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Understanding Wounds and Infections: Nursing Care Plans

Wounds, both acute and chronic, can cause significant disruptions to the skin's structural integrity, leading to functional loss. They can be classified based on their nature and cleanliness. Infections can occur when bacteria enter damaged skin, overwhelming the body's defense mechanisms.

wound care plan

Types of Wounds and Their Classification

Wounds can be categorized based on their nature and cleanliness:

  1. Acute Wounds: These are sudden injuries resulting from trauma or surgery.

  2. Chronic Wounds: These persist over an extended period and are often associated with underlying health conditions.

  3. Closed Wounds: These occur beneath the skin's surface, such as hematomas.

  4. Open Wounds: These are visible on the skin's surface and can be caused by trauma or surgical incisions.

Wounds are also classified based on cleanliness:

  1. Class 1 Wounds (Clean): These are uninfected wounds with no inflammation, primarily closed, and do not affect respiratory, genital, or urinary tracts.

  2. Class 2 Wounds (Clean-Contaminated): These have minimal contamination and affect the respiratory, genital, or urinary tracts in controlled conditions.

  3. Class 3 Wounds (Contaminated): Fresh, open wounds resulting from poor sterile techniques or leakage. They may lead to acute inflammation or lack of purulent inflammation.

  4. Class 4 Wounds (Dirty-Infected): These are the result of poor interventions for traumatic wounds and are commonly caused by microorganisms present in perforated surgical sites.

Understanding Wound Infections

Wound infections occur when bacteria enter damaged skin and begin to multiply. If the microorganisms can penetrate the body's defense mechanisms, infection occurs. Poor aseptic technique and contamination are common causes of wound infection. Individuals with pre-existing conditions like diabetes mellitus or compromised immune systems are more vulnerable to infections. Symptoms of an infected wound include purulent discharge, skin discoloration, edema, foul-smelling odor, warm and tender skin, and elevated white blood cell count. Infections typically develop 3 to 6 days after a skin injury.

The most common bacteria strains found in infected wounds include Staphylococcus aureus (the most common skin flora), methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and pseudomonas aeruginosa.

The Phases of Wound Healing

Proper wound healing is essential to prevent infections. Wound healing occurs in four main phases:

  1. Hemostasis: This phase involves the cessation of bleeding through coagulation, platelet aggregation, and activation of intrinsic and extrinsic coagulation pathways.

  2. Inflammation: During this phase, the immune system (neutrophils and macrophages) attempts to control infection formation in the wound.

  3. Proliferation: Scar tissue development takes place as granulation tissue fills the wound bed, and epithelial cells cover the wound.

  4. Maturation: Collagen synthesis leads to the closure of the wound, with collagen I replacing collagen III.

Nursing Care Plan for Wounds and Infections

Effective wound care is crucial to prevent infections and promote healing. Here are some essential nursing interventions for wound care:

Impaired Skin Integrity Care Plan

Nursing Diagnosis: Impaired Skin Integrity Related to:

  • Skin injury from shearing, pressure, or trauma

  • Burns

  • Moisture

  • Surgical incisions

  • Impaired circulation

  • Poor skin turgor

  • Edematous tissues

  • Conditions that delay wound healing (e.g., diabetes mellitus)

As evidenced by:

  • Discharge from the wound

  • Skin discoloration

  • Erythema

  • Foul-smelling odor

  • Tight skin sutures (for surgical wound infection)

  • Warm, tender, painful, and inflamed skin

  • Prolonged or delayed healing

Expected Outcomes:

  • The patient will remain free of purulent drainage in the wound.

  • The patient will demonstrate clean wound edges.

  • The patient will verbalize an understanding of wound care management.

  • The patient will be able to participate in performing wound care.

Assessment and Interventions:

  1. Assess the wound with each dressing change: Evaluate size, color, depth, and the presence of drainage or tunneling to determine treatment effectiveness.

  2. Classify the type of wound: Identify the wound type for appropriate wound repair and care.

  3. Use a risk assessment tool: Evaluate patient history, physical exams, and lab tests to identify risk factors for poor wound healing.

  4. Obtain a wound culture: Swab wounds to monitor bacteria presence and guide treatment decisions.

  5. Disinfect the site with antiseptic: Use antiseptic wound cleansers while avoiding alcohol or harsh chemicals.

  6. Decontaminate the skin injury: Remove foreign objects promptly to prevent infections.

  7. Remove any dying tissue (debridement): Ensure the wound remains free of necrotic tissue to avoid potential infections.

  8. Apply appropriate wound dressings: Utilize non-adherent saline wraps and absorbent materials to promote healing and prevent infections.

  9. Manage the wound based on healing stages: Adjust wound care treatments according to the different healing phases.

  10. Keep the wound moist: A moist environment can speed up wound healing and enhance its appearance.

  11. Apply topical antibiotics and antiseptics: Use these treatments as directed to control bacteria and prevent further infection.

  12. Remove sutures for surgical wounds: Timely removal of sutures or adhesive strips aids in the healing process.

  13. Refer to a wound care specialist: For complex or chronic wounds, consult a wound care professional for specialized management.

Acute Pain Care Plan

Nursing Diagnosis: Acute Pain

Related to:

  • Loss of blood supply in the affected site

  • Necrotic tissue

  • Damaged nerve endings

As evidenced by:

  • Verbal reports of pain

  • Guarding the affected part

  • Restlessness

  • Tenderness or pain to touch

  • Changes in vital signs

Expected Outcomes:

  • The patient will be able to verbalize the resolution of pain in the wound.

  • The patient will report a decrease in pain on a 0-10 scale after pain medication administration.

  • The patient will be able to perform daily activities without complaints of pain in the wound.

Assessment and Interventions:

  1. Assess using a pain scale: Use a pain scale to evaluate the intensity of wound pain.

  2. Identify the type of pain: Determine if the pain is nociceptive or neuropathic in origin.

  3. Palpate the surrounding skin for tenderness or pain: Check for tenderness and pain in the skin surrounding the wound.

  4. Premedicate prior to wound care: Administer analgesia before wound care to minimize pain.

  5. Educate on pain control: Ensure the patient understands their prescribed pain medication regimen and follow-up care.

  6. Prevent surrounding symptoms: Address complications that contribute to wound pain, such as dryness, drainage, and edema.

  7. Splint the wounded site: Provide support to prevent further injury and reduce pain.

  8. Encourage rest and proper positioning: Resting the affected area and maintaining a proper position can alleviate pain.

Knowledge Deficit Care Plan

Nursing Diagnosis: Knowledge Deficit

Related to:

  • Wound care process

  • Importance of wound care

  • Wound care resources

As evidenced by:

  • Verbalization of lack of knowledge

  • Requesting further information

  • Nonadherence to wound care management

  • Development of wound infection or worsening complications

Expected Outcomes:

  • The patient will be able to verbalize an understanding of wound care management.

  • The patient will demonstrate adherence to the wound care treatment plan.

  • The patient will verbalize strategies to prevent wound infection.

Assessment and Interventions:

  1. Teach the patient about wound care and wound healing: Educate the patient on specific wound care procedures and the importance of adherence.

  2. Allow time for inquiries: Encourage patients to ask questions and provide clarifications as needed.

  3. Involve caregivers: Ensure caregivers are knowledgeable and confident in providing proper wound care.

  4. Emphasize infection control measures and aseptic procedures: Promote hand hygiene and appropriate wound dressing changes to prevent infections.

  5. Refer the patient to a social worker or case manager: Assess the patient's financial needs and provide assistance if required.

  6. Refer to a dietitian: Ensure the patient receives appropriate nutrition counseling to support wound healing.

Proper wound care is essential to prevent infections and promote healing. By following the nursing interventions and care plans discussed in this article, healthcare professionals can ensure better outcomes for patients with wounds and infections. Regular assessments, appropriate wound dressings, infection control, and patient education play vital roles in achieving successful wound healing and recovery.

NCLEX: National Council Licensure Examination, OIIQ: Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec, OIIAQ: Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers auxiliaires du Québec


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