Instructor takes wound care education across South Pacific

wound care education

When Nancy Morgan, MBA, BSN, RN, WOC, WCC, DWC, OMS, began her career in wound care, she never imagined her work would someday take her to American Samoa.

Carole Jakucs

By Carole Jakucs, MSN, RN, PHN

In June 2019, it did just that. Morgan, who co-founded the Wound Care Education Institute (WCEI), spent three days consulting with Samoan clinicians on specific wound patients and presented a one-day formal wound care class.

At the same time, she enjoyed a life-changing experience by connecting with her newly discovered people, culture and nation.

Adopted at the tender age of five days old, Morgan grew up an only child. Even though her adoptive parents were wonderful and Morgan said she felt blessed, as time went on she yearned to learn who her biological parents were.

At age 18, Morgan said she discovered the identity of her biological mother and met her. However, her mother couldn’t provide any information about her biological father other than he was a performer in Honolulu.

“My biological mother passed away a few years back,” Morgan said. “While sorting through some of her belongings, I uncovered an old photograph which I believed may have been a picture of my father.”

The missing link

wound expert

Nancy Morgan, MBA, BSN, RN, WOC, WCC, DWC, OMS

Fast forward to December 2018. In her quest to learn more about her heritage, Morgan purchased a DNA kit from Ancestry.com. One month later, she had the results.

“I discovered I had two cousins of Samoan descent,” she said. “I contacted one of them, told him my story and hoped to find my father.”

Soon thereafter, Morgan said she sent her cousin the photo of the man she suspected was her father. Her cousin immediately verified the identity of the man in the picture as his uncle, Tama Leao.

Rather than reach out herself and deliver the surprising news, Morgan and her cousin agreed he would call his uncle Tama and let him know he has a daughter.

“My father agreed I could contact him,” Morgan said. “This soon resulted in a phone call between the two of us. We ended up meeting the following month at his home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. I also met my two half-brothers as well as their children — my nieces and nephews.”

Morgan said she received an email shortly thereafter from Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) Tropical Medical Center, an acute care hospital in American Samoa, requesting wound care education for their nurses and physicians.

Wound care with her new people

Morgan was taken aback at this new request and its timing.

“I took this as a sign from the heavens,” she said. “I just found out that I’m half Samoan and the hospital in Samoa is requesting my help with wound care education. I had to go. My immediate thought was, ‘These are my people and they need my help.’”

Six months later, Morgan visited American Samoa to provide wound care education to both patients and clinicians.

“I spent three days at LBJ Medical Center consulting with hospital staff on challenging wound patients and provided one full day of wound care training for multiple disciplines, from physicians and nurses to EMS workers and nursing students,” she said.

Even though Morgan worked during the day while she was in Samoa, she was able to spend time with her new father in the evenings. “We coordinated our trips, so we would be there at the same time,” she said. “My father showed me around the island after I finished work, he took me to places where he spent time as a child, and we had dinners together.”

Wound care education is real and urgent

wound care education

Nancy Morgan, MBA, BSN, RN, WOC, WCC, DWC, OMS, back row center, stands with nursing students in American Samoa.

The population of Samoa has experienced significant increases in obesity and diabetes for well over three decades.

According to the World Health Organization in their 2013 STEPS survey, close to 50% of the population of Samoa between ages 25 and 64 years had type 2 diabetes.

“With high rates of obesity, a high-carbohydrate diet and ongoing high temperatures that make it difficult for people to exercise, those living in American Samoa have high rates of diabetes and diabetic foot ulcers,” she said.

Morgan continued to elaborate and said, “there is a cultural practice in which some Samoans with wounds seek care from their local healer first. Thus, when we do see patients with wounds at the hospital, they’re presenting to us later, rather than sooner. They’re also in extreme pain and many times septic.”

The training Morgan provided in American Samoa in June was the first formal wound care training ever held on the island, she said.

“It was a thrill to teach local clinicians about wound care so they can in turn teach patients, their families and others,” she said.

Goals for wound care education in Samoa

After the life-changing trip, Morgan said, “My goals for the future of wound care in American Samoa are to work with medical professionals and focus on the root cause of the problem — diet and increasing physical activity.

Another goal for Morgan is expanding access for advanced wound care education to more clinicians in an ongoing basis.

Forming a partnership with local folk healers in which they receive formal wound care education is another idea.

“Teaching about caring for various wounds, and when to refer patients to licensed medical professionals if a wound is not healing or has already progressed to a dangerous place is important,” she said.

What Morgan loves about American Samoa

Morgan enjoyed spending time with the people and learning more about her new culture.

“The people are beautiful, warm, loving and welcomed me with open arms as part of their culture and nation,” she said. “They constantly expressed their gratitude for my visit, the wound care training and showered me with lovely gifts.”

Teaching others about wound care is a passion for Morgan.

“I enjoy seeing that ‘aha’ moment in a student, when all the new concepts come to life and click,” she said. “Learn it today and use it tomorrow is our motto, and our students tell us just that. They use their new knowledge and skills from our training immediately. There is no limit to where a career in wound care can take you,” Morgan said.

Learn more about diabetic wound care in our Diabetic Skin and Wound Management course.
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Carole Jakucs, MSN, RN, PHN, is a full-time freelance writer. Her background in nursing includes tenures in healthcare management and as a care provider. She has worked in med/surg/telemetry, pediatric emergency department and college health. 

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