A Message from B. Vicki Gonzalez, BSN, RN
From April 17-23, we observe Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurse Week to raise awareness and elevate the work of nurses who offer specialized care to patients with acute and chronic wounds, ostomies, and incontinence.
Our Enterostomal Therapy Nurses and union members treat everything from lacerations to Stage 4 pressure injuries. In addition to being caregivers, they are educators, leaders, and researchers who strive for excellence in skin safety.
There are only 10 of you across Jackson Health System from acute and long-term care, but your work and importance don’t go unnoticed. As a former wound ostomy nurse, I’m especially proud.
To wrap up WOC Nurse Week, meet two of our stellar Enterostomal Therapy Nurses and union members.
B. Vicki Gonzalez, BSN, RN
SEIU Local 1991
Priya Nair, ARNP-WOCN, MSN, RN
Jackson North Medical Center
As a little girl, Priya Nair would tag along with her dad while he assessed patients at a hospital located on the grounds of a tea plantation in Tamil Nadu, a state in the south of India. Priya remembers her father as a focused and attentive doctor who always took the time to explain treatment plans in detail to his patients and staff. Priya’s dad worked with patients suffering from traumatic injuries, including guillotine amputations, from working with machines on the tea plantation. As young as 5 years old, Priya was exposed to those patients.
“Those were my first visuals of wounds that I remember,” Priya says. “And somehow, I didn’t feel queasy at all.”
Her father and mother, who was a nurse, inspired Priya to pursue nursing. The exposure to wounded patients drew her to trauma and burn units.
“In nursing school, I worked primarily in a surgical unit that also had a burn unit attached to it,” Priya says. “I would go around switching my assignment with other people who didn’t want burn patients or patients with wounds. I always felt comfortable doing that.”
Priya and her husband came to the United States in 2002. Jackson North Medical Center hired Priya in 2015. She describes herself as Jackson North’s one-person wound care department. She sees patients, collects data, conducts value analysis, participates in decision-making groups, and helps create standards of practice for Jackson North, among other tasks. On a large whiteboard in her office, she keeps a running list of administrative to-dos.
Her job satisfaction comes from helping to heal patients, especially ones with complex wounds. She recalls a man who recovered from Fournier’s gangrene and a woman whose infected breast-reduction scar healed because of the care provided by Priya and Jackson North’s physical therapists trained in wound care.
“We have healed some of the patients that others have given up on,” Priya says. “When we see there’s a difficult patient, we come up with a plan and constantly keep reviewing the plan to change whatever needs to be changed.”
Since moving to the United States, Priya has joined a union in each of the hospitals that had them. She has worked in major hospitals that were not unionized, and she could feel the difference.
“I feel safe and protected by the union,” she says. “I also realize that things I alone cannot achieve for my benefit can be achieved by the collective power of the union.”
Scarlie Monestime, RN
Jackson Memorial Hospital
Eleven years ago, Scarlie Monestime started working at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Central Staffing. After years of floating and working on the medical-surgical floors, she wanted something different.
“I was always jumping from person to person,” Scarlie says. “There was no one-on-one time with patients.”
Her mentors taught her about wound care nursing. One mentor took a motherly approach to teaching Scarlie everything from the foundation up. A second mentor pushed to challenge herself. A third taught her how to properly document treatment plans. Put together, the support and mentorship she received made Scarlie fall in love with wound care. Five years later, she hasn’t looked back.
She and three other wound care nurses – Loreto Collins, Orisel Diaz, and Solidere Homicile – cover all of Jackson Memorial Hospital. Among the four of them, they split between rehab, obstetrics, pediatrics, behavioral health, and medical-surgical.
Scarlie sees patients who struggle with the reality of living with an ostomy. She empowers them with the knowledge of how to take good care of their ostomy.
“At first it’s not easy for them to accept it, but then they’re happy because you teach them,” she says. “It’s a different connection with the patient.”
She loves that wound care nursing is an interdisciplinary type of care. She works with doctors, physical therapists, nutritionists, and others to ensure her patients’ wounds heal. Wound care is also a personalized type of care, she says, and she enjoys building relationships with patients and family members from the moment she meets them to the day they are healed.
“You don’t get results right there and then, but you get them over time,” Scarlie says. “When a patient’s wound heals, it makes you feel like you’re a piece of that little miracle. It gives you a type of joy that you cannot express. When a wound heals, you feel happy.”
Scarlie joined SEIU 1991 as a member when she was hired in 2011. She says she feels the union is a voice and advocate for healthcare workers.
“I came from a private hospital with no union, and I know the value of having a union,” she says. “Even when I got a raise in the previous hospital, it was based on favoritism. Here, everyone has a step and that means a lot.”