Nursing Techniques to Promote Circulation & Skin Integrity

Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

We are going to look at the link between circulation and skin integrity and then discuss nursing techniques that can help to promote circulation and skin integrity. The logic behind each technique is also covered in this lesson.

Circulation and Skin Integrity

Your skin and blood circulation are connected to each other more than you probably think. They are so connected that a problem in one often causes a problem in the other. If blood circulation to your skin gets cut off, then the skin tissue dies. If the skin tissue is broken, you bleed out and the blood still in your body is at risk for infection.

This connection between circulation and skin causes healthcare workers to have to address the health of both in order to ensure each is healthy. Nurses do this by using techniques that promote healthy circulation and skin integrity, which is the health status of the skin.

Promote Circulation

Linda is a nurse who makes sure her patients maintain a healthy diet to promote circulation. This is crucial since eating a bad diet full of fats and cholesterol can clog the blood vessels through which blood circulates through the body. Eating balanced meals that include leafy vegetables are great since they help to keep the blood vessels healthy and free of plaque build-up. The healthy diet helps to strengthen the heart and keep it healthy so that it can pump blood through the body.

A healthy diet and exercise go hand-in-hand in almost every scenario, and this one is not an exception. Linda gets her patients moving by having them exercise based on their ability to move. They conduct exercise classes at the nursing facility for mobile patients. Her immobile patients need exercise even more than her mobile patients since the exercise may be the only time their muscles are used. A physical therapist comes in to assist or manually complete exercises with them. The large muscles in the body help to circulate blood back to the heart from the trunk of the body.

Linda's facility also has massage therapists that massage the patients. This helps in two ways. Massaging the muscles causes them to slightly contract, which promotes circulation. Massages also help to relieve pain and tension that could be preventing the patient from moving more. We all tend to move around more when we are not in pain versus when we are in pain.

The other thing Linda does is put compression socks, or long tight socks that put a small amount of pressure on the legs, onto her patients. This helps to prevent blood accumulation in the legs and promotes the flow of blood back to the heart. She also elevates their legs above the level of the heart to help blood flow back towards the heart from the legs.

Promote Skin Integrity

Linda makes sure her patients have sufficient blood circulation as her first step to ensuring healthy skin integrity. The skin requires the oxygen, nutrients, proteins and cells in it in order to stay healthy. The proteins and cells in blood help the skin to repair itself when it gets damaged, which helps keep the skin healthy.

Some of Linda's patients are bed and/or wheelchair bound. The amount of time they spend sitting or lying down can cause the skin to break down. She places active pressure-relieving mattresses in their beds and pressure-shifting cushions in their chairs to help air flow around the skin. These items also decrease the friction between the skin and the bed or wheelchair, which prevents skin lesions and allows current ones to heal. There are even soft padded boots that she puts on their feet to protect the skin on their heels from developing sores.

Since Linda understands that some of her patients cannot move themselves at all, she turns them every two hours so they are not lying on just one part of their skin all the time. This helps to keep decubitus ulcers, or bed sores, from forming. Bed sores are areas of the skin that have died due to pressure cutting off circulation to those areas.

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