Our wound care nurse unexpectedly went on medical leave, which left us struggling to fill her role. How can we prevent this from happening again?

Many providers rely on a wound care nurse to oversee their skin integrity program. However, many find themselves scrambling when the wound nurse goes on vacation, gets ill or leaves. Designating a nurse to oversee the wound care program helps with consistency. But there should be backup. 

Therefore, it is important all your licensed nurses understand they must be actively involved with the skin integrity program because no one nurse can be there 24/7. The wound care nurse should be the nurses’ resource, providing support for the skin integrity program, not bearing sole responsibility. How you position the wound care nurse is important. Title him or her wound care “coordinator” or wound care “resource.” 

When performing wound rounds, the floor nurses should be participating. This allows the wound care coordinator to provide bedside teaching on how to assess, stage and measure the wound. It also enables education on what treatment and interventions are being utilized and what clinical outcomes to expect. This way, if the wound is not responding to the interventions as expected, the floor nurse will know to notify the wound care coordinator. Over time, the goal is for the floor nurses to have the ability to assess the wound and understand the proper interventions. This will help provide adequate coverage in case the wound care coordinator is not in the facility. 

Another consideration instead of having a single wound care coordinator is to utilize the nurse managers. They can round as a team on each of the other units. So if a nurse manager is off, the other nurse managers will still round on their residents. I also recommend you still have the floor nurses participate.