Advance with MUSC Health

MUSC Nurse Leads Virtual Burn Care Workshop for Ukrainian Colleagues

Advance With MUSC Health
August 09, 2022
Katie Hallowed, MSN, RN, South Carolina Burn Center at MUSC Health Manager.

Even as air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine, nearly two dozen nurses, physicians, surgeons, and more assembled for a virtual workshop in the spring led by Katie Hollowed, MSN, RN, South Carolina Burn Center at MUSC Health Manager. The unimaginable distraction of bombs served as a reminder of the meeting’s importance and the urgency of learning how to care for burn victims when resources are scant and increasingly nonexistent.

“I think it's important that we all share and that we do what we can for anyone when it's our specialty. We should share it,” Hollowed says. “We should be able to help others, whether they're in our backyard or somewhere else in the world.”

The audience certainly learned from a trusted expert. Hollowed’s 40-plus-year career as one of the country’s most highly regarded burn nurses makes her a valuable resource. A member of the American Burn Association (ABA) since 1983, Hollowed worked with the organization in Washington, D.C.,  where she cared for Pentagon patients on 9/11. In D.C., she made lifelong connections with the ABA’s James Jeng, M.D., a leading trauma surgeon, and Roxolana Horbowyj, M.D., FACS, a Ukrainian internist and critical care surgeon — and it was through these connections that she was asked to lead the workshop.

“One of the things that happens in the ‘burn world’ is we pretty much all know each other and have intertwining connections — so we all kind of work together,” she says.

The ABA organized a series of nine virtual learning sessions led by experts in the field; the audience was a variety of medical professionals. In one session, a surgeon spoke on resuscitations. In another, a therapist discussed how to help Ukrainians cope with the psychological trauma of war. A dietician counseled on nutrition in dire circumstances, a pharmacist on providing medicine when under siege, and, of course, Hollowed on burn care for war-wounded patients.

“It was an honor to get asked to do it, and this is what we do — we give to each other to improve care and improve outcomes. The burn community is pretty small, so when we can help each other, we do,” she says.

Hollowed led the discussion assuming the audience had no burn experience or access to materials and medicines that a fully functioning hospital would have. She was prepared for the moment due to her experiences on mission trips in Africa.

“I was in an incredibly poor part of Africa,” she says. “The hospital that we worked at took care of a province of 5 million people, and most people get to this hospital by walking. They don't have anything; they don't have hot water. So I took what I learned from Africa and applied it for Ukrainians.”

In an hour, Hollowed covered the ABA’s written guidelines for wound care, resuscitation, and rehabilitation, giving tips and tricks on suitable substitutions for inaccessible materials and what to do when you can’t get a patient to a hospital because no transport is available.

For example, she taught them how to make a Dakin’s solution using household materials, something she picked up in Africa. Participants also learned about fluid resuscitation — what to do if you don’t have IV fluid, if your IV catheters are gone. “It's a huge piece for the burn patient,” she says. “If you don't fluid-resuscitate the patient, they're going to go into shock, and they're going to die.”

It's all about the patient, she says. Their aim was to find a path to help get everyone through some very scary, difficult circumstances.

“Hopefully, I gave them something that will help them provide care and make it a little easier and take off some of the stress for those patients,” Hollowed says. “I can't imagine what they're all going through, and if we can get them to survive and be functional, that's truly what the goal of burn care is.”

Learn more about the SC Burn Center at MUSC Health.