Kimberley Smith wrote in her kindergarten year book that she wanted to be a nurse when she grew up. In the years that followed between kindergarten and university, Kimberley stuck with her plan of pursuing a career in health care.
Fast-forward to 2019 and you’ll find Kimberley working in the job she chose when she was just five years old. “After I finished my nursing degree and started working, I knew that nursing was the job for me. I have always enjoyed caring for people.”
Kimberley began working with Eastern Health as a nurse at the Carbonear General Hospital when she graduated from nursing school in 2003. She made the move to community health 11 years ago where she has since worked in both public health and community support programs. Currently, Kimberley works as a community supports program nurse in Heart’s Delight.
Each work day starts off with a “team huddle” with Kimberley and her co-worker, Shyanne Sellars, who make up the Community Support team in the Heart’s Delight office. “We review the work load for the day, consult on clients, and then decide how we are dividing out the workload. I try to see all my clients in clinic first. Once that is done, it’s time to hit the road and see people who cannot come into the clinic,” Kimberley said.
Although clients’ needs vary, the bulk of the workload centres on wound care. Eastern Health’s community support program provides wound treatment at home and in the community for various types of wounds, including post-surgery wounds, chronic wounds, as well as the removal of stitches put in place to close the wound. As Kimberley explains: “In community health, we see everything from trauma wounds, burns, surgical wounds, diabetic ulcers, skin conditions, pressure injuries, skin tears and everything in between.”
Healing Starts Inside
The majority of Kimberley’s referrals come from the hospital or a family physician for health issues that can often be resolved in the short term. Kimberley said that she likes meeting with clients, assessing their health status and treatment needs, formulating a plan with them to meet their needs and resolve their health issue, all while teaching and empowering them to take control over their own health. She said: “It is very satisfying when you are able to discharge a client knowing their health needs have been met!”
Kimberley and Shyanne see wounds every day and are constantly reassessing them to ensure the right treatment is being provided to aid in healing, prevent infection, or, in the case of chronic non-healing wounds – to prevent the wound from deteriorating.
According to Kimberley, healing really starts from the inside out and caring for wounds goes much deeper than healing a wound on the surface; lifestyle and health factors such as proper nutrition makes a big difference. “Wound assessment is multi-dimensional and holistic. Besides the physical wound, we need to assess the person and their overall health. I love seeing the difference in wounds by following proper nutrition, smoking cessation, wearing offloading foot wear, and correct application of the principals of wound care.”
Training and Support
Skin and wound management may require simple or complex prevention and treatment methods. As Kimberley puts it, there isn’t a “one size fits all” solution to wound care; nurses require specialized education in wound assessment and treatment methods. “Since it’s a huge part of my daily work, I try to attend every education session and webinar on wound care as I possibly can. There is always something new to learn!”
Natasha Lowe, skin and wound care consultant for Eastern Health’s community supports program, agrees that lifelong learning is an important component to wound care. Natasha’s office is based in St. John’s but she travels across the Eastern Health region to provide care to clients. She also shares her passion and knowledge as she provides clinical expertise in skin and wound care to health professionals all across the Eastern Health region. Community health nurses can consult with Natasha via phone or email for her recommendations and she often works with them to develop a plan of care to assist with healing. “Working in community has its own individual challenges as we work independently,” Natasha said.
So how did Natasha become so passionate and knowledgeable about wound care? Rewind to 2000 when Natasha began her career as a registered nurse, working on 4 North B at the Health Sciences Centre – a general/plastic surgery and burn unit. Since the beginning of her career, Natasha always enjoyed and was interested in wound care and she says that you can never know too much about wounds. Her interest, combined with the increasing complexity of wound care, led Natasha to take specialized courses and, as a result, she moved to her current position. “It became a passion of mine to learn as much as I could about wounds because I love watching wounds heal and the difference it makes on a client’s quality of life. I can’t imagine doing anything else,” said Natasha.
Caring for Others
For Kimberley, whether she is helping her clients with wound care, IV therapy, or cardiac education and care – just to name a few – she knows she made the right decision to become a nurse years prior when she was in kindergarten.
“Every day I leave work knowing I helped someone. As community health nurses, we care for people often at their most stressful and vulnerable times. It is truly a blessing to care for people when they need us the most.” ■
This story was written by Allison Barter, a communications specialist with Eastern Health.