Certified Wound Care Nursing Career Guide

    June 30, 2020
    Nurse checking on a wounded patient with bandaged hand

    Wound care nurses (WOC nurses) bring their skills and techniques together to heal patients both physically and mentally. Nurses who decide to become certified in wound care are entering an in-demand specialty. Read on to learn about this important branch of nursing including how to become a wound care nurse and how much you can make. 

    Part One What is a Certified Wound Care Nurse?

    A Certified Wound Care Nurse is a nurse that has become certified in treating wounds (CWCN), continence care (CCCN), ostomies (COCN), or all three, making them a 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.

    Why Should You Become Certified in Wound Care?

    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. 

    Part Two What Do Wound Care Nurses Do?

    Because certified wound care nurses are a specialty of nursing, they are consulted by physicians, give recommendations, and treat and follow up with 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, including how often to change the dressing, and other details of their recommendations.

    Part Three Wound Care Nurse Salary

    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 $102,146 as of June 2020, though conditions vary based on area. The lowest salary was reported in North Carolina at $60,706. 

    Highest Paying Cities for Wound Care Nurses

    Sacramento, CA $120,403
    New York, NY $93,781
    Cleveland, OH $74,804
    Dallas, TX $71,484
    Houston, TX $70,710

    Source: Indeed

    Part Four How to Become a Wound Care Nurse

    Step 1: Earn Your BSN

    To be certified by the Wound Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB), a bachelor’s degree in nursing is required.

    Step 2: Attend a Board Approved Certification Program

    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 one of their board-approved list of programs. These include both brick and mortar universities as well as 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).

    Step 3: Or Obtain 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 5 years. Recertification for all specialties occurs every 5 years.

    Step 4: Pass the Exam

    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.

    How Long Does it Take to Become a Wound Care Nurse?

    Most wound care certification programs take approximately 2-3 months to complete, then you'll need to take and pass the certification exam in whatever specialty you've chosen. 

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    Part Five Wound Care Nurse Jobs

    Many facilities have a designated position 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 throughout the day.

    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.

    Part Six Are Wound Care Nurses in High Demand?

    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.

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    Part Seven Wound Care Nurse Resources

    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!

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