Katy's Journey: An American Nurse in Papua New Guinea
Meet Katy Veil, CWCN
Katy used training she received from UW Continuing Nursing Education to bring wound care to people in need in Papua New Guinea. Take a journey with Katy as she travels from RN to CWCN and brings evidence-based wound care to her remote patients.
Step 1 | Recognizing a Need in Papua New Guinea
Katy’s first visit to Papua New Guinea was on a short mission trip when she was seventeen years old and still a high school student. “It was an interesting experience,” Katy recalls, “and it opened my eyes to the many medical needs overseas.”
After the mission trip, Katy returned to the States to complete high school and enter college. But Papua New Guinea was always on her mind. She took a break from her university studies and went back to the mission clinic to work.
In her first weeks in Papua New Guinea, Katy immersed herself in learning the language and culture, studying full-time with a local teacher (pictured at left, with Katy). Papua New Guinea is one of the most culturally-diverse countries in the world with over 800 recorded languages spoken by its seven million citizens. Learning to communicate with her patients was the most important first step.
At the clinic, Katy was sometimes able to explore treatment options on her own. But she realized that a nurse with a formal education in wound care would be better prepared to treat patients presenting with chronic wounds exacerbated by the tropical climate. She made it her goal to fill that role and planned a year-long furlough in the United States to become a Certified Wound Care Nurse (CWCN).
“I absolutely love working with the Papua New Guinean people and the missionaries we serve,” says Katy Veil. “I enjoy the challenge of investigating an illness and working to find a solution to the problem. Becoming a Certified Wound Care Nurse was a natural next step for me.”
Step 2 | Getting the Right Education
For Katy, finishing her BSN was just one of the hurdles to clear on her journey to become a CWCN. She also had to take a graduate-level wound management course and pass the national certification exam. For her wound management education, Katy set her sights on the Wound Management Education Program (WMEP) offered by UW Continuing Nursing Education. WMEP prepares nurses for careers as a Certified Wound Care Nurse (CWCN).
In her application to the UW Wound Management Education Program, Katy wrote: “The living conditions in Papua New Guinea [PNG] put PNG citizens at considerable risk for acute and chronic wounds, and wound care is often the primary reason for their evaluation in our clinic. I’ve had considerable experience and done quite a bit of reading on wound care during my time in PNG, but I really need an in-depth, guided course like the Wound Management Education Program at the UW [WMEP] so that I can better manage our wound care patients.”
The WMEP program required Katy to do six weeks of online learning and three weeks of onsite education and clinical experience in Seattle. In a single year, Katy completed her BSN, earned six graduate-level quarter credits, 132 continuing education contact hours and took her certification exam. Looking back at all she had to do during that year in the U.S., Katy reflects, “It seems like a lot, but honestly, it was just about taking one little step at a time, being diligent and using my time wisely.”
Step 3 | Learning to Translate Wound Education to Serve Her Patients
Throughout Katy's WMEP training, she worked hard to translate basic and advanced wound care concepts to the needs of Papua New Guinean patients. During a class which included information on epibole, she recalled a young patient she had seen in a remote area of the country. At the time, she had not known what to call the rolled-looking edges of a wound or how epibole could have negative effects on wound healing. She wrote in a course assignment that she would be aware of the phenomenon if she ever encountered it again in future practice. With a deeper understanding of factors that influence wound healing, Katy is better equipped to approach complicated issues with limited resources.
“Whether it’s an acute or chronic wound, addressing the underlying cause and optimizing the wound healing environment are of primary importance, and the WMEP course taught me how to do those things.”
Step 4 | Back to PNG as a CWCN!
Now that Katy is back in Papua New Guinea with her CWCN certification in hand, she has big plans for expanding evidence-based wound care practices in her clinic. She is responsible for educating clinic staff and is currently in the process of creating several staff in-services. She will also be leading wound care initiatives in several community outreach efforts.
“I’m back in PNG and took care of this lady’s feet today. Because she doesn’t wear shoes, she has thick callouses that have split in multiple locations resulting in damage to healthy skin. I debrided the calloused areas around the wounds, then applied dressings. I taught her how to take care of her feet and she said that other ladies in her village have the same problem and that she would teach them what I showed her. She is a very sweet friend and I think she really will teach the other ladies, too.”
Steps 5, 6, 7 ... | The Journey Continues
Katy is not sure where her practice might take her when she leaves Papua New Guinea, but she recognizes that as a CWCN, she now has a great deal of independence in where she goes and what she does. “It was always my goal to be a nurse overseas,” she says. “I love the idea of being an independent practitioner and WMEP has enabled me to do that in many respects.”
Katy's Advice to Prospective Wound Care Nurses
When asked what advice she has for someone interested in pursuing a career in wound care nursing, Katy answered, “Honestly, I don’t see much of a downside to getting the education and keeping options open. It seems like, no matter what the healthcare setting is, there are always opportunities for wound management.”