Nurses at Blue Mountain Health System celebrated National Nurses Week Monday, learning better ways to assess the needs and treat their patients' wounds. The event was held at the Blue Mountain Health System Annex.

Toni Gibson, associate vice president of nursing, served as master of ceremonies. She said the theme for the "Nurses Night Out" program was, "Advocate, Leading and Caring ... which is what nurses do."

"Be proud," said Gibson. "This is your week."

Gibson said health care is changing at a rapid pace. She presented a video of "the three little words" that are at the heart of what nurses do. The video included photographs of faces of the staff at BMHS, from administrators to the support staff and janitorial services, with descriptive words spelled out. The nurses shouted out a few more, "Sacrifice, compassion, hope, empathy, healing," adding more words to the mix.

The program, "Assessment and Treatment of Wounds Made Easy," was presented by Elizabeth O'Connell-Gifford, RN, BSN, DAPWCA, MBA, and was sponsored by Medline Industries.

O'Connell-Gifford, is a clinical education specialist for the Northeast Division of Medline Industries Advanced Wound Care Division. She recently became a diplomat in the American Professional Wound Care Association.

She has 30 years of nursing experience in acute care, dialysis, burn care, long-term care, and has worked in private practice and home care for the past 13 years. She has published articles in peer-reviewed journals and has presented nationwide in the area of wound, ostomy and continence care. She is the author of numerous poster presentations at international and regional conferences.

With a slide presentation, she brought wound care patients into the room to allow her the opportunity to teach nurses how to assess and treat their patients. She said nurses should assess their patients and explained that there is a new staging system that helps evaluate patients' needs and bring about a better outcome for patients.

"Your skin is the foundation of your body," said O'Connell-Gifford. "Did you know the average time it takes to heal a lower extremity wound is 52 weeks and that in most cases in three to six months most patients rewound?"

Speaking to nurses caring for patients in long-term care facilities, O'Connell-Gifford said that the first 24 hours may make a significant change in a patient's condition when entering such a facility. She said it was important to assess a patient's skin in the first week.

She noted that patients who come to a long-term facility may refuse food and water at first. She said that alone may cause significant changes to their health and well-being.

O'Connell-Gifford said patients should be assessed for damages to their skin, which may be caused by too much moisture where incontinence is an issue and too little moisture when patients have very thin dry skin.

She also explained how to measure wounds, track healing and how to determine when a patient is not responding to treatment.

She said wounds that are the most costly to treat are pressure, surgical and lower extremity wounds.

The evening ended on a lighter note, as every nurse was awarded a prize for attending the session.