According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), two to five percent of operated patients will develop a surgical site infection (SSI). Reducing surgical infections remains a challenge to many health care institutions as providers are faced with the challenge of trying to integrate evidence-based infection prevention strategies into practice.
Postoperative infection is a major cause of patient injury, mortality and health care cost. According to the CDC, an estimated 2.6 percent of nearly 30 million operations are complicated by SSIs each year. Each infection is estimated to increase a hospital stay by an average of seven days and add over $3,000 in charges (1992 data).
“While surgical site infection rates are very low at Ministry Eagle River Memorial Hospital and Howard Young Medical Center at 0.2 to 0.5 percent annually, we strive to reach zero by following national best practices guidelines and prevention strategies,” said Sheila Clough, President, Ministry Howard Young Health Care.
The health care professionals at Ministry Eagle River Memorial Hospital (MERMH) and Howard Young Medical Center (HYMC) work diligently to prevent surgical site infections. Unfortunately, there are some patients who have chronic illnesses that make them more susceptible to infections. In these cases, Ministry Howard Young Health Care has two credentialed Wound, Ostomy and Continence (WOC) nurses that provide specialized care to limit the incidence of infections after a surgery to inpatients at MERMH and HYMC.
“WOC nurses enhance the quality of life for individuals who are debilitated by chronic and non-healing wounds, ostomy conditions and continence disorders,” said Clough.
WOC nurses assess and determine causes for wounds and identify appropriate treatment options. They work closely with physicians and other healthcare professionals to ensure the most appropriate care is provided. They also educate the family, patients and nursing staff about strategies to optimize wound healing and the implementation of measures to prevent bedsores and other wounds from developing.
In addition to serving the hospital’s inpatients, these nurses serve in the WOC outpatient clinic at Howard Young Medical Center.
WOC nurses Billie Skubal and Natalie DeLeaksy see many patients on a regular basis. One of those patients is Ken Schwarz of Eagle River.
“Ken has been coming to the Howard Young Medical Center WOC clinic for over three years now,” said Billie Skubal, BSN, RN, CWOCN, Board Certified Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurse with Ministry Howard Young Health Care. “Ken comes to the WOC clinic to receive care of his ostomies. An ostomy is a diversion of the bowel or bladder through a surgically created opening in the abdomen which allows urine or stool to be collected outside of the body. We assist Ken in the changing of his ostomy pouching systems to ensure systems that provide containment and security so that he can enjoy a productive and active lifestyle.”
Prior to Schwarz’s surgeries, Skubal and DeLeaksy assisted his surgeon in selecting preoperative sites for his ostomies in order to ensure postoperative success and independence.
“During our time with Ken, we have also been involved in the treatment of his extensive surgical wounds, management of his abdominal hernia which included sizing and fitting him with a hernia support belt, as well as management of his drainage tubes,” said Skubal.
Schwarz visits the wound clinic twice a week, for one hour during each visit.
“I am grateful for the services that Billie and Natalie provide to me,” said Schwarz. “I would not be able to care for these wounds on my own, so the wound clinic allows me to get the care I need, while still living in my home and staying active.”
Schwarz continues with an active lifestyle and enjoys woodworking, gardening and eating out.
“Though I wish I didn’t need to utilize these services, I enjoy seeing the staff every week. They keep me healthy,” said Schwarz.
According to the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, there are a few steps patients can take to lower the risk of infection after surgery: talk with your surgeon about the medications you are taking, medication allergies, diabetes and high blood sugar; don’t shave near where you will have surgery; speak up if someone tries to shave you before surgery; ask for blankets or other ways to stay warm; and if you will get antibiotic medicine, ask how much medicine you will receive.