Wound Care Nursing: An Alternative Career Path for Nurses
According to The Association For The Advancement Of Wound Care (AAWC), “More people are living with a chronic wound than with breast, colon, and lung cancers, and leukemia combined.” Moreover, the prevalence of leg ulcers in the US ranges between 500,000 and one million, and over 1% of the population has or has had a venous leg ulcer.
Yet, the AAWC also notes that while pressure ulcers have a 15% prevalence, at least 95% of them are preventable. Diabetic ulcers are not much different. While 16% of them will lead to an amputation, most are preventable.
Information like this indicates that there is a tremendous need for nurses who are educated in wound care. Utilizing various techniques to assess, treat, and care for patients with wounds, wound care nurses work with the doctor and care team to determine if other treatments like surgery or antibiotics are necessary. Wound care nurses also offer education to patients and their caretakers about caring for wounds, reducing their incidence, and preventing further complications. Here are five ways in which becoming a wound care specialist can help nurses.
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Market Trends In Wound Care Nursing
According to the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) National Diabetes Statistics Report, 34.2 million, or 10.5% of the US population, have diabetes. Further, 88 million or 34.5 % of the US population 18 years or older have prediabetes. The CDC also notes that the cases of type 1 and type diabetes continue to rise.
As more people become diabetic and possibly bedridden, they also become more at risk for pressure ulcers and diabetic amputations. While the National Institutes of Health describe chronic wounds as a significant and often underappreciated burden to the individual, they also impose a burden on the healthcare system and society. Nurses who are wound care specialists stay abreast of the evolving market trends and meet the demand for wound care specialists.
Advance Employment Outlook
Treating chronic wounds requires a variety of techniques, such as debridement, cleaning, bandaging. Moreover, effective wound management involves working with the doctor and care team to determine if other treatments like surgery or antibiotics are necessary. Because additional training and techniques are required to effectively treat chronic wounds and improve their outcome, nurses who specialize in wound care significantly improve their employment outlook.
Improve Patient Outcomes
Complications of chronic wounds, such as cellulitis and infective venous eczema, gangrene, hemorrhage, and lower-extremity amputations, can worsen outcomes. In a sort of vicious cycle, chronic wounds can lead to disability, and disability worsens wound outcomes. In the case of amputation, the prognosis is also not positive. The CDC states that after an amputation, 13-40% of people will die within a year, and 39-80% within five years. For comparison, 5-year mortality for all cancers is 34.2%. Nurses who are educated in how to treat chronic wounds, therefore, can significantly improve patient outcomes.
Reduce Hospital Stay
The NCBI describes chronic wounds as those that, after eight weeks, do not show any signs of healing. This includes venous leg ulcers, pressure ulcers, and complex wounds. Chronic wounds are those that do not progress through normal, orderly, and timely healing. As such, according to American Family Physician, they are common and are often incorrectly treated. This leads to an increased hospital stay. By understanding how to treat chronic wounds correctly and effectively, nurses can significantly reduce patient hospital stays.
Because chronic wounds are inherently hard to manage and may require and coordinated effort by a multidisciplinary team, they pose a patient at a greater risk for rehospitalization. This may occur as the wound fails to heal correctly, or should the patient and caregiver lack the necessary education needed to improve wound healing. According to woundsound.com, patient education and caregiver involvement are critical components in wound healing and ultimately improving patient outcomes. When wounds heal correctly, rehospitalization rates are dramatically reduced. By becoming educated in wound care, nurses can help improve wound care management and reduce rehospitalization rates.
The rates of chronic wounds are increasing rapidly, as is the rate of people at risk of developing a chronic wound. Through becoming specialized in the care of wounds, nurses meet market trends, advance employment outlook, improve patient outcomes, reduce hospital stay, and prevent rehospitalization.
About The Author
Claire Nana, LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in post-traumatic growth, optimal performance, and wellness. She has written over thirty continuing education courses on a variety of topics including nutrition, mental health, wound care, and post-traumatic stress.
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