How to Become a Wound Care Nurse

10 Min Read Published June 17, 2024
how to become a wound care nurse

Wound care nurses 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 how to become a wound care nurse, their duties, salaries, and find wound care nurse resources.

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WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

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Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

What is a Wound Care Nurse?

A wound care nurse, also called a wound, ostomy, and continence (WOC) nurse, is a certified expert in wound treatment who typically works in dedicated positions in hospitals, nursing homes, and healthcare agencies.

WOC nurses receive consultations for treating and monitoring wounds/ostomies, provide direct care, educate patients, families, and nurses, and manage wound care programs.

Wound Care Nurse Certifications for RNs

Wound care nurses earn different certifications to specialize in the care they provide. The four primary wound care nurse certifications are:

  1.  Certified wound care nurse (CWCN)
  2. Certified ostomies care nurse (CCON)
  3. Certified continence care nurse (CCCN)
  4. Certified wound ostomy and continence nurse (CWOCN)

The Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB) has certified over 10,000 wound, ostomy, and continence 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 2023 are as follows:

  • Wound care - 72%
  • Ostomy care - 78%
  • Continence care - 80%
  • Combined care - N/A

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Reasons to Become a Wound Care Nurse

Wound care nursing is an exceedingly rewarding position that allows nurses to create close bonds with patients and make a difference in their lives. 

Becoming a wound-care certified nurse may also open the doors to more job opportunities, higher pay, professional prestige, and personal satisfaction. Wound care nurse certification also fulfills continuing education requirements for nurses

What Do Wound Care Nurses Do?

Wound care nurses primarily create and carry out care plans for wounded patients and those with ostomies or incontinence. WOC nurses on consulting teams also confer with physicians to give recommendations and follow up with patients. 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

According to Indeed, the average annual US wound care nurse salary is $99,434, or $42.36. This salary report exceeds the median salary for all RNs reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which is $86,070 annually, or $41.38 per hour.

However, several elements may change your wound care nurse salary. While your employer and work experience will impact your income, location is one of the most significant salary factors. Wound care nurses in certain areas earn significantly higher salaries than others.

Highest Paying Cities for Wound Care Nurses

  • Rancho Cucamonga, CA - $116,906
  • San Diego, CA - $114,564
  • New Smyrna Beach, FL - $112,251
  • Dallas, TX - 107,396
  • San Antonio, TX - $104,874

Source: Indeed

How to Become a Wound Care Nurse

Step 1: Earn a BSN

While you can become a registered nurse (RN) with an Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN) degree, the Wound Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB) requires that applicants hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited nursing program. 

The most popular path toward earning a BSN is a traditional four-year program. Students who already have an ADN can attend an RN-BSN bridge. Alternatively, if you have a bachelor's degree in another field, you can expedite your education in an accelerated BSN program.

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 (which grants the certified wound specialist certification) or the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy (which 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.

>> Explore Wound Care Certification Review Materials* 

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. 

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

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.

Travel nurse positions for wound care nurses are also available, 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 a growing population with many needs, several of which require 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.

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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 journals and continuing education courses. The membership dues range from $60 to $170. For other wound care resources, check out the links below!

Popular Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) Programs

Sponsored
Grand Canyon University

GCU's College of Nursing and Health Care Professions has a nearly 35-year tradition of preparing students to fill evolving healthcare roles as highly qualified professionals. GCU offers a full spectrum of nursing degrees, from a pre-licensure BSN degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Purdue Global

At Purdue Global, discover a faster, more affordable way to earn your Nursing degree. Purdue Global is committed to keeping your tuition costs as low as possible and helping you find the most efficient path to your degree.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, but certain programs have state restrictions. Check with Purdue for details.

Western Governors University

WGU's award-winning online programs are created to help you succeed while graduating faster and with less debt. WGU is a CCNE accredited, nonprofit university offering nursing bachelor's and master's degrees.

Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide

Georgetown University
Nursing@Georgetown delivers Georgetown University’s MS in Nursing program online, preparing RNs with a BSN to pursue certification in an APRN specialty. Students can earn their degree in as few as 19 months.
Accreditation
CCNE
Location
Online
Prerequisite
RN Required

Enrollment: Nationwide, excluding NY and WA.

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