Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (WOC) Nurse Week runs from April 17 to 23 this year and celebrates this nursing specialty and the nurses who dedicate their talents to this area of care. To find out more about what makes this career path so rewarding, Minority Nurse heard from Vanessa Maxwell MSN, RN, CWON, PLNC and owner of Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa, LLC. Maxwell has been a WOC nurse for nearly 12 of her 19-year-long nursing career and says she wouldn’t change anything. She’s also a nurse entrepreneur who found a patient need that she’s able to help fill with her business.
Please tell me a little about your background and how you decided to become a WOC nurse.
I am a first-generation college student. My parents both completed high school but did not attend college. I started out with my associate’s degree in nursing, returning to obtain my Bachelor of Science in Nursing a year later and then returning to graduate school to complete my Master’s of Science in Nursing in 2014. I have been a nurse for 19 years, and I have spent my entire nursing career working for one healthcare organization in the Memphis, TN area in various nursing departments.
I started as a new graduate nurse working med-surg/ telemetry and oncology and staying in this area of nursing for four years. I went on to work in the emergency department (ED) observation unit/float pool where I worked for three years, floating to various nursing units in the hospital. One day, my assignment was to assist the CWON (Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse) with tasks in the wound ostomy department, so that she could concentrate her time on evaluation of the patients. Prior to floating to the Wound Care department, I was always inquisitive about wounds wanting to know the science of wound healing, why a particular treatment over another type of treatment, how the wound would heal, dressing choices and why a particular dressing was chosen, how to stage the wounds properly, the mechanism of action of the treatment.
It was not until I was hired in the role of Wound Ostomy RN that I learned my true love was ostomy care. Wound ostomy, continence, and foot and nail care all can be performed by the same nurse, and we can seek certification for all or any of the combination. A position came open in the Wound Ostomy department and the rest is history. I have been a CWON ostomy for almost 12 years now and I still love this role.
When did you discover WOC nursing and what about this specialty appeals to you?
I discovered WOC nursing when I started as a nurse extern. I externed on a post-surgical unit and there was a patient with an extended length of stay. This patient had a large pressure ulcer and the nurses caring for her would allow me to perform her wound care. I had no problem with the nurses allowing me to change their patient’s dressing; I enjoyed it. I was able to pack the patient’s wound and apply a nice cover dressing. I was able to see the wound was get smaller; even though I was not able to truly understand what was taking place as I do now. With wound care, either you like it (in my case love it) or you don’t. I have not noticed an in between. In this specialty, I love to teach my patients and their family members about the disease processes that caused their wounds and to teach them treatment and preventative measures.
You’ve expanded your nursing career to begin your own business. How did you decide to make the leap as a nurse entrepreneur?
I saw a huge need in the wound ostomy field of nursing with gaps in several aspects of nursing in the nursing home, skilled-nursing facilities, home healthcare, acute care, and even with nurses (including Advanced Practice Nursing). I can further elaborate… Bedside nurses still have problems with staging pressure injuries and implementing proper preventative measures. Some nurses also lack a solid knowledge of understanding the care they can provide to their patients that is within their scope, without having to rely on the wound ostomy nurse. That is important in that, we do not want a moist wound to become dry and that is considered a worsening wound. With all the co-morbidities against a patient (malnutrition, vascular disease, and diabetes), we certainly do not want a wound to worsen.
What market need does Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa, LLC fill for patients who need WOC care?
I offer wound and ostomy care in the patient’s home in collaboration with the patient’s physician. Since COVID the nursing and healthcare industry, like any other industry, has been hit tremendously. The nursing shortage is at crisis level. Skilled-facilities and home-healthcare have had to turn patients away due to lack of staffing. A lot of these patients have nowhere else to turn. I offer wound and ostomy care services at Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa, LLC. I am private pay; however, my prices do match the fact that the patient is being billed and not a third-party payer. I also can contract with facilities to provide evidence-based education to their staff to ensure they are provided the best treatment and prevention for their patients.
How has Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa LLC helped you expand your nursing and business skills?
Being the owner of Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa, LLC, I have had to dive into business courses and work with a business coach to ensure that I am running a successful business that can stand up to my standards, as well as my clients and potential clients. I want to provide a professional service that people want to refer client to my business and to also utilize my services in the future. I am always working on ways to improve my business. I attend workshops and webinars to further develop my nursing and business skills. I have added another certification since starting Wound Care Solutions by Vanessa. I am a Professional Legal Nurse Consultant (PLNC) and provide legal nursing services to attorneys. I utilize my wound and ostomy knowledge with the training I have received as a PLNC to assist the attorney with the facts needed for a case.
What kinds of benefits does your business provide to patients and how does that impact your approach to patient care?
Whether I am training staff to properly provide wound or ostomy care to their patients or providing services to my clients in their home setting, they can find comfort in knowing that I am a very knowledgeable CWON who is constantly educating herself to ensure I am keeping up with the current evidence to provide optimal outcomes to my clients. I provide individualized care tailored to my client for evaluation, treatment, and follow-up. I also communicate with my patient’s physician after my visit and provide recommendations. Collaborating with the patient’s physician allows prompt intervention and we can keep the patient at home and out of the hospital. This became very evident during COVID and even now when ER wait times are high and inpatient beds are scarce.
What has helped you most in your nursing career as a WOC nurse?
I would say mentors, certification, support of loved ones, professional associations have all been beneficial in my nursing career. When I started in nursing as a new graduate, there were many that encouraged me and even celebrated me when I became a CWON. When I started my own consulting business, I had many that celebrated with me. Instead of having mentors, I have become a mentor encouraging others to choose nursing as a career and to also go into wound ostomy nursing, as well as entrepreneurship. I belong to several professional organizations and the network and support is great. But, no matter what I have the support of my mother she rallies behind me and assists me in whatever way she can.