Pictured above: Donna Martin, RN, CWON; Amanda Collins, RN; Crystal Todd, RN; Charles “Jack” Arnold, MD; Layne Hazel, PD; Jordan Wright, front office coordinator.
The COVID-19 pandemic has done little to thwart the passion and dedication of countless healthcare professionals, and wound care is no exception. Here, Layne Hazel, Program Director at the Clark Regional Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, shares her thoughts on choosing wound care as a career, caring for patients, and dealing with a pandemic both personally and professionally.
Q: You’ve been involved with wound care for many years. What drew you to it?
A: Many people who work in wound care will tell you it’s a calling. I know that’s true for me. My first job out of college, nearly three decades ago, was working for a dermatologist who specialized in wound care. We treated people from all walks of life, including Holocaust survivors who were struggling with non-healing wounds. When you treat wound care patients, you see them so often that you know a lot about their history, and they become like family. To see them from the first visit to being completely healed is incredibly rewarding.
Q: How has COVID-19 changed how your program operates?
A: The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything, including the wound care industry. Our wound center was at risk of being closed down with other “non-essential” departments, and my patients and team were very concerned. The biggest worry was that they’d end up in the ER with an infection, and possibly lose a foot or a lower limb. That would be the worst thing because the quality of life suffers tremendously. And so, we quickly implemented additional protocols focused on the health & safety of our patients and team, including pre-appointment screenings and telemedicine consultations.
Q: Are wound care patients hesitant to come in for appointments?
A: We initially had some pushback and cancellations at the beginning of the pandemic, and we worked very hard to implement health & safety measures to keep everyone safe – patients and team. When we informed our patients about the safety measures, it gave them a degree of comfort and they gradually started coming back in for treatment. They know they are more than “just patients” to us.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted patient volume?
A: After an initial slowdown, our patients have missed coming in, and most of them have returned. Today, our clinic is actually pretty busy. We are still getting new patient referrals, and we have more hyperbaric oxygen therapy patients than ever before.
Q: How does a rural hospital wound center compare to a major metro clinic?
A: I’ve worked in hospitals of all sizes, and University and metropolitan hospitals definitely serve a purpose, but you just don’t get the personalized care that rural hospitals give you. The training, for all intents and purposes, is the same. Many doctors study at large universities and then work and raise their families in rural communities. Our wound center sees a large population from Eastern Kentucky. They are extremely family-oriented and deep-rooted in their faith and standards. We get to know them, and we treat each other like family. Some patients tell us when they have visited large hospitals in big cities, they feel like a number. That’s not true here.
Q: How has the pandemic changed things for you personally?
A: Being in quarantine, you realize all of the things you take for granted, especially the little things. Sitting with a patient and talking about their lives and their families is still one of my favorite things to do. Many of them feel isolated, especially now. For my own family, it hasn’t been easy. My parents spend the winter in Florida, and I drive them back to Kentucky each year. This year, that isn’t happening. It’s been hard on all of us. On the good side, I’ve been able to spend a lot more quality time with my husband and children. Before the pandemic, we were busy as bees, eating on the run, moving quickly in different directions, and going through the motions. We didn’t really get to sit down together for any quality time. This time together has been a blessing.