Failure to properly care for post-surgical wounds can lead to costly, and even life-threatening, infections for your patients. That’s why every ASC should provide patient-friendly, step-by-step instructions to guide patients and caregivers throughout the recovery process.
According to Kathleen Heneghan, PhD, MSN, RN, PN-C, who serves as the assistant director for surgical patient education at the American College of Surgeons (ACS), many surgical facilities are missing the mark in this area. She explained the problem in a recent article for Outpatient Surgery magazine.
“For surgical wounds, it’s the patient and caregiver who have to do the management,” says Heneghan. “There’s very little to help guide the family in doing that.”
To help remedy the lack of information provided, Outpatient Surgery recommends taking the following five steps.
1. Educate Patients Before the Procedure
Don’t wait until after the surgical procedure to educate patients on the proper care for their surgical wounds. They are often too tired, emotional, and stressed to learn and remember something so important. Instead, carve out time during one of the pre-surgery appointments to share this information. Encourage the patient to invite a family member or caregiver to participate as well.
2. Show Don’t Tell
Verbal instructions can only go so far. When it comes to teaching patients to change their wound dressing, it’s best to show them how it’s done. Then, let them roll up their sleeves and practice in front of you. You can also give them pre-surgery homework that includes watching instructional videos and practicing their technique at home.
3. Keep a List of Recommended Brands & Suppliers
There are tons of options available for wound dressings, and your patients will need to know specifics on details like which supplies are anti-bacterial to keep infection at bay. Be ready with a list of brands and suppliers you trust so patients don’t stress over where to shop for the essentials they need.
4. Provide Written Instructions at Discharge
To avoid overwhelming patients after their procedure, be sure to give them clearly written discharge instructions that include:
- Surgeon name and contact information
- Home health nurse name and contact information
- Frequency schedule for cleaning and dressing their wounds
- Pain medication instructions (including how far in advance meds should be taken before wound care)
- List of wound care supplies
- Detailed instructions for wound cleaning
5. Encourage Patients to Call for Help Let your patients know about the troublesome signs that indicate they need to seek medical attention. In particular, make sure they know who to call if they experience things like a foul odor coming from the wound, stitches or staples that come out too soon, or a fever of 101 degrees.
Taking the time to create an effective wound care plan for your ASC will not only give patients the confidence they need to take charge of their at-home care, it will also cut-down on post-op emergency visits caused by wound infections.