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InFocus

Veterinary nurses and wound management

Shelly Jefferies discusses the nurse’s role in the management of wounds, providing a brief refresher on what needs to be known as well as a review of a challenging case

WOUNDS occur on a daily basis in
veterinary practice and whilst it is
down to the veterinary surgeon to
make decisions regarding treatment
plans, it is an area in which nurses
can play an active part in the care
and maintenance of patients.

Wounds vary in
both their severity
and treatments,
and can involve
bandages,
dressings, skin
grafts and surgical
intervention.

The speed of
healing depends on veterinary, owner
and animal management, with the
veterinary nurse playing a huge part
in both owner education and animal
management.

Ensuring the owners understand
instructions regarding bandage care, wound monitoring and drug
therapy is crucial, alongside ensuring
the animal’s needs are met.

This is both physical and mental
when it comes to the animal’s welfare
as some wounds if extensive or in a
“compromised” location may require
weeks of strict, if not cage rest.

The nurse can play a crucial part
here in ensuring the patient’s mental needs are met, using periods of TLC
or out-of-cage time, grooming or
feed and puzzles or games to alleviate
boredom.

The veterinary nurse is often
responsible for repeat dressing
changes and often the point of contact with owners on repeated visits, so a
knowledge of current dressings and
wound management is crucial, should
owners ask questions.

Keep the client informed

Following discussion with the
veterinary surgeon over treatment
plans and expected outcomes, it is
important that the owner is kept up to
date with plans and realistic, likely time
scales. The veterinary nurse can be
well placed to perform this task, taking
initial photos and measurements of
the wound; they can update the owners
with visual progress and give time-scale
progression.

It is important to remember that
severe wounds can take months to
heal and in wounds that have to heal
through granulation it can take nine to
12 months to gain full strength in that
area.

It is important at the start of wound
treatment that we give the wound a
classification: this will help
us plan with regards to likely bacterial
load and complications.

Following the classification we
should also consider the type of
wound as this will help us
plan the management of the wound,
as although the basic wound healing
principle is moist healing, some
situations will not be appropriate for
surgical intervention.

Whatever classification and type of
wound we are dealing with, in whatever
species, there are certain factors
which will influence how quickly and
successfully the wound will heal.

Once the veterinary surgeon has
made a treatment plan for the wound,
the veterinary nurse can ensure that the
10 factors that delay wound healing are
addressed.

How do veterinary nurses
expand their knowledge?

Ensuring veterinary nurses keep
up to date with advances in wound
management is crucial in busy
veterinary practice. The BVNA
Delving Deeper into Wounds
certificate, run by the Veterinary
Wound Library founder Georgie
Hollis, is a fantastic way to do this.

The case study featured was submitted by the author along
with another case study and online assessments as part of the course
requirements.

The course not only provides you
with knowledge in both basic and
advanced wound management but
provides an eye-opening insight into
fellow colleagues’ perceptions on
wound healing, through the required
practice audit.

Initially the words “practice audit”
struck fear into our group studying this
course; however, with the knowledge
imparted through the course, several
changes were made for the better
regarding wound care within the
author’s practice.

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