As Net Health celebrates Nurse Week May 8-14, we pay tribute to an irreplaceable group of medical professionals and, in particular, shine the light on those dedicated to caring for patients with chronic and acute wounds.
Beatriz Coccaro-Word, DNP, APRN, ANP-BC, CWS, is one of the thousands of wound care nurses who exemplify the expertise, knowledge and commitment it takes to treat wounds today. Here is some of her remarkable story, ranging from RN to doctor of nursing and now CEO of a rapidly growing business specializing in the care of patients outside hospital walls.
What led you to wound care nursing and your current position?
In 1993, I worked as an RN at Jackson Memorial Hospital, affiliated with the University of Miami, and often encountered patients with acute and chronic wounds. I saw how complex it was to care for wounds and how much suffering they caused patients. Luckily, our hospital had a multidisciplinary approach to care. By collaborating with other clinicians, I saw that we could make a difference. Because of my experiences, I found a life-long passion for wound care and decided to specialize in the area. In 1997 I became head nurse of Jackson’s Hyperbaric Medicine and Problem Wounds Department. While there, I did clinical rotations with dermatologists and foot and ankle surgeons, earned a Master of Science in Nursing degree, and became an Adult Nurse Practitioner and Certified Wound Specialist by the American Board of Wound Management.
After relocating for my husband’s surgical residency, I helped create a Wound Healing Program at The Marshfield Clinic in Wisconsin. Again, we utilized a multidisciplinary approach with a group of specialties as well as orthotists, physical therapists, and nutritionists. And once again, I saw first-hand what a beautiful job a multidisciplinary approach has on patient care.
In 2016, I decided to return to school for a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. I graduated in June 2020, right in the middle of the pandemic! Former colleagues and contacts who knew about my background began asking for help for patients who could not get to a clinic for much-needed wound care visits. That’s when I started to think about starting a company that would allow me to visit patients in their homes, assisted living facilities and nursing homes – so I could take my services to them. I discussed my idea with another colleague who was doing something similar on the east coast, and he gave me recommendations and support. As a result, I opened On Call Wound Care in October 2020.
What do you think makes wound care nursing different from other types of nursing jobs?
Our job is both very challenging and rewarding because we often have patients who face amputations, who are in tremendous pain and have been suffering for years. Some have even been told they might die without immediate treatments. It’s incredibly rewarding – personally and professionally – to see patients’ health and lives improve after we initiate care. Also, unlike in some areas of nursing, we establish long-term relationships with patients and continue to follow them throughout their healthcare journey.
Is there a particular story that sticks out in your mind that represents what wound care nursing is all about?
One particular patient has stuck in my mind for years. When I first saw him, he was a young man, obese and with uncontrolled diabetes. Because of his poor health, he was facing amputation of his great toe and likely more surgeries in the future. It has been well documented that once a diabetic patient has that first amputation, another is likely to occur. This really makes you want to do all you can to help.
When we saw him in the wound clinic, he was determined to do whatever was necessary to avoid losing part of his foot. The team got together to work out a plan to help him through education, diet, exercise, wound care, and routine visits.
Soon he was improving and was able to avoid the amputation. Most gratifying, he changed his entire lifestyle. He would come every six months to be evaluated, and I followed him throughout the years, watching him have grandkids and live a fulfilling life. I can’t ask for more than that as a nurse!
How has technology changed wound care nursing over the past few years?
We use Net Health® Wound Care as our electronic health record (EHR) and are so pleased with its functionality. The photographs and the thorough documentation, along with the fact that we can electronically communicate with all other providers at the same time, have really improved workflow. In addition, I appreciate one of the newer features in the Net Health EHR that allows me to better predict wound trajectories. Technology like this is great and has completely changed wound care nursing, giving us more time to be with patients and less time spent on administrative tasks.
-Beatriz Coccaro-Word, DNP, APRN, ANP-BC, CWS
Is this a field you’d recommend to young nurses today?
I would definitely recommend wound care to young nurses. I feel that wound care is an area that allows a nurse to grow within the field. You can continue to get an education and learn to deal with challenging patients while developing meaningful relationships that make it all worthwhile. Plus, with an aging population, you know you’ll always have a job.
Thank You to Wound Care Nurses!
At Net Health, we extend our heartfelt appreciation to Bea and all the outstanding wound care nurses who dedicate themselves to improving the lives of others. You are an inspiration to us all!
For more information about On Call Wound Care, visit here.
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