Wound Assessment: Skin of Many Colors

Understanding the structural differences between light and dark skin is crucial for clinicians, and this free Wild on Wounds webinar will help – plus you’ll get awesome tips for assessing skin of color.

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Chances are that when you studied skin assessment in US textbooks, most of the case studies or featured photos involved patients with lighter skin tones – common to people of European decent.  Historically (and unfortunately), there’s been a lack of research, guidelines and consistency in treating skin of color.

This lack of diversity in educational resources is not only a disservice to clinicians and patients, it can be downright dangerous. For example, without exposure to proper techniques, you might not recognize a Stage I pressure ulcer in a darker-skinned patient, because non-blanchable erythema (redness) is harder to see.

As our patient population grows increasingly diverse, it is absolutely essential that bedside clinicians understand how skin differs among people of various ethnic and racial backgrounds, and what that means in wound assessment.

Learning starts here

Nancy Morgan, RN, BSN, MBA, WOC, WCC, DWC, OMS, WCEI Co-founder/ Clinical Instructor

Nancy Morgan, RN, BSN, MBA, WOC, WCC, DWC, OMS, WCEI Co-founder/ Clinical Instructor

The truth of the matter is that most of us have learned whatever we can about treating skin of color from our own experiences in the field. This is why WCEI Co-founder and Clinical Instructor

Nancy Morgan addressed this topic in her Wild on Wounds (WOW) 2015 National Conference presentation, “How to: Skin of Color.”

Now offered as an on-demand webinar, Morgan discusses the specific characteristics of skin of color, and how clinical conditions present differently in highly pigmented (versus lighter) skin. You can hear her entire presentation – and view it for free – with a special coupon code (listed below).

What makes skin darker?

Skin color is the result of melanin – a brown pigment. The purpose of melanin is to protect the skin by absorbing harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.  As we encounter UV rays, special cells called melanocytes produce additional melanin.

You may be surprised to learn that there’s no difference in the number of melanocytes between skin types. The palest and the darkest person will, on average, have the same number of these cells in their skin. However, the production and concentration of melanin in the epidermis (top layer of skin) is double in darker skin.

Does skin tone matter?

There are many skin tone classification scales used in the field, created mostly by and for dermatologists.  As Morgan states in her presentation, these scales aren’t helpful when it comes to wound care. “We have to do a very thorough visual inspection of the skin, and we have to talk to the patient about his or her baseline skin color.”

More webinar highlights

Besides exploring the basics of skin color and tone, you’ll find out more from Morgan’s webinar, including:

  • Skin conditions more common in darker skin, such as hyperpigmentation, keloid scarring, and xerosis.
  • Useful tips for performing a holistic assessment of a patient with dark skin.
  • Why some clinical conditions – such as sDTI, erythema or cyanosis – can be much more difficult to pick up in skin of color.
  • How other conditions, such as hemosiderin staining, may appear very different than they would in a patient with lighter skin.

Get your free webinarFree Webinar - Skin of Color

Are you ready to learn more about this topic and better address the wound care needs of your patients with dark skin?  Click here and use the code BLOG to access this 60-minute recording, which qualifies for an education credit.

More thoughts?

We’d love to know about your clinical experiences with skin of color: did you receive any official training regarding this topic, or have you mostly learned from your own personal experiences? Is your facility proactive in making sure clinicians are knowledgeable in how skin tone and color effect proper wound assessment? Tell us about your observations and experiences by leaving your comments below.

Wild on Wounds℠ (WOW) is the national wound conference designed for healthcare professionals that are interested in enhancing their knowledge in skin and wound management. Clinicians come from all over the US to see, touch and participate in our hands-on workshops. They also learn about all the new and advanced wound care treatments and technologies to better help care for their patients.  For more information visit www.woundseminar.com

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Wound Assessment: Skin of Many Colors - Understanding the structural differences between light and dark skin is crucial for clinicians, and this free WCEI webinar will help. Plus, you’ll get awesome tips for assessing skin of color.

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