Hidden Healthcare: Helping patients heal

Friday, January 29, 2021
Hidden Healthcare: Helping patients heal
Hidden Healthcare takes a look behind the scenes at some of the people powering one of regional Victoria's largest hospitals.

Angela Cousins and the wound clinic team see danger in the most harmless of situations.

Knocking your leg on a car door, stubbing your toe, or being bitten by an insect can cause long-term discomfort for certain people.

“Some of our patients with chronic leg ulcers have lived with them for 50 years, it just becomes part of their life and routine. You are just trying to maintain their quality of life,” she said.

Wounds that refuse to heal require long-term management and investigation.

“As wound nurse consultants we need to work out the aetiology of the wound – does the person need debridement or compression or surgery if their veins or arteries aren’t functioning properly,” she said.

While not the most glamourous aspect of healthcare, wound care is important for the mental and social wellbeing of patients, Angela said.

“Wounds can have a significant impact on people. They can be quite painful and require daily dressing, which is expensive and impractical for some people to do themselves,” she said.

“Mentally, it’s also a burden. Some wounds heal and then break down again, over and over again.

“Some people will refuse socialise because they are embarrassed by their wounds.”

It’s Angela and the team’s job to support regular clients through that process.

Referrals to psychological support are offered but infrequent, with the wound consultants generally providing the moral support for patients.

“We’re always asked how quick it will heal but unfortunately there’s no silver bullet. Our care in individualised. We try to find the best solution for that person, whether that’s compression or debridement of the wound,” she said.

Angela has been a wound nurse consultant for seven years, moving into the role after working extensively in orthopaedics and plastics in Melbourne and Bendigo.

Bendigo Health’s wound clinic sees up to 40 patients per week, ranging from people with chronic wounds and leg ulcers to radiotherapy and pressure injuries.

The clinic works closely with lymphoedema practitioners and a garment maker to create specialised compression garments for patients.