If your first thought upon reading the headline was, “Wound care? Isn’t that what hospitals do anyway?”, you’re not alone.

On Sept. 1, the Redwood Area Hospital’s new Wound Care Department opened.

If your first thought upon reading that was, “Wound care? Isn’t that what hospitals do anyway?” you’re not alone.

However, there are a wide variety of different types of wounds, and most of them aren’t immediately life-threatening.

“A wound is any area of skin loss from trauma, diabetes, small burns, or pressure,” said certified nurse practitioner Jennifer Hillestad, who divides her time between the hospital and the ACMC clinic in town.

Hillestad, who is in charge of the new department, added that helping patients deal with post-surgical wounds is also part of the field.

Dawn Allen, RN, Chief Clinical Officer at the Redwood Area Hospital, pointed out that wounds come in a variety of types.

“There’s actually a very big demand for a department devoted to this. People with poor circulation or chronic diseases can develop skin problems,” she said.

“When people are in the hospital for a long time, they can develop bed sores, or if people have to wear medical devices such as hearing aids, they can develop wounds where the devices rub against their skin.

“For people with circulation problems, if we can treat a wound early, we might be saving a limb like an arm or leg later.”

Hillestad said, “Most people don’t take (small) wounds seriously, but diabetic foot ulcers kill more people every year than lung cancer. The difference is, if you tell people they have lung cancer, they listen to you.”

But why set up a special department just for dealing with wounds? Why not just let physicians and nurses treat them as part of their normal routine?

Hillestad said, “Wound care takes time, up to 60 or 90 minutes per treatment. Physicians have busy schedules, and don’t always have the time during the day.”

Wound care is also a specialty, with Hillestad receiving training in its specific treatments.

“As a nurse practitioner, I have access to different techniques and medications, and I collaborate with the primary provider (such as a family practice physician),” she said.

Many of the patients Hillestad and Van Meveren work with are referred to them by physicians, but patients can also call the hospital and set up appointments without a doctor’s referral.

Currently, the wound care department consists of a cart containing specialized dressings and equipment, in a room of the convenient care section of the hospital, across the aisle from the surgery section.

However, the department’s main strength is the expertise of Hillestad and Van Meveren, both of whom have received training in helping patients recover from wounds large and small.

In addition to her wound care work in the hospital, Hillestad also goes on the road as necessary to work with patients at home, or in hospice.

Until Sept. 1, the closest specialized wound care practitioners were in Willmar and New Ulm. The Redwood Area Hospital just felt it was time to bring that form of treatment closer.

Currently, Hillestad estimates her work load is four or five patients a day, three days a week. However, she hopes to be able to see up to 10 a day if demand continues to increase.