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Published on December 17, 2019

Cape nurses training for superior wound care

WTA Training

Preventing pressure wounds in hospital patients takes skilled physicians and nurses who know what to look for to treat them and how to eliminate the risk. Now, nurses at Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital are gaining new training around the issue – and earning new professional credentials at the same time.

The new Wound Treatment Associate Program saw its first cohort of nurses this past summer, with 13 registered nurses participating in the 12-week online course. The program is offered by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN®) and Cape Cod Hospital is licensed by WOCN to offer the program to CCH and FH nurses.

Becoming credentialed as a Wound Treatment Associate (WTA) gives a nurse the skills to provide evidence-based wound care that meets international standards of care.

“It gives them insight to take every measure to ensure you won’t grow into a wound patient,” said Kathleen Tardy, director of clinical education at Cape Cod Healthcare.

The proposal to start a WTA program at Cape Cod Hospital (CCH) and Falmouth Hospital (FH) was brought to nursing leadership at both hospitals by CCH Certified Wound/Ostomy Nurses Molly Gundlach, BSN, RN, CWOCN and Autumn Knight, BSN, RN, CWCN. Gundlach researched the program and talked to colleagues at other hospitals that currently have the WTA program before bringing it to CCH Chief Nursing Officer Judy Quinn, MSN, RN-BC and FH Chief Nursing Officer Mary Johnson, MSN, RN.

WTA Nurse Leaders

“This flexible educational program allows staff to gain additional training and knowledge to help improve and strengthen our current wound care team,” said Johnson. “These nurses serve as resources to their peers to improve the quality of care to our patients with acute and chronic wounds, as well as assist in the assessment and documentation of skin injuries.”

While CCH has on-site certified WOC nurses, FH does not. Two FH nurses have completed the WTA course and two more are currently enrolled, according to Johnson.

Nurses Taking the Initiative

Nurses who complete the 12-week program earn 32.25 “contact” hours, which are applied to their ongoing education hours required to maintain their license. But the nurses who take the course are more interested in how it helps them care for their patients, said Gundlach.

“We have nurses taking personal initiative to advance their skills,” she said. “They have the most current, relevant best practices at their fingertips.”

Nurses at Cape Cod Hospital are increasingly seeing wounds, particularly among elderly patients, said WTA candidate Jennifer Scola, RN, which is why she signed up for the WTA program.

“(Education like this) is a valuable resource to have on the hospital floor,” added fellow student Jennifer Case, RN.

WTA Group

Can Touch Any Person

The Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality estimates that more than 2.5 million people in the U.S. develop pressure wounds annually. Hospital patients may also arrive with wounds from conditions like diabetes, radiation oncology treatment.

“It’s one of those things that can touch any person,” Gundlach said.

Having a nurse at the bedside who can watch for changes and/or consult and advise the attending physician can improve the outcome for patients, she said.

According to the WOCN Society, WTA nurses learn how to:

  • Implement preventive care per established protocols
  • Implement treatment plans established by the supervising physician, advanced practice nurse or wound/ostomy care nurse
  • Monitor wounds and the patient’s response to the established care plan
  • Explore possibilities for collaborative practice and professional leadership in wound care

The WTA program is open to all registered nurses. Novice RNs in the RN Residency program are encouraged to enroll in the WTA program upon completion of the Residency program, said Gundlach

At the end of the 12-week course, the WTA nurse trainees demonstrate their skills in a one-day live event. Nurses who finish the program have a certificate and are credentialed as a WTA and are then eligible to become a board-certified WTA-C, Gundlach said.

The program is currently available only to registered nurses at CCH and FH but may expand to the Visiting Nurse Association of Cape Cod (VNA), which currently has several certified WOC nurses, Tardy said. Wound patients also receive treatment on an outpatient basis at the Cape Cod Healthcare Wound Centers in Hyannis and Bourne. Gundlach and Knight work closely with case management at CCH about which patients should have follow-up wound care by the VNA or at a Wound Care Center.

Expanding front-line wound care knowledge among nurses will improve the overall quality of hospital care on Cape Cod, said Knight.

The benefits to nurses extend past improving their wound care skills, added Tardy.

“This kind of program benefits patients but empowers nurses for their own self-confidence,” she said.

Right Image (Left to Right): Autumn Knight, Molly Gundlach
Center Image (Left to Right): Jillian King, Jennifer Scola, Jennifer Case, Karin Lopriore, Thomas Edward, Taylor Hellstrom, Shari Hellstom