Summertime wounds – to whom can you turn for help?

28. July 2015

There is a wound care station at East-Tallinn Central Hospital where a nurse admits patients and takes care of their wounds.

Patients from all over Estonia are welcome to visit the wound care station at East-Tallinn Central Hospital. According to nurse Jaanika Orav, who admits patients here, the station has been functioning for as long as six years and patients are referred here by surgeons, family doctors and the emergency medicine department.

People come in with a variety of traumas: more common ones are wounds caused by burning, falling, and dog bite, but there has been also a case of parsnip burns and a bullet wound. In addition, patients suffering from chronic diseases, for example, diabetes, visit the station to take care of severe leg ulcers that are a complication of their condition.

The youngest patient of the wound care station is 13 and the oldest 102 years old. According to Jaanika Orav, the number of people seeking help is not significantly higher during summer months compared to rest of the year. However, the number of trauma patients is higher in the summer season because people travel a lot, do yard work and tend to overestimate their abilities. Others tend to neglect wearing compression stockings in summer and as a consequence, develop leg problems.

In addition to treating a wound, often its cause needs to be established. Also, patients who live far from the station need to be instructed on how to clean and dress a wound at home. Sometimes, patients just need someone to hear them out and provide some comfort. Because ulcers are painful and have a characteristic smell which others in the family find difficult to tolerate, the healing of an ulcer may be an exhausting experience for even very supportive family members.

What is the difference between a wound and an ulcer? The nurse at the wound care station explains that a wound caused by a trauma that has not healed within three to four weeks is categorised as an ulcer. On the average, it takes two and a half to three months for an ulcer to heal completely, but comorbid conditions and other factors that may slow down the healing process need to be taken into account as well.

“When a patient comes in with a leg ulcer, I ask at the first visit whether it is painful, then I take a microbiological sample from the ulcer, feel the pulse of the leg and inquire about comorbid conditions, lifestyle habits (smoking) and currently administered medication,” Jaanika Orav explains about her work routine. She adds that patients visit the station to clean an ulcer every one or two days or one or two weeks according to need. Others come in to have their wounds cleaned, dressed or rinsed or stitches removed. Still others visit the station when stitched wounds open up for any reason.

An average visit takes 20 minutes, that is, the nurse admits at least 25 patients every day. But there may be days when more people seek help. Then, every minute counts at the station and the nurse must be a good judge of character. Jaanika Orav says that the secret to being successful is good teamwork. The station works together with surgeons and family doctors, and, if necessary, patients will be provided help by a visiting nurse. Jaanika Orav holds that it is due to good teamwork that in East-Tallinn Central Hospital there is a wound care station where a nurse admits patients.

Source: Maaleht newspaper