Education on the care and prevention of non-healing wounds is vital for patients as well as nurses, says Carol Hedger
Tissue viability nurse specialist or Ms Fixit? Carol Hedger believes they are one and the same. “I often think of myself as a troubleshooter for non-healing wounds,” she says.
Ms Hedger started her career as a district nurse in 1987, dealing with leg ulcers on a regular basis. Soon realising that she understood leg ulcers and the importance of appropriate care and treatment of people were affected by them, she progressed to becoming a tissue viability nurse specialist. She now helps nurses and doctors to understand and treat non-healing wounds, such as leg ulcers and surgical incisions.
Today, Ms Hedger works for First Community Health and Care and, along with her team of two others, responds to 19 GP practices, 19 nursing homes and eight district nurse bases, as well as the rapid response team and evening and night nurses; she teaches them about wound care and advises them on meeting with their patients.
“We are making a difference in their lives,” she says. “I am very much aware that it is not me that heals the wound - it is the patient’s body. But I do advise the clinicians on how to facilitate that wound healing.”
That facilitation goes beyond simply helping clinicians treat the wound. Ms Hedger’s goal is to help patients who are able to understand how they themselves can take an active role in their own treatment.
“I am a very passionate person as far as wound care is concerned. I really like to impart knowledge,” Ms Hedger says. “Ultimately it’s the patient’s wound and anything he or she does can affect how it heals. The more information they are given, the better they understand the impact they can have on their wound healing.”
Ms Hedger takes time to educate fellow nurses on evidenced-based wound care treatment and detecting early signs of non-healing in wounds. At St George’s Hospital in south London, she teaches the practical skills of undertaking Doppler assessments and bandaging twice a year.
She is now working on a silver standard for leg ulcer care to help nurses in the community who are unable to achieve the national gold standard.
Last year, she completed her diploma in social innovation with Nurse First, which is enabling her to take this project forward.
These steps mean she can care for patients on a specialist level and pass these ideals to other nurses with whom she works or teaches.
A Queen’s Nurse, Ms Hedger has received special recognition of her commitment to services in the community. Yet, even with her background and studies, she finds challenges in her career - some of which stem from patients being confused about their wound as they may have received conflicting advice from many clinicians.
“The patient needs to be able to offload to me who has said what so I can understand their confusion. I listen and try to start from the beginning and explain that the wound happens for a certain reason. We can then go from here,” she says.
“It’s like being a detective. I make sure I have as many answers to my questions as possible so I can move forward to support the patient.”
Ms Hedger also manages the East Surrey branch of the Wound Care Formulary, trying to ensure the right dressing is used for the right wound. Each year, she leads study days on topics such as pressure ulcer prevention and treatment and leg ulcer care. Recently, she introduced a three-day leg ulcer course for nurses to help them deliver best practice in leg ulcer management.
Ms Hedger is also actively involved with Surrey County Council, working to educate carers on how to prevent pressure ulcers.
Educating others is a passion of Ms Hedger’s and everything she does goes back to the patient - she spends up to two hours each day travelling to see people who need her specialist advice. Does she think it’s worth it? “To see a wound heal - there is nothing better.”