Properly dressing and maintaining a wound is important to keep the area clean and prevent infections. Because of its importance, proper wound care is one of the first things that nurses learn in their training.
Wounds come in all shapes and sizes, and they can appear in a number of places on the skin. There are lots of reasons why a wound might appear, such as pressure sores, falls, lacerations, and gunshot injuries.
Regardless of the size, location, or type of wound that a patient has, effective care and treatment are necessary to prevent it from worsening. Hygiene and cleanliness are vital to the health and safety of the patient, especially if they are approaching old age.
Properly Dressing and Redressing Wounds
Open and closed wounds need to be covered with high-quality dressings to prevent excessive moisture or bacterial growth.
However, nurses can’t simply place a dressing on a wound and wait for it to heal. Wounds need to be regularly stripped, washed and redressed to keep the area clean. During the redressing, healthcare professionals can assess the wound to determine if it correctly healing or if there are any signs of infection.
If you’re a nurse or nursing assistant, you’ll know how essential it is to stay up-to-date on proper wound care. In case you’ve forgotten some of the key steps that you need to take when dressing a wound, we’ve broken them down below.
1. Check for Bleeding
The first step in any wound care routine is to check for any bleeding. If the wound is seeping blood and pus, there is a risk of disease transmission between the patient’s blood and the nurse who is handling the wound.
Nurses should always be wearing gloves and a mask when handling wounds to minimize the risk of cross-contamination. If the wound is bleeding very lightly, it will need to be properly cleaned before redressing.
If there is heavy bleeding or the blood is squirting out of the wound, emergency services should be called.
2. Gather Your Supplies
To properly dress a wound, nurses need to use a variety of tools and equipment, all of which must be sterile before and during use. The main supplies needed to dress a wound include gloves, tubular gauze, scissors, pads, antibiotic wipes or ointment, and tape or wrap.
Often, wound dressings must be changed as quickly as possible to reduce the risk of infection.
3. Remove the Old Dressing
If the wound already has a dressing on, this needs to be removed shortly before the new dressing gets applied. It’s important to remove the dressing carefully so no skin gets pulled or torn, as this could aggravate the area and slow down the wound healing process.
A saline solution can be used to loosen the old dressing if necessary. The used dressing should be properly discarded in accordance with waste disposal rules.
4. Clean the Wound
Once the wound is exposed, it needs to be thoroughly cleaned. Particles, like broken glass, dust, and gravel must be removed using tweezers as quickly as possible. Leaving even the smallest particles in the wound can increase the risk of infection.
The wound should then be cleaned using saline solution to wash away any dirt, pus, or blood. This can be painful for the patient but a thorough wash and clean is absolutely necessary before dressing a wound to prevent infections or necrosis.
It’s important that only sterile saline water is used on wounds. Things like essential oils, creams, or lotions are not applied to wounds unless the doctor has prescribed antibiotic treatment.
Apply a New Dressing if Necessary
After the wound has been washed, it may need a few minutes to dry. Applying the new dressing onto a wet wound might cause it to fall off or break apart straight away, making it ineffective.
If the patient requires antibiotic treatment on the wound, this should be placed directly on and around the wound before the new dressing is applied. The ointment will prevent the growth of bacteria in the area and will also provide a sticky base to keep the new dressing in place.
Once the dressing is in the correct position, healthcare professionals may use medical tape to secure it in place. However, the exact tape that is used depends on the type of wound and where it is located on the body.
Some wound pads have sticky edges that are covered in adhesive gel. These pads are usually able to stay in place without additional medical tape.