Wendy Sugioka, BSN, RN, CWCN - Certified Wound Care Nurse
Bayfront Seven Rivers Hospital
It’s a testament to Wendy Sugioka’s specialized work that she is known throughout the Citrus County medical community as “Wound Care Wendy.”
One of only 4,000 certified wound and ostomy care specialists in the country, Sugioka cares for patients at very difficult times in their lives and educates hospital staff on wound care procedures. She also helps to train nurses who want to specialize in wound care.
Sugioka became a nurse 22 years ago to help those most in need. Her life has taken different paths, but that desire has never waned.
“I wanted to go to Africa to help with the AIDS orphan epidemic,” she said. She didn’t get to go to Africa then, being busy with raising her two children and a move from Hawaii to Florida to help her ailing parents.
After graduating from the University of Hawaii in 1995, Sugioka worked at LifeCare Center, which operates skilled nursing, rehabilitation and senior living facilities throughout the United States. She earned her wound care certification during that time.
“When I was a student nurse, I had a significant other who was quadriplegic for a while. He died from pressure injury sepsis,” she said. “I thought that shouldn’t happen to people. Later, I worked with an ostomy wound nurse in Hawaii who impressed me. In the back of my mind I thought it was something I’d like to pursue.”
In 2003, when her parents became ill, she was able to transfer to the LifeCare Center in Lecanto as a charge nurse. She also consulted on wound care cases for home health agencies and skilled nursing facilities. In 2006, she helped to open Citrus Memorial Hospital’s wound care and hyperbaric center and, later that year, took a job at Bayfront Seven Rivers as a wound care specialist.
“As a wound and ostomy nurse, I treat acute and chronic wounds of all kinds,” she said. “I work on every floor, and every unit. The biggest drive is preventing pressure injuries that are prevalent in the hospitalized geriatric population.
“I love what I do; it is very satisfying to be able to work on one thing – wound care – rather than having to know something about everything. I look at each patient holistically, but my focus is on getting their wounds to heal and providing education,” she added. “I talk to patients and families about wound care, and healing, and share information with surgeons and nurses about all of the amazing cutting-edge technology that is now available to help people.”
Although her work is satisfying, there also are challenges, said Sugioka.
“There can be a lot of sadness,” she said. “Not everybody lives. Some patients are not healthy enough to get through surgery, others have wounds that become septic. Some patients who are coming to terms with their new ostomy have body image issues that we have to work through.
“Still, it’s rewarding,” she added. “I get to work with every nurse, tech and physical therapist in the hospital. Success for my patients depends on bringing everybody in. It is satisfying being able to work with other disciplines and seeing a great outcome.”
Sugioka raised her two children in Citrus County, and, with the help of her mother, homeschooled them through high school while she was working full time. Her grown children and her two-year-old grandson live with her, with grandma nearby.
Although she couldn’t travel to Africa in the 1990s, she was able to spend a month in Madagascar in 2015 as part of Mercy Ships, a charity that brings full-service hospital ships to countries in need of medical services. This July, she will join Mercy Ships once again, this time for a one-year commitment in Senegal.
“God called me into the nurse that I am,” she said. “I get so much from traveling with Mercy Ships and helping people. We do free surgeries and other medical procedures on the ship, which is fully equipped, but we also visit villages outside the port town to provide basics like food and clothing.
“The people always teach me so much; they are so happy with nothing. They always want to give you something even though they have nothing,” she added. “It really changes your perspective. It’s a deep spiritual experience that makes me a better person.”