Every year, nearly one million Americans develop at least one chronic wound, which is a wound that doesn’t heal within three months. As the clinical nurse manager at Newton Home Health, Newton Medical Center’s (NMC) home health agency, Samantha Leinbach, RN, has seen an increase in the number of home health patients who suffer from chronic wounds.
“I would estimate that over half of our patients have a wound of some kind,” said Leinbach. “We perform wound care on a daily basis, and numbers are continually rising.”
According to Leinbach, it is becoming increasingly common for patients to suffer from chronic wounds due to comorbidities, such as diabetes and heart disease. She goes on to clarify that the interactions between multiple diseases can complicate the healing process.
“I believe there are two major factors to explain why numbers are rising,” explains Leinbach. “First, patients are waiting too long to seek treatment for wounds, so by the time they do get help, the path to healing is much longer and complicated. And secondly, morbid obesity, which significantly impedes wound healing, is a common comorbid medical condition that we come across in home health.”
However, home health patients aren’t the only ones with increased comorbidities.
“Most of our patients suffer from other comorbidities, such as diabetes, venous insufficiency, dementia and advanced age,” said Kim Harris, RN, CWCA, nurse manager at NMC’s Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center. “This can mean an increase in susceptibility to infection, which can severely hinder wound healing and cause the wounds to become chronic.”
Since opening in July 2010, the Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center sees up to 400 patients each month. Those who visit the Wound Center benefit from individualized treatment plans based on the type of wound and its underlying cause. Patients receive the appropriate nutritional, infectious and vascular evaluations with subsequent wound care provided by a team of clinicians specialized in wound care.
Newton Home Health works in conjunction with the Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center, and other wound treatment facilities, to provide the best care for patients. Patients who are able to visit the Wound Center for treatment often employ Newton Home Health to help with at-home wound care. However, for many patients, it’s very difficult, sometimes impossible, to leave their homes. So having a nurse come in and care for them is their best, and sometimes only, option.
As more hospitals create wound care teams, it’s becoming increasingly common for many nurses to lack the training or experience they need to care for wound patients. Though it is a challenge, Leinbach believes incorporating more education focused on wound care is key.
Leinbach leads weekly educational seminars for the staff at Newton Home Health. While the topics vary depending on what they see with their patients, wound care is a prevalent topic. These seminars discuss cutting-edge treatments, how to educate patients and family on wound care and occasionally feature Harris from the Wound Center. While the staff at Newton Home Health is continually educated on advancements in health care, Leinbach decided to take the next step in advancing her own education.
In September, Leinbach received the Janet H. George Memorial Scholarship through the Mid-America Wound Healing Society. The $500 scholarship supports education and the advancement of wound care. Leinbach intends to use that money to further her education in wound care, which could include obtaining wound care certification.
Two fellow nurses at Newton Medical Center have also received this scholarship in the past. Harris obtained her wound care certification, while Natasha Arnold, BSN, RN, also of the Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Center, is in the process of earning her certification, thanks to the assistance provided by the scholarship.
Photo credit: Travis Deurksen