By Mariam Yazdi
Wound care nurses are those who bring their skills and technique together in a way that heals patients both physically and mentally. Nurses who decide to become certified in wound care have committed to entering a specialty, one that has increased in demand as the needs of our population increases. Read on to learn about this important branch of nursing!
Part One What is a Certified Wound Care Nurse?
Nurses who are certified in wound care have furthered their education to pursue the specialty of treating wounds (CWCN), continence care (CCCN), ostomies (COCN), or all three, making them fully Certified Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurse (CWOCN).
These certified nurses are considered experts in their field of wound treatment and typically work dedicated positions in hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies. They receive consultations for treatment and monitoring of wounds/ostomies, provide direct care, educate patients, families, and nurses, and manage wound care programs.
Part Two Educational requirements
To be certified by the Wound Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB), a bachelor’s degree in nursing is required.
Part Three How to specialize
The WOCNCB is a commonly recognized certifying board exclusively for nurses. There are other certifying bodies, like the American Board of Wound Management (grants the Certified Wound Specialist cert) or the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy (grants the Wound Care Certification). Both are open to many healthcare professionals, including physical therapists, physicians, licensed vocational nurses, etc. It is important to check with your facility about which certification they recognize.
Gaining certification from the WOCNCB requires that you obtain schooling from their board-approved list of programs. These include brick and mortar universities to online-only schools. The curriculum will typically include 2 semesters (about 15 credit hours) worth of courses, 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 $2,500 to $6,500 depending on how many specialties of wound care you are certified in (i.e. only wound care versus wound, ostomy, and continence).
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 5 years. Recertification for all specialties occurs every 5 years.
The cost of the actual exam varies depending on how many specialties you are pursuing. One specialty is $395. Four specialties are $670. A discount of $100 is granted for those who fail the exam the first time and wish to take it again.
Part Four Available career opportunities
Many facilities have a designated position for certified wound nurses. It is typically a salary position with a subsequent eight-hour weekday schedule. Some hospitals have wound care teams where certified nurses work on wound prevention, will receive consults and treat patients throughout the day. There are also travel nurse position for wound care nurses, with pay packages comparable to ones in other specialties.
Part Five Income ranges
Because these certified nurses are considered a specialty, many employers offer a salary differential for this role. According to Indeed.com, the national reported average salary for wound care nurses (doesn’t specify certification) is $82,905. The lowest salary was reported in Arkansas for $58,875. Below are the states with the reported highest annual salaries:
Part Six Career outlook
The career outlook is expected to increase for many reasons. 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 big cost to hospitals; from treatment to lack of reimbursements to fines, this all provides an incentive for hospitals to hire wound care specialists in full-time roles.
Part Seven What to expect
Because certified wound care nurses are a specialty, they are consulted by physicians, give recommendations, and treat and follow up on patients just as any consulting team does. Many wound care teams will draft and institute wound, ostomy, and incontinence policies. Wound care nurses work with a provider when placing orders on wound dressing types, how often to change the dressing, and other details of their recommendations.
If you are interested in being a part of an exclusive Wound Management chapter, you can consider joining WOCN Society of Nurses. This is a society where wound care nurses share best practices, 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!
- Journal of the American College of Clinical Wound Specialists
- Journal of Wound Care
- Wound Care Nurses.Org
- Wound Care Nurse Career Outlook