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Knowing when to ask for help

As a wound care expert, you’re probably consulted for every eruption, scrape, and opening in a patient’s skin. Occasionally during a patient assessment, you may scratch your head and ask yourself, “What is this? I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Most wound care experts want to help heal everyone, and most of us love a challenge. But when should we step back and consider referring the patient to another clinician? (more…)

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Practicing emotional intelligence may help reduce lateral violence

It’s been a stressful day at work—nothing new. One confused patient pulled off her ostomy bag, you’re having difficulties applying negative-pressure wound therapy on another, and a third patient’s family is

angry with you. We all experience stressful days, but unfortunately, sometimes we take our stress out on each other. Too often, this ineffective way of identifying and managing stress leads nurses to engage in lateral violence. (more…)

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Helping Sandwich Generation nurses find a work-life balance

By Kari Olson Finnegan, BSN, and Liz Ferron, MSW, LICSW

If you have at least one parent age 65 or older and are raising children or financially supporting a child age 18 or older, you’re part of the Sandwich Generation. Coined in 1981 by social worker Dorothy Miller, the term originally referred to women, generally in their 30s and 40s, who were “sandwiched” between young kids, spouses, employers, and aging parents. While the underlying concept remains the same, over time the definition has expanded to include men and to encompass a larger age range, reflecting the trends of delayed childbearing, grown children moving back home, and elderly parents living longer. The societal phenomenon of the Sandwich Generation increasingly is linked to higher levels of stress and financial uncertainty, as well as such downstream effects as depression and greater health impacts in caregivers. (more…)

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Helping ostomates and amputees adapt to their new circumstances

By Rosalyn Jordan, BSN, MSc, RN, CWOCN, WCC

In most cases, amputation (removal of an extremity, digit, or other body part) is a surgical intervention performed to remove tissue affected by a disease and, in some cases, to provide pain relief. Fecal and urinary diversion surgeries also are considered amputations. Amputations and fecal or urinary diversions (ostomies) require extensive rehabilitation and adaptation to a new way of life, with physiologic and psychological impacts. Although diversions and ostomies usually are less visible to others than other types of amputations, they call for similar patient education, rehabilitatio n, and lifelong counseling.
The primary goal of therapy for ostomates and amputees is to resume their presurgical lifestyle to the greatest extent possible and to adapt to their new circumstances. Preoperative assessment and training interventions have proven valuable. Having a clear understanding of the surgical intervention helps reduce postoperative anxiety and depression, which can pose roadblocks to patients’ adaptation or response to their new situation. Successful interventions should be done by healthcare professionals who are trained in caring for ostomates and amputees.
Ostomates and amputees experience similar psychosocial challenges, body-
image problems, and sexuality concerns. This article focuses on these three issues. For a summary of other issues these patients may experience, see Other problems amputees and ostomates may face by clicking the PDF icon above.

Psychosocial challenges

Ostomates and amputees may experience depression, anxiety, fear, and many other concerns related to the surgical procedure—concerns that center on whether they’ll be able to resume their presurgical lifestyle. Many worry about social isolation and loss of income. Some fear both the primary disease process and the lifestyle changes induced by surgery. Anxiety may impede their social interactions and lead to significant psychological problems. Appropriate and effective counseling and therapy must be planned and provided. (But be aware that untrained or inexperienced healthcare professionals may not be able to provide the guidance the patient needs to feel comfortable; some may be unable even to offer information about available support systems.)
These patients also may find themselves socially isolated, in part due to loss of employment or the socioeconomic consequences of a decreased income. Some experience fear and worry when anticipating lifestyle changes caused by loss in or change of function, adaptation to the prosthesis, and treatment costs.
Maintaining social contact after surgery is extremely important to recovery and adaptation to the amputation or ostomy. The United Ostomy Associations of America and the Amputee Coalition encourage patients to maintain social involvement. Both groups suggest patients discuss their feelings, thoughts, and fears with a trusted family member, friend, or partner. Both organizations sponsor and encourage support-group involvement. In some cases, emotional support from other amputees or ostomates with a similar experience may be appropriate; some patients may be more comfortable sharing thoughts and asking questions in a group of people with similar experiences. Resuming presurgical social events and activities can enhance patients’ adaptation to a new way of life.

Help your patient find a support group at the website of the United Ostomy Associations of America:

Body-image problems

Ostomates and amputees have to cope not only with changes in physical appearance but with how their body functions and how they feel and perceive their body. They’re keenly aware of their changed appearance and are concerned about others’ perceptions of them. They may feel anxious and depressed related to body image; the degree of anxiety and depression may relate directly to their presurgical body image and activities. Many become anxious and fearful as they adapt to the prosthesis. (See Stages of grief by clicking the PDF icon above.)
Compared to amputees, ostomates may have more concerns about body image with sexual partners, because the stoma is, in a sense, a hidden amputation. In most cases, the stoma and pouch can be obscured visually from others. The amputee, on the other hand, has fewer options for hiding the missing body part.
To help patients cope with body-image problems, care providers must offer education, therapy, and counseling to help the patient accept and successfully adapt to the body-image change. The first step in this process may simply be to have the patient look at the stoma or stump, progressing to participation in prosthesis care.

Sexuality concerns

Many ostomates and amputees have difficulty resuming sexual activity after surgery. Although the stoma usually remains hidden from others, it’s observable to the ostomate and sex partner. Most patients require an adjustment period before they feel comfortable with a sex partner. They may fear that:
• the partner will reject them or no longer find them attractive
• they will experience loss of function and sensation
• they will experience pain or injury of the stoma.

They also may feel embarrassed, causing them to avoid sex. However, counselors can help couples discuss these concerns and resume a satisfactory sexual relationship. Ostomates and amputees and their partners may need counseling to resume a satisfactory sexual relationship. If they continue to have adjustment difficulties, referral to a trained sex counselor or psychologist may be indicated. Several studies show that appropriate counseling can help prevent complications and allow amputees and ostomates to continue to express their affection physically. (See Talking to patients about sexual problems by clicking the PDF icon above.)
Resuming sexual activity may be easier if the ostomate or amputee had a sex partner before surgery. However, males who experience postsurgical erectile dysfunction are less likely than other males to resume sexual activity. Counseling encourages postsurgical patients to focus more on the pleasurable feelings they and their partners feel, rather than on sexual performance. Body-image problems and inadequate sexual adjustment go hand in hand. (See Helping ostomates resume sex by clicking the PDF icon above.)

Team approach to patient education and counseling

In many parts of the country, a designated healthcare team manages amputees’ care and rehabilitation. But until recently, nurses were the only professionals certified to participate in ostomates’ care and rehabilitation. In fact, ostomates may represent a significant underserved population. A 2012 study found many ostomy patients didn’t receive consistent training and counseling from ostomy certified nurses. Only 13% of respondents reported they had regular visits with an ostomy certified nurse; 32% said they’d never received care from an ostomy nurse. Just over half (56%) indicated they saw an ostomy nurse when they thought it was necessary. The study also reported that 57% hadn’t seen an ostomy certified nurse in more than 1 year.
A team with specialized training to address ostomates’ physical and psychosocial needs might be able to provide the specialized care these patients need. The primary medical caregiver or general practitioner would serve as team leader and make appropriate referrals. The team should include a surgeon, ostomy- and amputee-trained nurses, a prosthetist or other healthcare provider trained in selection and fitting of prosthetic equipment and devices that affect function, a physical therapist, an occupational therapist, a social worker, a vocational counselor, a psychologist, caregiver or family members, support groups, and (last but not least) the patient.
The team approach might reduce hospital stays and promote patients’ return to their home environment. It also might encourage independence and enhance the success of long-term adaptation.

Focus on the future

Healthcare providers should encourage ostomates and amputees to focus on the future, not the past. Feeling comfortable with the prosthesis—the amputee’s artificial limb or the ostomate’s pouching system—is essential to adapting to a “new normal” way of life. Maintaining social relationships is important to adaptation as well. Mastering basic skills and adapting to changes in body function help improve the patient’s quality of life. Follow-up visits, phone contact, and access to a team of well-trained healthcare providers for patient education, rehabilitation, and long-term management are crucial to these patients’ successful adaptation and quality of life.

Selected references
Bhuvaneswar CG, Epstein LA, Stern TA. Reactions to amputation: recognition and treatment. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry. 2007;9(4):303-8.

Bishop M. Quality of life and psychosocial adaptation to chronic illness and acquired disability: a conceptual and theoretical synthesis. J Rehabil. 2005 Apr.…-a0133317579. Accessed December 20, 2012.

Davidson T, Laberge M. Amputation. Gale Encyclopedia of Surgery: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers. 2004. Accessed December 20, 2012.

Erwin-Toth P, Thompson SJ, Davis JS. Factors impacting the quality of life of people with an ostomy in North America: results from the Dialogue Study. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2012;39(4):417-22.

Houston S. Body image, relationships and sexuality after amputation. First Step: A Guide for Adapting to Limb Loss. 2005;4.
. Accessed December 20, 2012.

Maguire P, Parkes CM. Surgery and loss of body parts. BMJ. 1998;316(7137):1086-8.

Pittman J, Kozell K, Gray M. Should WOC nurses measure health-related quality of life in patients undergoing intestinal ostomy surgery? J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2009;36(3):254- 65.

Pittman J. Characteristics of the patient with an ostomy. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs. 2011;38(3):271-9.

Racy JC. Psychological adaptation to amputation. In Bowker JH, Michael JW, ed. Atlas of Limb Prosthetics: Surgical, Prosthetic, and Rehabilitation Principles. 2nd ed. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons; 1998.

Tunn PU, Pomraenke D, Goerling U, Hohenberger P. Functional outcome after endoprosthetic limb-salvage therapy of primary bone tumours—a comparative analysis using the MSTS score, the TESS and the RNL index. Int Orthop. 2008;32(5):619-25.

Turnbull G. Intimacy After Ostomy Surgery Guide. United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. Revised 2009. Accessed December 20, 2012.

Turnbull G. Sexuality after ostomy surgery. Ostomy Wound Manage. 2006;52(3):14,16.

United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. From US to YOU: living with an ostomy, the experience. Accessed December 20, 2012.

United Ostomy Associations of America, Inc. What is an ostomy?
. Accessed December 20, 2012.

Rosalyn Jordan is director of clinical education at RecoverCare, LLC, in
Louisville, Kentucky.

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Breaking silos: Effective wound healing means treatment across the continuum

Around 6.5 million patients in the U.S. suffer from chronic wounds, such as pressure injuries or ulcers. Treatment costs $25 billion each year, representing a sizable and growing problem. Despite the wide impact of chronic wounds, it’s rare to see specialized, effective wound care delivered across the care continuum.

A chronic non-healing wound is a surrogate marker for illness. These patients require holistic management of their co-morbidities and continuity across care settings.

Despite this, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on treating wounds as singular events, managed topically with expensive dressings and support surfaces. This is only a small part of wound healing.

As a physician focused solely on wound care, I have learned that we must shift the focus from simply treating the wound to treating the wounded patient. The impact in the post-acute care setting in particular is worthy of evaluation and discussion, as up to 29% of patients in long-term care facilities will experience a pressure ulcer, posing serious legal, financial, and staffing implications.

For those providers working outside long-term care, there is little understanding of challenges facing LTC providers. Acute providers do not often ask, for example, how are my LTC partners reimbursed? How are they staffed? What are the requirements and regulatory pressures they face? Asking these questions would facilitate a more productive dialogue with a focus on collaborative prevention, rather than waiting until a chronic wound occurs in the LTC setting.

Creating an integrated wound care community

To address the needs of the present and growing population of patients with chronic wounds, Healogics developed an integrated wound care community model, to coordinate the wound healing process across all care settings. The program utilizes Healogics Specialty Physicians, a subspecialty group of physicians and providers with extensive training solely focused on wound care.

HSPs provide expert inpatient consultation and ensure safe transition of patients out of the hospital into the appropriate care setting. Because HSPs see the patient regardless of post-discharge venue, patients receive the same quality of care whether they are going home, to a skilled-nursing, assisted living, or LTC setting. Because chronic wounds are surrogate markers for illness, we have realized it’s essential to have an integrated, multi-setting, and multi-disciplinary process to treat the patient and their co-morbidities.

Data collected at a pilot IWCC site in the Midwestern U.S. from 2014 to 2016 revealed very positive trends for chronic wound patients. In the acute care setting, the average length of stay decreased from 9.41 days to 5.64 days, and total cost of care per patient was reduced from $10,670 to $7,248.

We’re excited by these promising results, which were revealed at the American College of Wound Healing and Tissue Repair Conference last December. We look forward to refining and expanding the model by helping our partners in acute and LTC settings standardize their practices, use evidence-based clinical guidelines, mobilize technologies and processes, and pay critical attention to patient safety and value-based outcomes.

When it comes to wound healing, no venue of care should operate alone—an integrated solution that creates continuity for the patient is critical. There are four things LTC facilities can do to break down the silos:

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Empowering patients to play an active role in pressure ulcer prevention

Developing a pressure ulcer can cause the patient pain, lead to social isolation, result in reduced mobility, and can even be fatal. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, estimated costs for each pressure ulcer range from $37,800 to $70,000, and the total annual cost of pressure ulcers in the United States is an estimated $11 billion.

Nurses understand their role in preventing pressure ulcers, but what role do patients play in the prevention plan? Nurses need to empower the patient to be an active member in health promotion activities and participate in prevention measures. In this article, I highlight the importance of incorporating pressure ulcer prevention into patient education for high-risk patients as a way to empower patients. Empowered patients can help improve outcomes and reduce overall costs of this hospital-acquired complication. (more…)

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Seeing healthcare from a new perspective

By: Donna Sardina, RN, MHA, WCC, CWCMS, DWC, OMS

As healthcare clinicians, our world is full of tasks to be completed. Some are new, but many are tasks we repeat every day and thus have become routine—things we could almost do in our sleep.

But what’s routine for us may not be routine for our patients. For some patients, these routine tasks of ours may be their first encounter with a healthcare situation. (more…)

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Clinician Resources: NPUAP, Pressure Ulcer Treatment, NIOSH

PDF-iconThe resources below will help you address issues in your practice.


NPUAP position statement on hand check for bottoming out

Use of the hand check to determine “bottoming out” of support systems should be limited to static air overlay mattresses, according to a position statement from the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP). (more…)

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Finding common ground: Surviving wound care communication

By Jennifer Oakley, BS, RN, WCC, DWC, OMS

The author describes how to overcome challenges to effective communication in the healthcare setting.

Accurate communication among healthcare professionals can spell the difference between patient safety and patient harm. Communication can be a challenge, especially when done electronically. With an e-mail or a text, you can’t hear the other person’s voice or see the body language, so it’s easy to misinterpret the words. (more…)

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Translating the language of health care

By Catherine E. Chung, PhD, RN, CNE, WCC

As a wound care clinician, you teach patients about medications, wound treatments, the plan of care, symptoms of complications, wound physiology—you teach a lot. And most patients probably smile and nod when you ask, “Do you understand?” However, health literacy research has shown that only 12% of the U.S. population is fluent in the language of health care. As health care has become increasingly complex, it has become increasingly difficult for patients to understand. Fortunately for your patient, you can translate. (more…)

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Education vital for successful wound management in the home

By Judy Bearden, MSN/ED, RN

Changes in healthcare policy and reimbursement are pushing treatment from the hospital to the community. This shift is likely to result in a higher number of complex wounds being treated in the home, which can create stress for patients and families. Education plays a key role in reducing this stress. This article focuses on education for family members or friends who are caregivers for the patient. (more…)

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You want to touch me where?

By Debra Clair, PhD, APRN, WOCN, WCC, DWC

Providing wound care requires a great deal of knowledge and skill. To become a wound care nurse entails taking classes, gaining and maintaining certifications, and acquiring on-the-job experience. But despite your education, knowledge, skills, and certifications, you may encounter problems when wound care requires you to touch the patient in a sensitive or embarrassing area. Touching the patient in these areas is called intimate touch. (more…)

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