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Veterinary nurses and wound management

01 January 2016, at 12:00am

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.