Jean Hayes, RN, MS, now retired from Purdue University (North Central) School of Nursing in Indiana and from her long-standing practice in the home health care industry, says she’s seen it all. Interviewed at length by our Action Products blog editor, Hayes recalls the evolution of nursing practices over her forty year career.

“We called them bedsores back then,” Hayes remembers, “and we actually used heat lamps to treat those decubitus ulcers.” Hayes conjures up a memory of one nurse holding patients’ “butt cheeks” open while another shone the heat lamp on the exposed area. The importance of maintaining a moist environment wasn’t yet fully understood, she recalls, so the effort went towards “drying out the area”.  Years later, Alginate dressings (natural wound dressings derived from carbohydrates released by clinical bacteria) were used on wounds with exudates, as were hydrocolloid dressings containing gel-forming agents. “But I can recall more ‘home-made’ solutions being used sometimes, including sugar, honey, and all sorts of what would now be considered primitive methods. We did whatever we could towards pressure ulcer prevention and treatment,” she says, looking back to those early days.

Later, of course, research became available on mattresses and wheelchair pads, as well as on nutritional regiments to support skin health and recovery. Jean Hayes was very interested to learn that, since 1970, at Action Products our main concern has been preventing the development of pressure ulcers. What began as a scientific pursuit to develop padding that would help prevent pressure sores in immobilized patients has today grown into a line of thousands of products with hundreds of applications.

Today, Action Products addresses the risks to patient skin integrity in both perioperative and home health care settings through the creation of pressure-relieving and redistributing devices, including positioners, table pads, wheelchair pads, and mattress overlays.  These devices are designed to reduce and redistribute pressure, thus reducing friction and shearing forces. 

Pressure injuries are certainly nothing new, but the current definition has been defined by the National Pressure Ulcer Advisory Panel (NPUAP) as “an area of localized soft tissue ischemic necrosis caused by prolonged pressure higher than the capillary pressure…which usually occurs over a bony prominence.  In 1992, (at the height of Jean Hayes’ clinical research work in home health care), the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research commented that “Treatment options need to be based on scientific research, regular risk assessment, and sound clinical judgment.”

“Amen to that,” Hayes comments heartily.


* E. Jean Hayes is Professor Emerita of Nursing at Purdue North Central (now Purdue Northwest).