Keep reading to learn more!
Q: Can you explain how Interim’s wound care program benefits patients and caregivers?
KH: One of the key benefits of our program is that it provides a comprehensive education for our clinicians, leading to a trickle-down effect for our patients. This means our nurses are fully equipped to explain and teach what they’ve learned to our patients and their caregivers. Patients gain a deeper understanding of the healing process, methods to enhance their care, and what to look for and report. Armed with this knowledge, patients and caregivers can better manage their wounds between visits, potentially averting complications and expediting the healing process.
Building a foundation of clear and active communication is equally important as educating our patients. Patients are encouraged to reach out to us between visits to discuss any wound changes, which can help reduce the risk of complications. We strive to create a nurturing environment of open communication where our patients feel heard, cared for, and empowered on their path to healing.
Through properly educating and communicating, we can better personalize a care plan tailored to each patient’s unique circumstances. Beyond wound care, we look for how to support a patient's overall health, lifestyle, and personal preferences. Recently, one of our patients let us know she was upset about regularly missing her Sunday church services due to persistent, heavily draining wounds. After implementing a revised care plan to include biweekly dressing changes and more appropriate wound care products, she could finally return to church. Our goal is to improve the quality of life for our patients, so anytime we can achieve that goal with a few simple changes, it’s a win!
Q: Based on your experience, what aspects of wound care do you see patients and caregivers commonly struggle with?
- Wound dressings - Many patients and caregivers still believe wounds need to “get air,” but this is a common misconception. The truth is a dry cell is a dead cell, which ultimately prevents wound healing. It’s typically best to keep your dressing in place and use products that can provide moist wound healing. Keeping your dressing in place prevents bacteria from invading an open wound, decreasing the chance of infection.
- Proper nutrition - Getting the right nutrition is a crucial factor that encourages the wound healing process. However, many patients don’t fully understand the significant role nutrition can play in their wound care treatment. Part of our patient education is ensuring they know which foods have enough protein, vitamin C, zinc, and amino acids—essential nutrients for healing.
- Glycemic control - Our diabetic patients are taught to monitor and manage their glucose levels properly, as elevated blood sugars can drastically stall the healing process and increase the risk of complications. It’s also important for these patients to do regular self-checks for any minor cuts or blisters, particularly on their feet. Ensuring they have appropriate diabetic shoes or orthotics and are educated in diabetic foot care helps us to be proactive and is the key to prevention.
Q: How important is proper wound care training for home health nurses?
KH: Having specialized training and certified staff is vital to appropriately assess and care for our patients. Our nurses are trained in a wide range of skills, such as identifying stages of pressure ulcers, knowing the most appropriate products to use, applying compression wraps and wound vacs, and much more. Nurses are typically given very little wound care training in school, and hospitals usually have wound teams, which can further limit hands-on experience. At Interim, we ensure each nurse-in-training has a supervisor when doing hands-on wound care with patients in homes.
We believe it’s also essential for our clinicians to see beyond the technical aspects of wound care and look at each person holistically. Dr. Robert Klein, Chair of the Division of Wound Care for Prisma Health in the Upstate, recently presented case studies on some of Interim HealthCare’s patients. His approach to care is exactly how we strive to treat our patients. He said, “You must treat the whole patient and not the hole in the patient.” It’s an excellent reminder of the importance of looking at more than just the wound itself but the bigger picture. For instance, therapists or medical social workers can assist with improving a patient’s mobility, addressing hygiene concerns, or setting the patient up with a community resource like Meals on Wheels. Together, each care team member plays a valuable role in overall healing.
Q: How is Interim’s wound care training evolving?
KH: We’re proud to have recently launched our Wound Treatment Associate (WTA) program, allowing us to establish a team of certified wound care clinicians. Our WTA program is the only one in the state! By equipping our nurses with additional education, we’re confident in our patients' healing journeys and overall satisfaction levels.
In addition, we have plans to eventually extend the WTA program's availability to our medical community partners outside of Interim HealthCare. As a course host site, we’re thrilled to offer this opportunity to other dedicated nurses in our community! Our vision is to foster enhanced wound care practices beyond Interim, benefiting patients across various medical settings in the Upstate and Midlands.
At Interim HealthCare of the Upstate and Midlands, we understand and value the importance of quality wound care treatment and prevention. If you’re interested in learning more about our wound care program and how we might help you, we invite you to click the link below and connect with us:
About Katie Hoffmann: Katie began her nursing career in oncology and worked in the bone marrow transplant unit in Charleston, SC. She was trained at MUSC, is certified through the WOCN society, has worked in home health for the last sixteen years, and has been with Interim HealthCare since 2020. Katie has spent most of her home health career performing wound consultations and training new staff. She’s honored to oversee the Interim HealthCare of the Upstate and Midlands’ wound care program and patients.