Proper cleaning and proper changing of dressing on a wound can aid healing and prevent infection.
Supplies you will need
- Sterile dressing materials
- Sterile cotton swabs (Q-tips)
- Sterile gloves
- Normal saline
You will also need
- Clean gloves
- Plastic trash bag to dispose of old dressings
- Protective pads (Chux / blue pads) to protect bed linens
- Clean scissors used only for dressing changes
What to do
- Wash your hands.
- Explain to the patient what you are going to do even if you do not think they can hear you.
- Position patient so they are comfortable, while respecting their modesty. Provide exposure of just the dressing site.
- Estimate what dressing supplies will be needed and place on a clean work area.
- Open the dressing materials. The nurse will show you how to keep materials sterile.
- Place protective pads under the body part where the wound is located.
- Place garbage bag nearby for soiled dressings.
To remove old dressing
- Put on clean gloves (not sterile).
- Loosen all tape. Keep skin tight and gently pull the ends of the tape toward the wound.
- Remove old dressings, one layer at a time and place in garbage bag.
- If dressings stick to the wound, moisten with normal saline to ease removal.
- Remove and throw away gloves.
- Wash your hands.
To clean the wound
- Open sterile supplies by peeling apart the edges and leave each dressing inside the open package.
- Put on sterile gloves.
- Using swabs dipped in normal saline, clean along the wound edges using small circular motions from one end of the wound to the other.
- Clean each side of the wound separately.
- Do NOT scrub back and forth across the wound.
- Pat the area dry with sterile gauze.
- Throw away cleaning materials.
Dress the wound
- After the wound is dry, apply dressing as instructed by the nurse or a medical provider.
- Tape the dressing in place.
Additional instructions from your nurse
- Dressing changes may cause increased pain and/or anxiety for the patient. Ask the nurse or your medical provider if pain or anxiety medication should be given shortly before changing the dressing.
- When cleaning the wound, look for signs of infection: redness, increased swelling, increased tenderness, unusual drainage or smell. Report to your nurse or medical provider.
- Report fever greater than 100 degrees or if the patient has chills.
Adapted from: The Lippincott Manual of Nursing Practice (10th ed.) Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2013.