Ask A Magnet Nurse: Preventing Pressure Ulcers In The Hospital And At Home

Betty Jackson, RN, MSN, CWON

Smart Living: What is a pressure ulcer and how does this condition affect patients in the hospital?

Betty Jackson: Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores, occur when not enough blood gets to an area of the body. If a patient stays in one position for too long, skin tissues can be compressed and blood vessels can get pinched off. Eventually that area can die and become a wound, which if not treated can get infected and may have to be treated with antibiotics or aggressive treatments, sometimes even surgery.

SL: Are only certain kinds of patients susceptible to this condition?

BJ: The condition can affect anyone, but some patients are at a higher risk. Having diabetes, being immobile or having limited mobility, being malnourished, or taking multiple medications-these are just a few of the risk factors. We try to prevent pressure ulcers during their stay but also to educate patients and their family or caregivers about prevention.

SL: What practices do nurses have in place for patients that either have or may have pressure ulcers?

BJ: Nurses perform a head to toe skin assessment on admission and every shift. We review the patient's past and present medical history and their medicines. We do a skin risk assessment and develop a plan of care that includes, but is not limited to, a turn schedule, keeping their heels off the mattress if they are immobile, and keeping their skin clean and dry. We also teach family members how to help their loved ones turn and shift positions so that they continue doing that after they leave the hospital.

SL: What can the patient do to prevent pressure ulcers?

BJ: They need to remember to shift positions or have their family members help them turn at home. Setting reminders on their cellphones or by an alarm clock can help. Besides shifting positions every two hours or so, patients need to get enough protein and vitamins. Make sure your meals are well-balanced.

The body makes sure it takes care of the vital organs first. The skin is vital but it can be neglected when an illness affects organs like the heart or the brain. Pressure ulcers can't always be avoided, but we are committed to preventing them in our patients and educating families to help prevent them when the patient returns home.
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000