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Research in brief

Identifying research priorities in wound care

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Wound healing requirements will increase as the population ages. An online survey was used to identify key priorities for wound management and education.


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In this article…

  • Summary of an international study to identify wound management research and education priorities
  • Why basic wound management should be included in undergraduate and postgraduate education



Seamus Cowman is professor of nursing and head of department, Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Keywords: Wound care/Research/ Tissue viability/Education

  • This article has been double-blind peer reviewed
  • Figures and tables can be seen in the attached print-friendly PDF file of the complete article in the ‘Files’ section of this page


5 key points

  1. As knowledge about wound healing increases it is vital to identify the priorities for research and education in wound management
  2. All health professional undergraduate and postgraduate education programmes should include a basic wound management education
  3. Top research priorities include efficacy of support surfaces in pressure ulcer management and the cost effectiveness of dressings
  4. Education priorities include pain management and how to prevent pressure ulcers
  5. The issues identified are closely related to the needs of an ageing population


With increasing knowledge of wound healing and the growth in wound care markets there is a need to evaluate the priorities for research and education. This study (Cowman et al, 2012) aimed to identify the research and education priorities for wound healing and tissue repair using a four-round eDelphi technique.


Data was collected using an online survey and aimed to achieve an international and multidisciplinary response. During round one, participants were asked to list their opinions about wound care and to give as many views as possible (Hasson et al, 2000). Ethical approval was granted. For full research details see Cowman et al (2012).

Data management

Results of round one were collated and all identifiers removed. Thematic content analysis of the data was carried out.

In round two a list of 35 research and 30 education priorities identified in round one were sent back to respondents by email. They were asked to rank each statement individually on a seven-point Likert scale: 7 represented “top priority” while 1 represented “not a priority”. The lists from round two were returned to participants in round three, but with the group mean score and ranking attached. Participants had the opportunity to change their ranking score from round two, if they wished.

Results of round three were grouped into four categories within a seven-point scale, a score of 1 represented not a priority; scores of 2-3 represented low priority; scores of 4-5 represented high priority; scores of 6-7 represented top priority. In the fourth and final round a summary of the findings was forwarded to all participants.


We obtained 350 replies, from 24 countries (Table 1). The respondents included nurses (81%), podiatrists (7%), academics (3%), medical doctors (3%), surgeons (3%), microbiologists (1%) and others including health economists and health researchers.

It is interesting to note that 33% of respondents worked in primary care, 31% worked in acute hospitals and 20% in community hospitals/nursing homes. A total of 27% of respondents spent up to a quarter of their working time dedicated to wound management; 30% spent 26-50%; 21% spent 51-75% and 23% spent >75%. Most (85%) had completed a course of education related to wound management, while 45% had participated in a research study related to wound management and tissue repair.

A total of 1,830 research priorities and 934 education priorities were listed in round one. Thematic content analysis identified 35 research and 30 education priorities for inclusion in round 2.

Importantly, 205 (59%) of participants from eDelphi round one provided an email address for inclusion in round 2. A response rate of 79% was achieved for round 2 and 49% was achieved for round 3. Following round 3 the top 10 research and the education priorities that achieved a 70% level of consensus were identified (Tables 2 and 3).

Discussion and conclusion

The top items that were consistently ranked in research and education as priority areas included: pressure ulceration, diabetic foot ulceration, dressings and wound infection.

All health professionals need to receive education about wounds in undergraduate and postgraduate education programmes.

Priority issues have been identified that will guide the development of research and education programmes. Significantly, these issues were closely related to an ageing population with increased risk of long-term conditions and wound care requirements. This should be a vital consideration when health strategies are being formulated to meet the needs of this group.

  • This is a summary of a paper by Cowman et al (2012) originally published in the Journal of Clinical Nursing.

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