Growing Nova Scotia’s team of wound care experts

Chris Reade and Debbie Burris

Last winter, Chris Reade’s doctor told him that he would likely lose part of his foot due to an infected wound. Now, more than a year and four months later, he is relieved this was prevented, thanks to the wound care he is receiving through the ambulatory care clinic at Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro.

“I never knew this clinic existed,” says Chris. “I’ve had excellent care – they look after me.”

Chris has had diabetes for 14 years and the wound is a complication of the disease. His job keeps him on his feet making it difficult for the wound to heal. He visits the clinic every few days for treatment, with periodic check-ins with a surgeon to monitor the progress.

This year, hundreds of Nova Scotians like Chris will require wound care after surgery, due to an injury or because they have one-time or ongoing wounds caused by other problems like heart disease, diabetes, or poor mobility.

These wounds can be very painful and can take many weeks or months to heal.  Left untreated or poorly managed, they can result in serious and even life-threatening infections or amputations.

Some patients receive treatment through home care,  their family doctor, a primary care office or  ambulatory care clinic; others are hospitalized, face longer than expected stays in hospital, or admission to a nursing home. 

While wounds can be a common problem, wound care is a specialized area of health care. Not all wounds are the same and there are certain dressings and medications that have been shown to work best on some types of wounds.

It is important for health care workers to understand when to use each product and how to use them to get the best results for patients, but many care providers have not received formal education in advanced wound care.  Nursing leaders in northern Nova Scotia are hoping to change that. They have teamed up with the Canadian Association of Wound Care to offer a customized workshop on advanced wound care in Truro next month.

The program includes two online sessions that participants complete ahead of time, followed by an intense two day workshop in Truro on May 14-15 that will involve local nurses as facilitators. 

“Ideally we would have care providers throughout our facilities and programs who are able to see patients quickly and help create a custom treatment plan, but with only a small number of nurses trained in advanced wound care this doesn’t always happen as quickly as we want,” says Debbie Burris, director of clinical practice transformation co-site-leader for Colchester East Hants Health Centre.

“By bringing the experts to us with these workshops we’re able to grow our own local team of experts to improve care for our patients and help them share this knowledge with their peers.”

More than 50 people have registered for the event from Colchester, Cumberland, East Hants and Pictou communities and beyond. They include nurses, physicians, nurse practitioners, occupational therapists and other care providers from hospitals, nursing homes, home care, First Nations’ heath centres, private foot care clinics and other community organizations.

The workshops line up with the recommendations of a provincial wound care strategy created last year aimed at ensuring consistent, reliable and affordable wound care services for Nova Scotians.