How to Become a Wound Care Nurse
Wound care nurses (WOC) are in-demand healthcare professionals dedicated to physically and mentally healing patients. As a certified wound care nurse, you will become part of a skilled nursing community dedicated to addressing growing health concerns worldwide. Read this guide to learn more about becoming a wound care nurse, their duties, salaries, and find wound care nurse resources.
What is a Wound Care Nurse?
Wound care nurses earn different certifications to specialize in the care they provide. The four primary wound care nurse certifications are:
- Certified wound care nurse (CWCN)
- Certified ostomies care nurse (CC0N)
- Certified continence care nurse (CCCN)
- Certified wound ostomy and continence nurse (CWOCN)
These certified nurses are experts in wound treatment and typically work in dedicated positions in hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies. They receive consultations for treating and monitoring wounds/ostomies, provide direct care, educate patients, families, and nurses, and manage wound care programs.
The Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB) has certified over 9,700 wound, ostomy, continence, and foot care nurses nationwide. But don't be fooled; passing the certification exam is complex and requires determination, skill, and preparation. The wound care nurse exam pass rates as of December 2022 are as follows:
- Wound care - 74%
- Ostomy care - 72%
- Continence care - 78%
- Foot care - 86%
Why Should You Become a Certified Wound Care Nurse?
Becoming a wound-care certified nurse opens the doors to more job opportunities, higher pay, professional prestige, and personal satisfaction. It also fulfills continuing education requirements for nurses.
What Do Wound Care Nurses Do?
Since wound care nurses are a nursing specialty, they consult physicians to give recommendations and follow up with patients like any other consulting team. Many wound care teams also draft and institute wound, ostomy, and incontinence policies.
Other wound care nurse responsibilities include the following:
- Assess and monitor wounds
- Care for ostomies
- Collaborate with other healthcare professionals
- Complete proper documentation for Medicare reimbursement
- Debride, clean, and bandage wounds
- Educate patients and caretakers on wound care
- Provide infection and injury prevention education to patients/caretakers
- Ensure patients and caretakers understand pressure ulcer care
- Prescribe antibiotics
- Provide burn treatment and management
- Provide diabetic foot care
- Determine if other treatments are required with a care team
- Collaborate with a care team to decide if the patient needs antibiotics, surgery, or other treatments
- Write orders to promote wound healing and avoid skin breakdown
- Write orders to encourage wound healing and the prevention of skin breakdown
Wound Care Nurse Salary
The median annual salary for all RNs is $81,220 per year, or $39.05 per hour, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of June 2022, though conditions vary by area. Unfortunately, the BLS does not differentiate between different types of nurses or those with certifications.
However, many employers offer a salary differential for this role because certified wound care is considered a specialty. According to Indeed.com, the national reported average salary for wound care nurses (doesn't specify certification) is $96,265 as of April 2023, though conditions vary based on area.
Highest Paying Cities for Wound Care Nurses
- San Diego, CA - $145,413
- Orlando, FL - $129,097
- Kerrville, TX - $89,613
- Memphis, TN - $88,782
- Salt Lake City, UT - $86,139
How to Become a Wound Care Nurse
Step 1: Earn Your BSN
A bachelor's degree in nursing is required to be certified by the Wound Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB).
Step 2: Attend a Board Approved Certification Program
The WOCNCB is an international certifying board exclusively for nurses. Other certifying bodies include the American Board of Wound Management (grants the certified wound specialist certification) or the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy (gives the wound care certification). Both are open to many healthcare professionals, including physical therapists, physicians, licensed vocational nurses, etc. It is essential to check with your facility about which certifications they recognize.
WOCNCB certification requires that you attend and pass one of their board-approved list of programs. Qualifying programs include both brick-and-mortar universities as well as online schools.
The curriculum typically includes two semesters (about 15 credit hours) of class with a separate clinical component in which students must find a board-certified preceptor. Clinical practicum hours may range from 140-180 hours. The cost of education varies by program and can be anywhere from $2,550 to $6,300, depending on how many wound care specialties you wish to certify for.
Step 3: Or Obtain Wound Care Nurse Certification Via Experience
There is also an option to obtain certification via experience. This requires 50 related CEs and 1500 hours of clinical exposure for each branch of certification desired over the last five years. Recertification for all specialties occurs every five years.
Step 4: Pass the Exam
The cost of a wound care nurse certification exam varies depending on how many specialties you are pursuing. One specialty is $395. Four specialties are $670. The WOCNCB also grants a $100 one-time discount on retakes for nurses who fail their first exam and wish to retake it.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Wound Care Nurse?
Most wound care certification programs take approximately 2-3 school semesters. Then you'll need to take and pass the certification exam in your chosen specialty.
Wound Care Nurse Jobs
Many facilities have designated positions for certified wound nurses. It is typically a salaried position with a subsequent eight-hour weekday schedule. Some hospitals have wound care teams where certified nurses work on wound prevention, receive consults, and treat patients daily.
There are also travel nurse positions for wound care nurses, with pay packages comparable to those in other specialties.
Check out wound care nurse jobs hiring in your area on our job board.
Are Wound Care Nurses in High Demand?
Experts expect the demand for wound care nurses to increase for many reasons. Growing nationwide health concerns like diabetes create a greater need for these essential healthcare practitioners.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of diabetic cases in the United States is rising dramatically. A few staggering facts include:
- 28.7 million Americans (8.7%) have a diabetes diagnosis
- Over 10% of US adults with diabetes began using insulin within one year of their diagnosis
- Diabetes impacts American Indian, Alaskan Native, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic populations the most
- 15% of diabetic adults are smokers, 89% are overweight, and 38% are physically inactive
- In 2019 alone, there were 1.4 million new diabetes diagnoses nationwide
- Between 2014 and 2015, there were over 24,000 new cases of diabetes in children
- Around 96 million adults are estimated to have prediabetes
These statistics indicate that there is a growing population with a multitude of needs, many of them needing the assistance of wound care experts. There has also been an increasing emphasis on wound prevention in inpatient settings as it is a high cost to hospitals; from treatment to lack of reimbursements to fines, this incentivizes hospitals to hire wound care specialists in full-time roles.
Wound Care Nurse Resources
If you want to participate in an exclusive Wound Management chapter, consider joining the WOCN Society of Nurses. This is a society where wound care nurses share best practices and gain access to research and journals, and continuing education courses. The membership dues range from $60 to $170. For other wound care resources, check out the links below!
- Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society
- American Professional Wound Care Association
- Association for the Advancement of Wound Care
- Organization of Wound Care Nurses
- Journal of Wound Care
- Journal of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing
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