Anyone who has treated nonhealing or complex wounds understands the level of specialized care they require. Whether the wounds are vascular ulcers, diabetic ulcers or pressure ulcers, highly trained professionals must be available to assess the unique physiological conditions preventing each wound from healing and to administer the treatment options most likely to result in a desirable outcome for the patient.
At Deaconess Health System in Indiana, our wound care program is integrated with inpatient wound/ostomy teams to provide a seamless continuum of care and facilitate referrals for post-acute follow-up. Our team has worked diligently to be the lead for inpatient and outpatient wound care across our system. The increasing number of referrals and steady patient volumes illustrate the widespread trust in our clinicians and the quality of our care.
We decided to seek recognition through the HFAP Wound Care Certification Program. We wanted to confirm our success and ongoing commitment to excellence through a third-party review of our program. We also sought a collaborative partner for ongoing improvement and learning.
Understanding the Value of Certification
Specialty certifications mandate that clinical experience directly reflects didactic knowledge in the area. I have experience in obtaining my own specialty certification credentials in the areas that I have worked in as a nurse starting in the emergency department, then critical care and now wound care. After moving from a primarily bedside role to a management position, I also sought and obtained the nurse executive certification to challenge myself further and expand my skills to encompass leadership and management topics.
My personal certification experiences have significantly improved the level of care I provide my patients, and my experiences have also helped establish my role within my teams. Similarly, I wanted our center to have its work validated from an objective regulatory perspective that is equally focused on learning, growth and innovation. Looking at program certification as a team-based extension of individual clinician certification, I appreciate that it adds an extra layer of scrutiny and assessment to our everyday practices.
Certifying our wound care program provides a credential for our whole team, but it is also a patient-centered approach to recognition. I feel taking the extra steps to meet these certification criteria demonstrates the interest and intent of our organization and its individual providers to deliver the highest quality service to our patients. In achieving wound care certification, our program is better able to showcase these specialty services to patients, payers and other organizations in the community. Our current designation as HFAP certified for “Advanced Wound Care with Distinction” sets us apart, identifies our expertise and supports those referrals, while raising our bar for ongoing quality improvement.
Why Choose HFAP?
We opted to work with HFAP because the certification standards are structured to promote a multidisciplinary approach to care and a culture of continuous improvement. The onsite surveyor demonstrated an attitude of partnership, an investment in the success of our program and an enthusiasm for creating a collaborative learning experience to encourage our future success.
After completing our first spotless Advanced Wound Care Certification survey a little over three years ago, I was already planning ahead for the recertification survey and intentionally upped the metric by going for the next level: HFAP Advanced Wound Care with Distinction to challenge my team and showcase our excellence.
To become HFAP-certified, a wound care program must meet standards demonstrating that it:
- Is supported by the organization it belongs to.
- Proactively adopts policies to improve outcomes and reduce risk.
- Demonstrates that actual practice conforms to established policies.
- Collects and uses data to evaluate performance and support continuous improvement.
- Closes the loop by reporting results to leadership.
- Seeks and maintains community partnerships.
My mission was to have the great work of my team authenticated by a known and respected entity that could confirm we meet these criteria, produce strong outcomes, focus on patient satisfaction, and document all processes and procedures. HFAP checked all of these boxes, making it a clear choice as the organization best suited to partner with our team.
A Closer Look at the Survey Experience
We know we are good at what we do, but we still took the certification process seriously. Our team felt driven to guarantee our performance on the day of the survey would properly reflect our daily dedication to excellence.
In preparation, our staff conducted extensive reviews of key policies and procedures—infection control, health promotion, staffing, quality, education, training, etc.—to identify any disparities and ensure all required documentation was accounted for. We worked together to confirm best practices were not only in place, but understood across all teams and staff levels.
The day-long survey included a review of all documents, as well as interviews with patients, staff, physicians and hospital leaders. At the end of the day, our team could proudly see the fruits of their labors, as zero deficiencies were found, and we became the first center to achieve this certification level: HFAP Advanced Wound Care Certification with Distinction.
My Survey Takeaways
In my experience, the criteria for achieving a specialty certification keeps a successful program grounded and on track to continue to provide high-quality care in the future. The survey experience itself provides examples of best practices and expert insight. Our team continues to leverage the quality metrics and requisites needed for the certification survey throughout our day-to-day practices to ensure every patient encounter is conducted according to the highest standards.
I can say that the collegial HFAP certification process has been rewarding, although preparation was very time intensive. In preparing for and successfully completing the survey, our team created and adopted practices designed to improve outcomes and reduce risk. The HFAP standards guided us without being excessively prescriptive, while the requirements to collect performance data helped challenge us to reach new levels of innovation.
The surveys have brought our staff together to build skills and receive recognition for our achievements, and we’ve strengthening partnerships within our community. In addition, my experience with the HFAP certification process has heightened my personal interest in becoming a surveyor to work with other organizations and help them realize their full potential through the certification process. n
Libby Ketchem is the Department Manager of Wound Services at Deaconess Health System in Evansville, Indiana. She has been a part of Wound Services since its inception in April of 2000. She became a certified wound specialist (CWS) in 2005. Ms. Ketchem is active with the American Board of Wound Management (ABWM), the governing body for the CWS credential, serving on the exam writing committee.
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