Transition in wound care

Carol Enos, left, and Gaila Call.

In January 1987, Gaila Call, a registered nurse, had relocated to New Jersey from New England. “I was pregnant,” she recalls, “and I couldn’t do any lifting. So the nursing agency recommended Matheny because the personal care assistants take care of the lifting.” Twenty-seven years later, Call is retiring as Matheny’s certified enterostomal nurse. Along the way, she received Matheny’s Employee Excellence Award (2003) and the New Jersey’s Governor’s Nursing Merit Award for excellence in the RN Post-Acute category (2005).

One of the primary reasons Call remained at Matheny for so many years was the personal connections she forged with the patients. “This is an exciting place without the kind of excitement you experience in an acute-care hospital,” she says. “You share a childhood with a lot of these people. You begin to realize the important part you play in their lives. And they have become very significant in my life as well.”

“Our specialties,” Call explains, are “wounds, ostomy [any procedure requiring an artificial opening in an organ], incontinence and bowel management. But, at Matheny, the emphasis is on wound prevention. It’s very critical here because so many of our patients are prone to wounds since they’re in wheelchairs all day.”

For the past year, Call has been working closely with her successor, Carol Enos, R.N., who received four months of specialty training in wound, ostomy and continence education at Wicks Educational Associates in Mechanicsburg, Pa. Enos was a late convert to nursing. She received a bachelor’s degree in medical technology from Douglass College (now part of the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences). “I really love science,” she says. “But I wanted the patient contact.” So she went back to school, receiving her nursing degree from Raritan Valley Community College and doing her nursing clinicals at Matheny, where, “The Matheny mission—what they do and how they do it­—really pulled at my heartstrings.” She joined the staff five-and-a-half years ago and decided to apply for the enterostomal nursing job because “from the day I met Gaila, I always admired the job that she did.”

Easing hospital transitions

Dr. Kenneth Robey.

Because of their medical complexities, children and adults with complex disabilities find the transition to and from acute care hospitals very difficult. Often hospital staff members are not familiar with the patients and not well prepared to address all of their complex needs.

Two years ago, Matheny received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Jersey Health Initiatives program to help us address this problem. A key element was the appointment of a full-time transition care nurse, who helps provide an unusual degree of interaction between Matheny staff members and acute care hospital staff members.

On Friday, September 6, three Matheny staff members will participate in a conference devoted to this subject. The conference is being held at Morristown Medical Center and is sponsored by MMC and the Northern New Jersey Network of the Developmental Nurses Association. The three Matheny presenters are:

  • Kenneth Robey, Ph.D, director of the Matheny Institute for Research in Developmental Disabilities, who will give the keynote address: “The Health Care Transition for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.”
  • Jeanne Lavelle, BSN, Matheny transition care nurse, who will speak about “Innovations in Care Coordination in Hospitals for Persons with I/DD.”
  • Gaila Call, BSN, CWOCN, Matheny wound, ostomy and continence nurse, who will talk about “Steps That Will Make a Difference During Hospitalization.”

Atlantic Health System, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and Somerset Medical Center are Matheny’s partners in the transition program. More information about the conference can be obtained by calling 1-800-247-9580 or emailing

Jeanne Lavelle, BSN, transition care nurse.