Whether at home or in one of our burn centers, patient safety and wellbeing are Burn and Reconstructive Centers of America’s (BRCA) top priorities. During the acute and reconstructive phases of treatment, proper wound care, attention to personal hygiene and healthy habits are fundamental to preventing complications and progressing the healing process.
This Patient Safety Awareness Week and every week, BRCA encourages our patients to stay safe by:
Maintaining personal hygiene
Maintaining personal hygiene is important for both patients and their support systems. Infection can be extremely life-threatening, especially in the critical stages of care. Family members should not visit patients if they feel unwell. Friends and family members should always wash their hands before entering the patient room and wear the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) such as head coverings, shoe coverings, gloves, etc. However, fending off infection is a dual effort, and patients should do what they can to maintain their hygiene, including brushing their teeth, bathing or showering and going to the bathroom as they are able. This not only can help prevent infection but also boost patient morale. The patient or a family member should always check with the provider to see what activities are appropriate for the current stage of their care.
Changing dirty or wet bandages
Dressing changes should be made both in the burn center as an inpatient and outside the burn center upon discharge. Neglecting dressing changes can lead to severe infection in the wound bed, whole-body infection (sepsis) or tissue death (necrotizing fasciitis). Providers should give every patient a list of care instructions upon discharge. These may include details on how to bathe, dress your wound and the signs and symptoms of complications or infection. If homecare instructions are not provided, or a patient has questions, they should call our Burn Information Services hotline immediately to talk to a provider at (855) 863-9595.
There are various benefits of staying hydrated throughout the treatment and recovery processes, especially for burn patients. Being well-hydrated boosts the immune system, helps prevent infections like urinary tract infections (UTI), regulates bowel movements to prevent constipation, heals the skin and more. However, a dehydrated patient most likely will not heal as well or as fast as a hydrated patient and are at a higher risk of complications.
Eating healthy meals
Those with comorbidities or pre-existing conditions should control their diets accordingly. Severely burned patients may suffer from a higher metabolism for years as the body works to heal. Diabetic patients with out-of-control blood sugar may suffer from more frequent and severe wounds that are slow to heal. Those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart disease are at a higher risk of chronic or non-healing wounds. It is suggested that all patients eat a hearty, well-balanced meal following individual dietary guidelines and restrictions. If patients are unsure of what diet might help them throughout the healing process, they should consult with their provider.
Using ambulation devices
BRCA cares for patients with various injuries and physical abilities. Often, many patients undergo therapy (physical, occupational, speech, etc.) to supplement their recovery. Walkers, wheelchairs, crutches and prosthetics should be used as necessary to avoid dangerous falls. Non-slip socks or shoes should be worn at all times at home and at the burn center to prevent slips.
Wearing compression garments
Compression garments should always be worn as advised by the attending physician. Compression garments decrease scarring, control swelling, improve blood flow and lymph fluid distribution and aid in the overall healing of the body. Neglecting to wear the compression garments for the advised amount of time may result in poor outcomes and complications like severe scarring, swelling, non-healing wounds, tissue death and more.
Attending follow-up appointments
Canceling or not attending follow-up appointments can lead to severe complications, especially after major procedures, wound closures or the placement of skin grafts. It is in the best interest of the patients to always attend these appointments, even if they feel they are unnecessary. Follow-up appointments help ensure early detection of infection or other complications, that healing is progressing as it should and that skin grafts are still viable after placement. Missing follow-up appointments may lead to skin graft death, infection and late detection of complications that can add even more time and surgical intervention to the healing process.
Patients should know their bodies and what is normal and abnormal for them, such as their typical resting heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, etc. Signs of complications vary, but patients should be able to catch problems early and report them to their physicians by knowing what is normal. Signs and symptoms of complications include:
- Shortness of breath
- High blood pressure
- Tachycardia or fast heartbeat
- The area around the wound is red and hot to the touch
- The wound is oozing
- The wound smells foul
- The wound is not improving or healing as it should
- Increased pain or swelling
If any of these occur, contact BRCA’s Burn Information Services at (855)863-9595 immediately for a consultation or follow-up with an expert.
Participating in the care plan
Patients and their support systems are highly encouraged to participate in their care plans for the best outcomes possible. Participating in the patient care plan involves actively engaging in physical, occupational or speech therapy, discussing treatment options with their provider, asking questions, voicing concerns or outcome goals and creating a plan for life after discharge. If patients do not participate in their care by taking part in therapy, attending follow-up appointments, wearing compression garments or other steps in the care plan outlined by their physician, they run the risk of a poor outcome and an extensive recovery process if not worsening health conditions.
Asking for help
Maybe the most important step of all that applies to all healing stages is the ability of the patient to ask for help. Illnesses and injuries of various kinds can take weeks, months and maybe even years to fully recover from, and it’s important the patient feels comfortable asking for help with the activities of daily living. Whether that involves having a family member help around the house, a friend to encourage the patient in therapy or a healthcare professional providing guidance on recovery, support is everywhere, and BRCA is available 24/7 to help in any way possible.
For more information on BRCA, our locations, physicians and services, please visit www.burncenters.com.
For immediate questions or concerns or to schedule an appointment, please call us at (855) 863-9595.