The Healing Touch: Meet the Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse Who Goes Above and Beyond to Care for Her Patients
Carolyn Loughner, BSN, RN, CRRN, CWOCN, discusses how she and her team work together to provide extraordinary care for extraordinary outcomes.
Meet Carolyn Loughner, BSN, RN, CRRN, CWOCN, a wound ostomy continence nurse at Shepherd Center. She helps address wounds and continence issues with patients so they can begin therapy at Shepherd Center more quickly, ultimately improving their quality of life and leading to better outcomes. She and her team of nurses have successfully decreased pressure injuries, a common type of wound for people with paralysis or mobility challenges. Just in the past year, pressure injuries have plummeted from 140 to 67!
We spoke with Carolyn to understand more about her career path and how a wound ostomy nurse plays an important part in patient care.
Q: What made you decide to work at Shepherd Center?
While I was in my senior semester of nursing school at Clayton State University, I did my practicum at Shepherd Center. I knew immediately that it was different from other hospitals because there was just so much respect among colleagues. I also knew I wanted to go into wound care, so working at a catastrophic injury hospital like Shepherd Center gave me the most opportunity to make a difference. Now I’ve been here for 8 years.
Q: Do you remember your favorite day on the job?
I have so many; I just don’t know, but I do remember the day I felt like a nurse for the first time. I was still in orientation, and I had gotten medication and tube feeding all over me. I was a smelly mess, and I walked into this patient’s room who had a traumatic arm amputation. He was just sitting in his bed, looking at his phone, crying. I came over and sat with him. We talked for a minute, and I learned it was the first time he had seen his accident since his injury. He didn’t care that I was a mess; he cared that I was there to listen. That’s when I felt like a nurse for the first time, and it was one of my best days.
Q: What is a wound ostomy continence nurse, and what skills make it different from other nursing positions?
A wound ostomy continence nurse cares for people with a wound, ostomy (an opening made by surgery), or problems with continence. I feel like it’s easy to get tunnel vision about wounds, but these patients have so many other things going on in addition to their wounds. You really have to consider the whole patient, and you can’t teach that. It’s something you have to learn through experience. Since Shepherd Center treats patients with spinal cord injury, brain injury, and multi-trauma, many of them have experienced severe trauma wounds, like losing a limb in a car crash, that need to be treated with care while also caring for them as a person. So, as a wound ostomy continence nurse, you have to focus on the wounds in addition to any other related issues.
Q: Do you have any advice for someone looking to pursue nursing as a career?
Keep an open mind and stay flexible. What you think will happen might not happen, and you have to pivot. It’s also important to know it’s okay to let yourself feel sad or upset when you have a patient that codes or passes, but it’s also important to fill your own cup when you leave.
Q: You’ve got some great outcomes! What has helped you to cut those pressure injury numbers in half?
It’s a team effort. Our decreased pressure injury numbers are because of the team of nurses that really care for their patients. It’s not just me; it’s the nursing team.
Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.