“To this day, I am amazed about the opportunities in practice, education, and research this specialty provides. These opportunities have taken me all over the world, from classrooms to board rooms and from operating rooms to senior centers.”
Ms. van Rijswijk obtained her nursing degree from the Erasmus University of Rotterdam Medical Center School of Nursing (Rotterdam, The Netherlands); her Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification from the University of Dusseldorf Medical Center (Dusseldorf, Germany); and her Bachelor and Master of Science in Nursing degrees from La Salle University School of Nursing (Philadelphia, PA) and earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice at West Chester University School of Nursing in West Chester, PA. She has been involved in various aspects of wound care for the past 30 years and has conducted numerous research studies; published more than 60 textbook chapters and articles in peer-reviewed journals; and presented at many local, national, and international conferences. Ms. van Rijswijk served as a peer-reviewer for the Panel on the Treatment of Pressure Ulcers for the Agency on Health Research and Quality and as a member of both the Venous Ulcer Algorithm Development Panel of the Leonard Davis Institute/University of Pennsylvania Medical School and the American Diabetes Association's 1999 Consensus Development Conference on Diabetic Foot Wound Care. She has served as the clinical editor of the journal Ostomy Wound Management for the past 20 years, and has taught nursing and wound care at La Salle and Holy Family Universities (both in Philadelphia, PA). She currently teaches at the W. Cary Edwards School of Nursing at Thomas Edison State University in Trenton, NJ and serves on their School of Nursing Committee.
Why Wound Care?
Not too long after graduating, I realized that developing relationships with my patients, getting to really know and support them to optimize their quality of life, was important to me. Thus, when I was presented the opportunity to be the enterostomal therapy (ET) nurse at a large teaching hospital more than 30 years ago, I grabbed it with both hands. There were no wound care nurses back then; we were responsible for the care of stoma patients only. However, doing what nurses have done throughout history, ET nurses all over the world — myself included — stepped up to try and fill existing gaps in care. When asked to help manage patients with wound (and continence) problems, we did the best we could. Therefore, the role (and education) of many ET nurses, including my own, evolved to meet patient care needs to include ostomy, wound, and/or incontinence care. That was more than 30 years ago in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), and I never looked back.
With my specialization and interest in the prevention and management of wounds as the constant, I continued my education and career in the United States. To this day, I am amazed about the opportunities in practice, education, and research this specialty provides. These opportunities have taken me all over the world, from classrooms to board rooms and from operating rooms to senior centers. I have learned that you cannot only practice and teach across the entire continuum of care and function in a wide variety of roles — no matter where you are or what you do, you are a member of a global community of wound care nurses that support each other. That is important, because the individual and collective needs of patients who are at risk for or who have wounds can be profound and perplexing. The relationships, the challenges, and the rewards of knowing you can make a difference is what started and has sustained my wound care career. If you find that you have a passion for wound prevention and care, run with it. The opportunities, challenges, rewards, and possibilities of a career as a wound care nurse will find you!