International Nurses Day (IND) is celebrated around the world every 12 May — the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. Back in the days of Florence Nightingale, nurses were blamed for bed sores (now known as pressure injuries or PIs). Now they are Florence Nightingales of preventing and healing them.

World leader in wound management, Regis Aged Care’s National Manager Wound Prevention and Management Dr Suzanne Kapp’s career exemplifies the transformative power of curiosity and dedication within nursing practice.

Starting out as a graduate nurse in the trauma and orthopaedic ward and questioning the traditional practices that had questionable evidence-based reasoning, was just the beginning of Suzanne’s career. A career marked by curiosity and a desire for knowledge.

“From day one in my career, I was questioning nursing practices,” Suzanne said. “I needed to understand why we were doing things and how we could do things better.”

This questioning led to a shift to community home nursing, where greater autonomy and involvement in decision-making processes brought newfound satisfaction.

The fascination with wound care sparked early on, as the intricate process of healing captured her attention. And a deeper understanding of the complexities of skin integrity emerged.

“I developed expertise in that space,” Suzanne said. “I vividly recall the first wound I encountered that didn’t heal, and the first one I aided in healing. It’s funny because you don’t heal the wound; you just facilitate the process. But I was hooked from then on. I couldn’t get enough.”

Suzanne found wound care held a unique place in nursing, where nurses not only deliver care but also lead in treatment and prevention. “It became very clear to me that wound care, unlike any other aspect of nursing, epitomised the essence of nursing practice. It was so quintessentially nursing.”

The transition from clinical practice to academia and research was a natural progression driven by a desire to delve deeper into nursing practices and generate broad change. Pursuing a PhD focused on patient-led wound care, highlighted the importance of empowering patients in their own management, shaping future approaches to care delivery.

“My PhD delved into the experiences of individuals managing their own wound care,” Suzanne said. “These were individuals with leg ulcers and other chronic wounds, who opted out of waiting at the GP’s office or for the district nurse, preferring to take a proactive role in their own management and care.”

In academia, her focus expanded beyond wound care to encompass clinical leadership, evidence-based practice and research methods.

“This also involved collaborating with nurses on research projects in wound prevention and management, but also other areas of practice, ranging from spirituality in pediatric end-of-life care to how to support nursing students with stress, anxiety and depression,” Suzanne said. “So I’ve kept my clinical and research and teaching eye across lots of things in nursing, not just wound care.”

Nursing specialisation in wound care offers a rewarding pathway for those inclined towards clinical excellence and research. Whether through self-directed learning or formal education programs, nurses can carve out a niche in wound care, contributing to improved patient outcomes and advancing nursing practice.

Suzanne’s journey from novice nurse to wound care expert showcases the range of opportunities within nursing to explore diverse pathways, from clinical practice to academia and research. With dedication and a thirst for knowledge, nurses can make meaningful contributions to healthcare, shaping the future of nursing practice and patient care.

Suzanne Kapp is National Manager Wound Prevention and Management at Regis Aged care and Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Nursing at the University of Melbourne.