For nearly 20 years Jennifer Bierhup RN, WCC, CCM, DAPWCA, FACCWS, has made healing wounds her life’s primary mission. Beginning in 2007, she started on the path by developing the first inpatient wound care program at St. Luke’s, one of the leading hospitals in Toledo, Ohio. Since then, she has gone on to help in similar roles at Wood County Hospital, St. Anne’s Hospital, and Pro Medica Home Health Care, helping to create high-quality and innovative wound care programs with a proven track record of improving outcomes.
Not only is Jen a certified wound care nurse, but she’s spent her career learning from the very best in the industry, wound care pioneers like Barbara Braden, Dot Weir, and Nancy Morgan. She has seen firsthand how difficult it is to treat wounds with current systematic limitations, and how, with just some direct education and the right support systems, every nurse can be made to be a wound care superhero.
“I have always believed that better wound care treatment and education holds the power to help solve the $60 billion chronic wound care problem we have in the US today. By focusing on empowering the nurses and care providers who are on the front lines, we can not only save money but also save limbs and lives in the process.”
In 2020, Jen founded Libellen Wound Healing Consultants, with a focus on building comprehensive wound care programs for home health agencies. As a part of this goal, Jen created her own wound care education curriculum, a ten-course program for all levels of home health nurses, to help them more effectively evaluate, document and treat wounds in their patients. The Libellen process is designed around being functional, a practical approach to wound care that nurses of any experience and education level can utilize.
Her wound education program has already been a hit with home health agencies across Ohio, and she is excited to make the educational program available nationwide beginning in 2022.
Taking the Sting Out of Treating Chronic Wounds
The Case for Better Wound Care Education in Home Health
By Jennifer Bierhup, RN, WCC, CCM, DAPWCA, FACCWS
As one of the most expensive and time-consuming cases home health agencies routinely deal with, chronic wounds have become a sore spot for both nurses and administrators. Providing quality of care, while also not overspending, has become a challenging balancing act for home health, and one that continues to grow more difficult with new regulations and reimbursement rates. Standards for charting, care plans, and metrics for evaluation have all changed, leaving some agencies to consider dropping chronic wound care entirely.
How can we, as nurses and home health agencies, provide outstanding care to our chronic wound patients, while meeting the challenges of a rapidly changing industry?
Practical Solutions for Improving Care
Libellen Wound Healing Consultants has been focused on creating a new kind of wound care education, one that utilizes practical, evidence-based techniques to put practical tools into the hands of nurses. We understand that change starts with the nurses on the front line, the people providing wound care and evaluation every day. We want to give them the knowledge to be successful no matter the wound or the environment, in ways that make care less complicated and time-consuming. Every one of our nurses can become a wound care superhero, with a little education and the right tools on their tool belt!
Libellen has been pioneering a new method of wound evaluation that makes charting and easier while improving clinical communication overall. Often, home health agencies struggle to communicate with both patients and providers. We want to make sure that nurses have been given the education and follow-up training on how to chart and document appropriately. Our education program teaches simple changes nurses can make to charting that will help clue the rest of the care team into what’s going on. It is not a one-time process though, as we do chart QA and case review over a period of time to help continue to educate nurses on how to continually improve.
Communication As a Key to Success
In addition to a focus on wound evaluation and treatment, we also stress the importance of interaction with the patient. How do we talk about their wound or primary diagnosis? What types of behavior can we get them to adjust? Why should they buy–in to being compliant? These are all components of effective patient communication. Our home health nurses are on the front line, caring for patients every day, and have a real relationship that builds up over time. Taking that trust and connecting it to the care plan to help build positive habits is something we absolutely must do, but often don’t know how.
Our model works with nurses to learn therapeutic communication techniques that are designed to overcome non-compliance, one of the most common problems that agency nurses often bring to the table. While it’s true that the nurses can’t be there 24/7, we have found some positive, motivating ways to help get patients to understand and more importantly, to participate in the care plan and become a part of their own team. Compliance in the home health agencies we’ve worked with has seen a dramatic improvement, again with simple adjustments to how we interact with patients.
The Case for Better Wound Care Education
hronic wounds are not going anywhere, and cost health care systems over $60 billion dollars annually. That number is expected to nearly double in the next decade. As the population continues to age and we see a greater emphasis on using non-facility-based care options, the reliance on home health agencies for things like chronic wound care will only continue to increase. It is up to us, the home health nurses and agencies, to be proactive in coming up with easy, effective, and evidence-based tools to help make care better.
The problems within the industry are not because of a lack of talent or investment, as our nurses are fantastic people doing great work in hard situations every day. But we need to find new ways to encourage them to be the best wound care providers possible. That starts with giving them the tools and guidance they need to be successful no matter the setting. No matter what, our goal should be to empower the nurses you have to become the wound care superheroes we know that they can become!