Maintaining Connection During the Pandemic: In-Person Alternatives

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By Elizabeth Faust, MSN, CRNP, CWS, CWOCN-AP, DAPWCA

As I reflect on 2020, and I try to think of words to describe it, connected is not a word that I would use. If nothing else, last year isolated us mentally, physically, and emotionally. I have said for years that wound care clinicians often work in silos. Some institutions have only one wound care provider. Even at the larger institutions, the depth of the work to be done may not allow for a team approach. Now there are additional infection prevention guidelines. Wound care specialists are split into teams, clinicians are trying to limit exposure, and telehealth is on the rise. Additionally, our vendor and sales representatives are unable to come in and help us in person. Even when we do get to collaborate with other clinicians or vendors, it is behind masks and goggles, six feet away, or even over the phone. The sense of connection is lost, or perhaps dwindling.

I don’t know about you, but conferences have always been a highlight of my year. I get to see clinicians from across the country who specialize in wound care. After 11 years in wound care, it feels like a high school reunion or even a family reunion when I see all the clinicians I speak with or listen to speak every year. This year I missed that. I miss talking with other wound care specialists, I miss seeing my vendors, I miss connecting with like-minded people.

So what options are we left with…and how do you feel about them?

Staying Connected During COVID

1. Virtual wound care conferences
There have been lots of platforms and different experiences, some better than others. Have you attended any? I have attended a few. There are pros and cons. I don’t miss sitting in the airports and dealing with flight delays. The virtual conferences make it easy to attend, with one exception…the dedicated time and distractions of participating from the home or office. I find myself setting the laptop on the kitchen counter while playing monopoly with my kiddos, or making breakfast, or letting my dogs out. In the vendor hall, while you can still “see” and chat with your colleagues and vendors, the interaction isn’t the same. There is no touching the products or physically looking around vendor space. The companies and organizations that put on the conferences have some inherent limitations in replicating an in-person conference experience virtually, but they do their best to give the clinicians what they need.

2. Social media
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn…did I miss any? I looked this morning and found I belong to seven different Facebook groups for wound care. That doesn’t include the pages I follow. Don’t get me wrong, I love social media. It’s the only way I have felt connected through this. But it’s a lot. So many notifications, alerts, tags, etc. It’s enough to keep your head spinning. And that’s coming from someone who had a MySpace account in her early 20s. So how do we pick and choose?

3. Emails
I think I have been in email jail for the last seven months. One would think that without the additional commitments of conferences and travel that I would have more time, but the emails seem to be coming more frequently. And everything is an email. There are limited meetings and nothing face to face. So everything is an email and a virtual gathering.

Conclusion

So then what is the next step? How do we “recover” from this time of limited connectedness? What will our future look like as a group of wound care clinicians? This is where I would love to hear from you. Tell me…what has been your favorite thing about virtual conferences? What is your least favorite thing? How do you want to interact with clinicians? How do you want to interact with vendors? How do you want your future connections to be?

About the Author
Liz Faust is a Nurse Practitioner in Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Care for Tower Health System in eastern PA. She graduated from Gwynedd Mercy University with her MSN in Adult Nurse Practitioner in 2009, became a Certified Wound Specialist (CWS) in 2010, and certified in Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (CWOCN) in 2012. She served as an in-patient wound, ostomy, and continence specialist for a 700+-bed Level I Trauma Center for nine years and now focuses on delivering care across a seven hospital health system. She focuses on care of the perioperative, post-operative, cardiac and critical care patients, with an interest in nursing and physician education, NPWT, and pressure injury prevention. She has written articles on NPWT. She has lectured nationally in addition to facilitating Bioskills labs across the country. She has two years’ experience in an outpatient wound care center prior to her acute care position. She serves as the vice president of the American Professional Wound Care Association (APWCA), board member for the American Board of Wound Healing (ABWH), and is active within her local affiliate of the Wound, Ostomy, Continence Nurses Society.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

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