Preceptorships expand sales reps’ knowledge

Courses explain product applications

Preceptorships are certainly not a new notion in the medical community. It makes perfect sense for medical professionals to learn new or advanced skills through supervision by more experienced colleagues, and this phenomenon is growing ever more common in wound care.

But the wound care program at Emory University in Atlanta has given preceptorships a little twist. The school offers preceptorial programs not only to clinicians, but also to people who work in the nonclinical side of the wound care industry, such as sales and marketing representatives.

"We started the program so that [industry representatives] could get a better understanding of how their products fit into wound care programs and how they could position their products when they discuss them with wound care clinicians," says JoAnn Waldrop, MN, RN, CWOCN, assistant program director at Emory’s Wound, Ostomy Continence Nursing Education Center.

Waldrop says many industry representatives are experts on their own products, but often do not understand how their products fit into the larger wound care picture and how they might affect outcomes in light of other variables.

For example, a sales representative who sells topical wound therapy products may get calls from users who didn’t like the product because it didn’t help the wound heal, explains Waldrop. "Often, the product didn’t work because the wound etiology wasn’t addressed adequately," she says. "There may have been a nutritional deficiency that slowed the healing process."

After completing the Emory program, the salesperson will have a better understanding of why (and when) that product might not be effective for wound healing, Waldrop adds. "They can ask questions about nutrition, whether there is an infection, if the wound is under compression, etc. They can quiz the nurses about other problems that might interfere with the action of their product."

Occurrences of skin breakdown

A typical course outline includes an overview of skin breakdown problems, anatomy and physiology of healthy skin, the nursing implications of wound healing physiology, nutritional support for wound healing, partial-thickness lesions, pressure-shear injuries, establishing prevention protocols, appropriate use of support surfaces, staging and management of chronic wounds, arterial and venous ulcers, neuropathic ulcers, and principles and products of topical therapy. The longer programs also might cover surgical options in wound care and adjunctive therapies.

Waldrop stresses that the industry preceptorship can be tailored to the needs of the participants by adding or deleting subjects from the course outline. The course sometimes evolves while it progresses as new areas of interest or concern emerge among the participants. "We try to focus on how their products fit into the overall wound care mixture," she says.

Typically, the program works best for small groups. For preceptorships that contain a clinical component, class size is limited to a maximum of eight participants. Otherwise, up to 20 participants can be accommodated. The school provides all class materials.

For obvious reasons of competitive conflicts, courses are held for one company at a time. "It wouldn’t be as open a forum if we had people from different companies present," Waldrop says.

Emory offers three industry preceptor program options:

• a two-day program that is entirely didactic;

• a three-day program that includes two days of didactic instruction and two half-days of clinical observation;

• a four-day program that includes two and a half days of didactic instruction and one and a half days of clinical observation.

The cost of the two-day program is a flat $2,500 for a group. Costs for the didactic/clinical programs run about $150 a day per attendee.

According to Waldrop, companies such as Smith & Nephew, Coloplast, Convatec, and Kimberly-Clark have sent representatives to Emory’s industry preceptorial programs.