Drive to heal wounds brings national nursing honours for PhD student | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Drive to heal wounds brings national nursing honours for PhD student

22 Dec 2020

A USC PhD candidate who is researching innovative ways to treat chronic wounds has been awarded two major national nursing awards.

Sunshine Coast Blue Care nurse Alison Vallejo was recently presented with Uniting Care’s 2020 “Full Circle - Bringing People Together Award” and the “International Year of the Nurse and Midwife” Award.

Mrs Vallejo was recognised for inspiring others with her dedicated efforts and drive to complete PhD research to find life-changing solutions for clients suffering from chronic, non-healing wounds.

As part of her research, Mrs Vallejo conducted a clinical trial to research new therapies for chronic wounds, in particular the use of low-frequency ultrasound as a tool to clean wound tissue, combined with a topical antiseptic.

“Chronic wounds can be difficult to heal, or sometimes never heal, and current evidence indicates that wound biofilm can interfere with healing,” Mrs Vallejo said.

She said the naturally-occurring biofilm, which is produced by microorganisms adhering themselves to the wound surface, was difficult to manage as it protected the microorganisms and prevented antimicrobial treatments and the immune system from reaching them.

“The focus of my research is to provide quality evidence around how to safely and comfortably remove bacterial biofilm from wounds, and prevent it from reforming, to improve outcomes for patients when standard care is unsuccessful.”

Mrs Vallejo was the clinical nurse in charge of the Sunshine Coast-based Wound Solutions Clinic, a collaborative project between USC and Blue Care, which provided nurse-led, multi-disciplinary specialised treatment and management of acute and chronic wounds.

She also educates undergraduate nursing and dietetic students, community nurses and other health professionals responsible for wound care.

With 20 years’ experience in community nursing, Alison said she developed an unwavering passion for wound care early in her career. For the past eight years, her focus has been on chronic wounds, particularly lower leg ulcers.

“I just couldn't understand why these debilitating wounds didn't heal and thought that there had to be more that I could do to help these people,” she said.

“My desire to learn as much as possible about these conditions and my drive to take it all the way prompted me to conduct a clinical trial and pursue a PhD.”

Mrs Vallejo’s dedication to her patients has been described as an inspiration by fellow USC researchers and PhD supervisors, Emeritus Professor Marianne Wallis, Dr Eleanor Horton and Dr David McMillan.

“Alison’s research has led to significant improvements in the healing of chronic wounds, and tears of joy from clients who had suffered for many years, some for decades,” Professor Wallis said.

“While her studies have focused on trialling an innovative treatment for chronic wounds capable of being administered by nurses, she has gone one step further and has trained in microbiological testing techniques so that her research is truly bench-to-bedside.”.

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