This is a guest post by Mendy McIntosh, RN, BSN, WCC. OMS. Mendy is the program director at Clark Memorial Hospital in Jeffersonville, Indiana
NATIONAL NURSES WEEK BEGINS EACH YEAR ON MAY 6 AND ENDS ON MAY 12, FLORENCE NIGHTINGALE’S BIRTHDAY
Since I became a Registered Nurse 14 years ago, I’ve worked in every facet of the hospital system. During the first few years of my nursing career, I learned that it wasn’t at all what I expected it to be. I asked myself, many times, why I chose this profession.
My expectation was that I’d have more direct patient contact as I spent time with them, took care of them, and got to know them. I thought that, at the end of the day, I’d leave work feeling like I made a difference in someone’s life. What I didn’t expect was the constant stress of trying to balance patient care with all of the administrative duties that were constantly being added to my plate. The stress and demand a nurse undergoes on a daily basis, from all aspects, often goes unnoticed. And, for me, the lack of time with the patients was a dealbreaker. I would frequently cry about it, thinking that I’d made a terrible mistake. I was at a point where I was contemplating changing my career.
Then, one day, an opportunity presented itself. I learned that Clark Memorial Hospital was about to open a new service line – a wound care program – and they were looking for a wound care nurse. I’ve always been intrigued by pimples, boils, wounds, etc. If there was a skin laceration that needed attention, I was first in line to treat it. When I found out about that job opening, I was ecstatic! I immediately knew that I wanted to pursue the opportunity.
I had my Registered Nurse license, but didn’t have wound care experience. I applied, anyway, and much to my surprise, I was offered the position! Shortly after I started, I was sent for wound care training and received my certification. I was so excited to be on this new journey and career path. What I didn’t know at the beginning was how much I would love it.
Being a wound care nurse is very different from being any other kind of nurse. You have to be interested in wounds, eager to look at them, and you can’t mind getting your hands on them. Some wounds are very difficult to reach, and they can have a very foul odor. In addition, proper assessment and documentation are essential, along with a thorough understanding of the underlying etiology of the wounds. It’s a highly specialized field and requires ongoing training, tremendous skill, a lot of patience (wounds do take a while to heal, after all), and a great deal of compassion.
Working every day in a wound care clinic gives me a chance to get to know the patients who come in for treatment. It’s what my vision of nursing has always been: getting to know my patients while taking care of them. Most of them return once a week for continued wound care, so during their visits, I get to know them very well. I learn about their lives, their families, how many children and/or grandchildren they have, what celebrations they were a part of since their last visit, what vacation they’re about to take, and how it went after they return. I’ve grown close to many of our patients and their families over the months and years. I’ve laughed with them in their highest and happiest moments, and cried with them in their lowest and saddest ones. They’ve become so much like family that when the time comes and they are discharged due to the healing of their wound(s), it truly is bittersweet. I am so happy to see their healing, but equally sad to see them go.
The team I work with on a daily basis is nothing short of amazing. It’s like an extended family. We each play an important role in our patient’s lives when they come in for their appointments, and we like to think that our patients feel as if they are a part of our extended family, too. We have patients that come back to visit us after they’re wounds have healed, just to say hi and share what’s going on in their lives. We really enjoy that.
When Clark Memorial Hospital’s Wound Care Program began we employed myself and one other RN, and an administrative assistant. We treated an average of 30 patients each week. At that time, the insurance companies and CMS were not as restrictive on requirements for outpatient wound care as they are now.
Over the last decade, our patient population has dramatically increased and the need for specialized care continues to grow. There’s also a tremendous increase in comorbidities, particularly diabetes and vascular insufficiency and, in turn, more scrutiny in terms of proper documentation.
Today, we see nearly three times more patients than we did when I started: an average of 85 patients a week. Many have highly complicated, difficult-to-heal wounds. Fortunately, there are more advanced treatment modalities available to aid in wound healing than ever before. The wound care industry has grown by leaps and bounds, and so has the number of Certified Wound Care Nurses. This is extremely beneficial for all involved, including the patients, providers, and insurance companies.
Because of the amazing professional support system that Wound Care Advantage (WCA) has provided, I’ve become quite adept at learning and understanding how to assess wounds, treat them, and help our patients heal. I’ve also learned the importance of proper documentation and the power of marketing to the local community. In addition to serving as a wound care nurse, I now have a dual role as the program director at our clinic. A heartfelt “thank you” to everyone at WCA for their guidance.
In conclusion, did I mention that I absolutely love wound care?! I cannot think of any other profession I would rather be in. Being able to see the end result of something you started and building close relationships in the process…there just isn’t anything much better than that! It truly is a rewarding field to be in, and I’m very grateful that I found it.