My Scope of Practice: Running to Shake Up Wound Care

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Jaclyn Gaydos

Increasing awareness, improving care, and integrating research into wound care on a global stage are part of the personal and professional missions of Barbara Bates-Jensen (aka BBJ), PhD, RN, FAAN. From her time as a enterostomal therapy nurse to founding a nonprofit to her academic research and teaching roles, Dr. Bates-Jensen has shown her commitment not only to the field of wound care, but also to the innumerable lives she’s touched. BarbaraBatesJensen

Born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska, Dr. Bates-Jensen graduated with her associate and bachelor degrees in nursing from the University of Nebraska in 1979 and 1981, respectively. She continued her education at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), earning her Masters of Science in Nursing in 1992 and her Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing in 1998. Since 1992, Dr. Bates-Jensen has authored 37 peer-reviewed research articles and 47 book chapters. She also has been an invited speaker at numerous national and international conferences, including the Symposium on Advanced Wound Care (SAWC) and the World Union of Wound Healing Societies. The numerous associations and scholarly societies in which she is involved include the Association for the Advancement of Wound Care (secretary and board member), American Geriatrics Society, Wound Healing Society, Royal College of Surgeons as a Ireland Research Grant Reviewer, and Health Volunteers Overseas (Wound Care Steering Committee), to name a few. 

Although her first nursing position was clinical oncology registered nurse with the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in Los Angeles in 1981, it didn’t take long for her life-long passion to emerge. “After 1 year as an oncology nurse, I became certified as a WOC nurse and have been in wound care ever since,” she says. Over the past 34 years, Dr. Bates-Jensen has worked in hospitals, home care, and private practice as a wound care nurse. “My research academic career also has been devoted to wound care, specifically in detecting and preventing pressure ulcers and chronic wound assessment,” she says. But her passion didn’t stop there. “After volunteering in Haiti following the severe earthquake in 2010, I started the Bates-Jensen Wound Reach Foundation, now the Wound Reach Foundation, in 2011,” she says. “I was the Chief of Wound Care in the Port-au-Prince tent hospitals 3 weeks following the earthquake. It was transformational for me, as for most volunteers. I volunteered a second time 6 months after the earthquake. When I returned from the second Haiti trip, I just felt like I hadn’t done enough. Compelled to do more, I started the Foundation with UCLA and incubated it for the first year. The Wound Reach Foundation achieved official nonprofit status in 2012.”

Currently, Dr. Bates-Jensen is a full professor at the UCLA School of Nursing and David Geffen School of Medicine, teaching undergraduate courses on pathophysiology and graduate-level advanced pathophysiology and research measurement. “I provide wound care lectures to the geriatric fellows and advanced practice nursing students, and I’m also dissertation chair for 4 doctoral students,” she says. In terms of her personal research interests, Dr. Bates-Jensen is focused on improving pressure ulcer and related wound care through the use of technology and methods of translating research into practice. “The National Institute for Nursing Research has funded my research evaluating a nonvisual method of detecting early pressure ulcers using a device that measures skin and tissue water or subepidermal moisture (SEM) in nursing home residents,” she says. “My work using the same methods in veterans with spinal cord injury has been supported by Veteran Affairs grants. I have also tested SEM measures in critical care patients. In conjunction with the Wireless Health Institute and 2 professors at UCLA, I invented a device to obtain SEM measures — the SEM scanner — in real practice settings. The SEM Scanner is CE Marked and currently in use in Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Europe. Additionally, I’m the developer of a tool for chronic wound assessment, the Bates-Jensen Wound Assessment Tool (BWAT), which is used worldwide and has been incorporated into a variety of electronic medical record systems.” Currently, Dr. Bates-Jensen is conducting a pediatric pilot study with the SEM scanner, using it with children in an orthopedic unit to gather beginning information on the use of this technology in the pediatric population. 

Although she is heavily involved in research, Dr. Bates-Jensen continues to make time for the Wound Reach Foundation. “My motivation in starting the Wound Reach Foundation was to try to make a difference in wound care globally,” she says. “My experience in Haiti during the earthquake showed me wound care is a global issue, and we can improve care by increasing knowledge and skills using existing resources and people. One person who worked and collaborated with me from the beginning is Dr. Greg Bohn, who was a great supporter of the foundation from its inception.” 

Although it is only 6 years old, the Wound Reach Foundation has already provided more than $10,000 to support clinical wound healing research, more than 100 pairs of diabetic shoes to persons with diabetic foot ulcers who were underinsured, and 4 travel scholarships in conjunction with the AAWC for wound care professionals to travel to underresourced areas such as Haiti, India, and Cambodia to provide education to the professionals in these areas. “Since starting the Wound Reach Foundation, I have become much more assertive in asking people and companies for financial support,” Dr. Bates-Jensen says. “I sometimes feel like all I do is ask for financial support. The Foundation has broadened my experience in wound care by providing opportunities I previously never considered. Now, I try to do a volunteer medical mission to a resource-poor country annually. I’m not always able to do this, but I have gone on 5 medical missions over the last 6 years. These missions remind me of my reasons for starting the foundation and provide continued motivation to grow and develop it.”

Destressing is a priority for Dr. Bates-Jensen. “My major stress reliever is running,” she says. “I started running 6 years ago, right before I went to Haiti to volunteer. Like most people, I didn’t eat in Haiti, I gave my food to the patients, and so I lost about 12% of my body weight. Three weeks after returning from Haiti, I was scheduled to run my first marathon. I was too thin and not well trained, but I finished the race. I couldn’t believe I finished, and I felt so powerful! Now I run 2 marathons a year, usually 1 in the spring and 1 in the fall.” It wasn’t long before Dr. Bates-Jensen incorporated running into her work. “I started Dr. BBJ’s Running Group at UCLA for students, faculty, and staff at the School of Nursing in an inclusive, noncompetitive setting,” she says. “Students really like running with me… at least I think they do!” 

The OUCH! Race series is the Wound Reach Foundation’s largest charitable event. The Wound Reach Foundation conducts the OUCH! Races at professional conferences, such as the SAWC and in communities to raise funds to meet its mission. “The OUCH! Race series is our major fundraising mechanism, and we have been pleased by the corporate sponsorship of the annual race series,” Dr. Bates-Jensen says. “We would love to see more participants in these fun walk/runs!”

Dr. Bates-Jensen hopes 1) to increase her research program and 2) that the foundation will make a profound difference in wound care communities. A woman with a great sense of humor and fun, BBJ runs head-on in pursuing her goals in her scope of practice. 


This article was not subject to the Ostomy Wound Management peer-review process.