Pressure Sores 101

One of the most common nursing buzzwords- pressure sores (AKA pressure ulcers). They can be developed by anyone, and in a wide range of places on the body. As nurses (student or not!) it is our responsibility to report, treat and prevent them.

What is a pressure sore?

A pressure sore is an area of skin that has been deprived of oxygen, due to continuous pressure. This prevents the area of skin getting enough blood, causing the skin to “blanch” (become white due to lack of blood flow). This can then develop into varying degrees of tissue damage; ranging from grade 1 to 4 depending on the severity (NHS Stop the Pressure, 2009).

Grade 1-  skin is intact but blanching, may be some heat/oedema as well 

Grade 2- partial thickness skin loss, looks like an abrasion or a blister. 

Grade 3- full thickness skin loss, some fat may be visible. Possible ‘undermining’ or ‘tracking’ as there is usually depth, depending on the location. This depth can sometimes be covered by slough, which needs to be removed before proper grading can take place. 

Grade 4- full thickness tissue loss, with exposed bone or tendon. There tends to be undermining or tracking, depending on the location. 

Where do they crop up?

Areas that have a hard bony prominence are at risk of pressure sores. This is because they have the least amount of skin protecting itself.

What factors lead to a higher risk of pressure sores?

There are many factors that increase the risk of pressure sores:

  • poor circulation – this could be caused by kidney problems, heart diseases or diabetes.
  • reduced/no mobility- it doesn’t have to be long term! even short term loss of mobility (e.g. after an operation) leads to a pressure ulcer risk.
  • friction- this is where good practice comes in. People who transfer frequently between bed-hoist-chair or just bed-chair, and being moved up/down a bed are at risk. This is why we use slide sheets!

How can they be treated?

  • regular re-positioning/ turns are vital! This helps distribute the pressure, and reduce the risk of the pressure sore from getting worse. You must assess whether the patient is able to do this themselves, or if they require help. Asking the patient (if they have capacity) is always best.
  • pressure relieving devices such as airflow mattresses or pressure cushions can be obtained through physiotherapists, occupational therapists, some trusts require nurses to send the referrals (depends on the area).

  • regular cleaning of the area. Special washes can be used such barrier creams or sprays like ‘Sorbaderm’. This is especially useful for pressure sores on the buttocks/sacrum as they are subjected to lots of moisture.
  • dressings! There are a wide range of dressings which can be used on pressure sores, those that have foam are good for extra protection.

 

How can they be prevented?

Similar to the above treatment! Encourage your patient to mobilize frequently (if possible) and explain the reasons why. Those who are at risk will be identified by their Waterlow Score (10+). If in the community and the patient has carers/relatives helping with their care, speak to them and ask them to update you on any concerns re: pressure sores. Completing bodymaps whenever a new patient arrives and update it regularly is also important. This allows you to assess the patient’s skin integrity, and keep an eye on any possible developments.

 

If you have any ideas for another ‘101 guide’, please get in contact via facebook, twitter or email us on enhancingplacement@gmail.com.

 

 

“The doctor says I’m dying”: tough conversations about death

One of my most vivid placement memories was my first conversation with a patient about dying. One afternoon I went to check on Joan (name changed), a lady in a side room on an elderly ward. I was helping her to have a drink when she looked up and said: “the doctor says I’m dying.”

I froze. My stomach turned and my mind started racing, taken aback by a statement I felt totally unprepared to respond to. I had grown fond of Joan and to see her so distressed was upsetting. I felt a sense of panic, worried that I might say the wrong thing.

I knew from the handover that morning that Joan was receiving end of life care and from what the other nurses had said, she was deteriorating and it was unlikely that she would get any better.

Taking a deep breath, I thought back to our communication lectures which covered how to deal with difficult questions. I drew up a chair next to Joan and holding her hand, I asked some straightforward questions like ‘when did you discover that?’ and ‘how does that make you feel?’, trying my best to mask my own anxiety and appear relaxed.

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While I think I started off ok, all of a sudden I panicked; I didn’t know what to say next.  Almost without thinking, I said: “Don’t worry Joan, we’re all doing everything we can to get you better and back to your normal self.”

I immediately felt awful and her face said it all; she knew I was covering. I said it out of a desire to help Joan stay hopeful, optimistic, but in reality it sounded trite, like I was brushing her off and trying to avoid a deeper conversation. I think that it made her feel worse.

Kicking myself, I spoke to my mentor who reassured me that she too struggled with questions like those and some research when I got home that night revealed that I wasn’t alone – apparently it’s common for healthcare professionals to avoid or block difficult questions, particularly about death or dying. I suppose we like to focus on how we can ‘fix’ things and don’t want our patients to lose hope.

Looking back, I wish I’d spent more time with Joan, even just to sit quietly by her side. She may have had more questions that she wanted to ask and as a student nurse, I may not have known the answers but I could have found out on her behalf.

Honesty and courage are such important parts of nursing, especially at the end of someone’s life. Sometimes the best thing we can do is to be there; to listen, answer questions and ease fears – or just to hold someone’s hand and let them know that they are not alone.

Student Nurse Advocate

images.jpegAdvocating for patients, in my opinion, is one of our most privileged roles and one we should take very seriously. I have often found, our position as Student Nurses affords us a certain advantage when it comes to patient’s openness right from day 1. Because we are often very hands-on, we know our patients very intimately and they feel more able to open-up to us about smaller concerns they may not feel were important enough to raise with their doctor or consultant for example. This carries a responsibility for us to make sure we take all patient’s concerns seriously and act on/escalate anything that, using our theoretical knowledge, may be of importance to their care. This also takes a pinch of courage to have confidence in your instincts and “back yourself” as we say on the Rugby pitch.

Last week while assisting a patient with his wash (which is often a time when I learn the most about a patient) he told me he hadn’t slept well that evening as he had visited the bathroom over 10 times in the night. This patient was due for discharge in the coming days so this was concerning for me. As an elderly gentleman with hypertension, heart disease and other comorbidities, he was at risk of Falls and if he is going up and down to the bathroom so regularly, especially in the night, he may sustain a serious injury such as a fractured neck of femur. I looked through his drug kardex and found he was on very high doses of furosemide, a loop diuretic that is often prescribed to patients with Heart failure to prevent oedema.Renal_Diuretics.gif

I asked the patient if he was happy for me to discuss this with his doctors and a specialist continence nurse to see if something could be done to help either reduce this frequency or make provisions for his discharge so he isn’t at an increased falls risk, he agreed and I approached his doctor.

This encounter wasn’t entirely successful. When I proposed reducing his diuretics to the doctor, initially his response was “Do you want him to die of heart failure?” – in front of the patient…

keep-calm-and-back-yourself-4Not exactly the response I was hoping for, but I explained my concerns from a Nursing point of view and emphasised I am aware that his furosemide was prescribed for a reason and it is entirely his decision, I just wanted to advocate my patient’s best interests.

This exchange I felt didn’t end on a particularly positive note, so later in the day I apologised to the doctor saying “I didn’t mean to question his treatment I just wouldn’t feel comfortable if I didn’t make you aware of his concerns to see if we could work together towards a solution”. The doctor was much more amicable and smiled and said he understood and would consider what could be done.

Not long after this, the same doctor stopped me and said he had written a letter to the patient’s GP to recommend reducing his diuretics in the community and observe his response. He felt changing his medications the day before discharge might impact on his fitness for discharge. He also suggested trialling Oxybutynin. When I recognised Oxybutynin as an anti-muscarinic (which would improve his feelings of urgency), his face lit up. I have a feeling, he may not have expected me to possess such knowledge.

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So many speech bubbles but 1 shared goal – patient’s wellbeing

Only upon writing this have I realised just how many units of study went into this encounter; Communications, Anatomy and Physiology, Pharmacology, Applied Pharmacology, Nursing Therapeutics, Recovery focused care and Medicines Management all informed my actions in this case. Reflecting on this scenario I am really pleased with the outcomes we achieved. Not only was the gentleman’s GP made aware of our concerns and recommendations but I managed to speak to the Trust’s continence specialist nurse and get her recommendations for interim provisions to help the patient transition into community. I fed all this back to the patient who was visibly relieved and so grateful we had pursued his concerns and formulated an action plan he understood and would work for him.

Advocating for patients is a vital part of the Nursing role and we can see advocacy in the NMC code in various different guises (see 3.4, 4.1, 8.6, 8.7 & 9.3).

How to beat second year blues

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With second year around the corner, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive.

I’ve heard of the elusive ‘second year blues’ and worry that they might already be setting in. Despite having a year under our belt, the end goal somehow seems further away than at the beginning. We’re a year wiser, with a better idea of the challenges ahead…and let’s face it, we’re probably all a year poorer too. All things considered, its no wonder we might feel a bit down.

In the blissful ignorance of first year, I ignored second and third years warning us that we’d feel like this – turns out they were right! In a quest to ease my own anxieties, I’ve asked the for their tips for beating second year blues. Here’s what they said…

Get ahead

I know most of us have spend the last few weeks catching up on sleep, earning some pennies or reminding our friends that we still exist, but it’s worth having a look at what’s coming up. By second year, we’re expected to be independent learners, so its up to us to be proactive and find out what is in store for us over the next year. I’ve been putting it off, but it’s time to get organised, dig out the diary and log in to Blackboard…what’s my password again?

Set goals

Somehow I’ve managed to erase all memory of PAD submission day, which seems like ages ago now, but I remember that we were asked to set some goals for the year ahead. I’ve just had a look back at mine and they actually make some sense. Personal development plans can sometimes seem like a bit of a box-ticking exercise, but having a goal in mind for second year will give you something to focus on and makes the time fly by.

Avoid stress

When I started this course, I made a pact with myself not to leave everything to the last minute. In my last degree, I tactically worked out my words/per hour ratio (about 400), convincing myself that it was totally fine to leave a 3,000 word essay to 24 hours before the deadline. Yeah, I always got them in, but I was an absolute wreck. Believe me, its not worth the stress. This degree is full on enough as it is, so help yourself out by starting early.

Oh and this applies to overcommitting too – a lesson I’ve learnt the hard way. Figure out what is really important and realise that it’s ok to say ‘no’ sometimes. I still haven’t mastered it, but it’s a work in progress.

Talk it out

Chances are that most of us will feel down at some point over the year, but if ‘the blues’ hit, don’t bottle it up.  With hundreds of student nurses about, you’re bound to find a kind, listening ear and you might find that others are feeling the same way.

Also, don’t forget the PEFs are there to address any issues you might be having on placement – take a look at this blog to find out more about their role and how they can help.

Remember it’s not all about nursing

Maybe it’s just me, but does nursing have a way of taking over your life? While on placement, it feels like you think, breathe, dream nursing – sometimes you just need to switch off. Step away from the stethoscope and plan some totally non-nurse activities for the weekend. A break will do wonders.

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Keep calm and carry on nursing

Conquering second year and banishing those blues is about finding the right balance. This course can take over if we let it, but by staying organised and making time for the other things we love, we can actually be better nurses in the long run.

See you next week!

Out on Placement

Guest Blog written by Emma Wilkes


I think it’s fair to say that most student nurses are nervous before starting a new placement, however LGBT students may feel extra nervous. Whether it’s awkward conversations about your love life, or a worry about what toilets it’ll be ok to use, it’s totally understandable. As a student nurse every new placement involves another coming out and this can be nerve wracking and emotionally difficult.

So here are five tips to survive coming out at placements:11049526_536723163136072_4031043654954708270_o

  1. Don’t feel you have to out yourself immediately – there is no need to introduce yourself as Emma the lesbian and you shouldn’t feel under pressure to do so
  2. But also don’t feel you can’t come out, everyone talks about their partners and children and you should be able to do the same.
  3. You don’t have to tell everyone, it’s ok to just tell people in conversation and leave those who weren’t there to work it out for themselves
  4. If you have any problems or concerns talk to your AA, mentor or PEF, they are there to support you and you should never face any discrimination on the grounds of your sexuality or gender identity
  5. Don’t be embarrassed, be proud of who you are, you have a unique life experience which will be valuable to you in nursing

The University LGBT society have lots going on, although it won’t always be possible to make their Wednesday group they also have things going on in the evenings and weekends. In Manchester you’ll also find the LGBT Foundation who have lots going on and can offer lots of support.FENT__1432160698_here-if-need-us

#hellomynameis Kate

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Kate Granger, the founder of the amazing campaign ‘#hellomynameis’, wonderful doctor and cancer patient, died this week. Throughout her treatment, she spoke up and informed healthcare professionals how they could improve their practice by doing something simple; introducing themselves. A simple introduction, she believed, could go a long way. The patient needs to feel like a person, not just a list of symptoms. This is the exactly what patient-centered care is all about; Kate hit the nail on the head, we need to change our behaviour.

When I first came into contact with this campaign, I thought “gosh how could anybody forget to introduce themselves?” but it happens, and I’ll put my hands up and say there has been a moment when the patient has had to ask me! But it does make all the difference because it is the beginning of a professional-therapeutic relationship, and the patient needs to be able to trust their caregiver. It makes me smile when patients are happy to say “Kate, can I just ask you a question?” Or “Kate can you just do this?”.  It makes the situation a little bit more normal, less formal and that helps people relax.

What we need to learn from Kate’s work is that speaking up is the best way to kickstart change. If you see something, or think that something could work better- do not be afraid to speak up. Even if you just mention it to your mentor, write it in a reflection to show to your academic adviser, maybe even a blog post…. it can do a world of good. It might not turn into a nationwide social media campaign, but the smallest changes can make the biggest difference. For example, Natasha (one of our lovely bloggers) has been using her knowledge, and spreading it amongst the staff in the Sri Lankan hospital where she completed her DILP placement. You can read that blog post here as it’s a good example of what I’m trying to get across.

The #hellomynameis campaign is still going strong, and I don’t think it will be slowing down anytime soon! Kate’s family and supporters are keen to keep her amazing work going, and I for one will happily get more involved. You can get involved on Twitter or just through the website.

Rest in peace Kate, thank-you for inspiring us.

DILP Week 5 – Teaching and Learning in Maternity ft Muetzel

Well the outrageous fact that next week is my FINAL WEEK is madness. Right now I’m sitting pretty at 208 hours (40 to go) but it almost feels like a dream: I’m so full of questions about the culture and the way of working out here so I feel like I’m always engaged in some sort of discussion, which makes each day really rush by.

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Shout out to my amazing Nursing Therapeutics Seminar Lead – you know who you are!!!

After one such discussion with the ward Matron, she said she felt the staff could improve their communication and social skills with patients, creating more of a rapport (this took a while to figure out as she speaks rather broken English). So I briefly explained Muetzel’s model of the therapeutic relationship, which is based around Partnership, Intimacy and Reciprocity. She was so interested I ended up making a couple of posters and giving talks to staff members in little groups over the course of the week. It was a really rewarding experience for me to see these Nurses taking on this academic knowledge and applying it, almost immediately, to practice.

It was also wonderful for me to realize how much I’ve learnt during these last 2 years at UoM. Lots of what I was teaching hasn’t come up in exams and I haven’t been fastidiously revising it, but it was still there in my brain, informing how I interact with patients and being able to pass this on was such a great feeling.

All my questions though did make for a slightly awkward discussion with a consultant this week when I asked why it was the normal procedure in Sri Lanka to give Episiotomies, no matter the size of the baby: “Because Sri Lankan women are far more petite than Western women” Fair enough, I thought (the average height of a Sri Lankan woman is 4ft11) but that wasn’t what he was getting at… Gesturing with his surgical scissors he added; “For example this woman’s vagina is far smaller than yours would be”. THANKS DOCTOR. I almost died of embarrassment.

My questions haven’t all had such uncomfortable endings though. For instance I’ve become fascinated by the many superstitions and traditions deeply woven into everyday Sri Lankan life. One very common belief is that the exact time of a person’s birth is holds great importance over the course of their life.

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Its a bit of a cross between buddhism with a big emphasis on horoscopes, couples are often matched based on Birthdays

It is always noted to the minute and this information is taken to a spiritualist (Tamil or Buddhist astronomer) who produces a big document/graph thing that contains key dates to be wary of and dates of good fortune. These can be days or years. During the times of misfortune the family can offset this bad energy by giving alms, doing charitable work or attending the temple more regularly. Equally there is some level or risk management that is involved. For example if someone is predicted a bad 2016 because they were born at 4.33 instead of 4.34 then even if it made sense with every other facet of their life, big dates such as having a baby or getting married would be delayed until they were back in good favors.

I personally would not respond well to such strict time frames but I was far too curious to know what my prophecies would be. So, luckily, I was able to take a short 20-minute stroll from my apartment to the hospital where I was born, 20 years, 6 months and 5 days ago. After a quick 5 minute trip to the records room a nurse produced a huge leather-bound book, identical to the one I have been writing baby’s birth records in for the last two weeks. Except in this one, “Baby Girl Wragg” made an appearance! Thanks to this hand-written entry I am now armed with my birth time and am setting a meeting to speak to a tamil astrologer to find out how things are going for me! Hopefully 2017 with my dissertation looming, will be a very very lucky year for me or else I’ll just have to find a Buddhist temple somewhere near Stretford.

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Baby Girl Wragg OG Sri Lankan