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What is a Wound Care Nurse?

What is a Wound Care Nurse?

There are many rewarding nursing specialties, and working as a wound care nurse is one of them. These WOC nurses treat patients who have diabetic foot issues that will not heal, pressure ulcers from being bed-bound, and related kinds of problems. Nurses who make this their specialty find it to be very rewarding, as they can help improve chronic conditions, difficulties, and pain for patients who are dealing with non-healing or slow-healing wounds. If you want to make a quality of life difference in the lives of a lot of people, working as a wound care nurse can help you do that. What do you need to know? Here are some things to consider if you are considering selecting this career path.

What is a Wound Care Nurse?

A wound care nurse specializes in caring for those who have chronic wounds that will not heal properly. When most people get a wound it heals up on its own, but those who are diabetic, bed-bound, or otherwise compromised may find that their wounds do not heal at all. In some cases, the wound will heal, but it will be very slow to do so. With these kinds of problems, patients are vulnerable to secondary infections and related issues.

A WOC nurse (short for wound care, ostomy, and continence nurse), can help reduce the problems these patients have with non-healing or poorly healing wounds and give them a better and more comfortable quality of life. They can also prolong a patient’s life by reducing the chances of a life-threatening infection.

What Does a Wound Care Nurse Do?

A wound care nurse treats any type of chronically slow-healing or non-healing wound. These types of wounds often include bedsores, pressure ulcers, and diabetic foot care issues, but can also include care of any type of ostomy, along with surgical incisions that do not heal properly and anything that requires a wound vac. Even though an ostomy is a medical procedure, it still leaves an open wound in the body. That wound has to be cared for on a long-term basis and must be addressed properly in order to be sure it does not become infected. The same is true with a surgical incision or other open areas. The chance of infection is very real, and a wound care nurse will help greatly reduce that chance.

Why is a Wound Care Nurse So Important?

Wound care nurses both save lives and help improve the quality of life for ma patients. Cleaning and bandaging wounds takes time and must be done correctly. After conferring with the doctor, a wound care nurse can do this and free up the doctor’s time to see other patients. Debriding a wound is also something a WOC nurse will do, as well as working with other professionals to determine what other types of treatments might be required. When patients and caretakers need to learn how to clean their wounds and protect them from infection, the wound care nurse teaches them what they need to know and why it matters. Most people think any nurse can clean and treat a wound, which is generally true, but complete wound care is a more specialized field of nursing.

How to Become a Wound Care Nurse

In order to be a wound care nurse, compassion is required. Everyone who works in this specialty should be very aware of the infection protocols for the facility where they work, and should also be able to work well with others to properly explain wound care to the patient and their caregivers when the patient leaves the hospital or other facility. Wound care nurses can have sub-specialties, such as diabetic foot care, or they might simply work with all types of wounds and all kinds of patients. That is something they can decide as they move into the field, based on the demand for certain types of wound care nurses and their own goals and desires for a fulfilling career in the medical field.

Wound Care Nurse Educational Requirements and Training

Most wound care nurses have started out in a more basic, traditional nursing role. Then they have cared for wounds in a surgical unit or other location and have determined that wound care is something they wanted to get into more thoroughly. It is very uncommon for someone who just received their RN degree and license to go into wound care without experience in another area first. The majority of wound care nurses have a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) or higher. They do this because the certification for CWCN (certified wound care nurse) has a stipulation that the person obtaining the certification have at least a BSN.

The nurse who seeks that certification also needs to have a current, active RN license and complete additional training that goes along with the certification program. The majority of medical employers and hospitals want a wound care nurse to have prior nursing experience and not be right out of school. There are four certifications available from the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board, as well. The eligibility for these will vary, so any nurse who wants to look into these or obtain one or more of them would be wise to carefully read the requirements.

The WOC Nurse Career Outlook

There is a high demand for wound care nurses today, due to the increasing number of people with issues such as diabetes and obesity. An aging population also expands the need for these types of nurses. Nursing homes, care facilities, and even hospice and home health agencies are finding that they need more WOC nurses than they expected. This adds stability to the choice of career path and makes wound care a versatile nursing area. There are a high number of applications for nurses with wound care certifications, along with an acknowledgment that it is a relatively independent specialty for any nurse to consider.

Salary and Employment

The median wound care nurse salary is $64,000, with a $41,000 to $83,000 range. The range is large because there are a number of factors that affect how much a nurse receives. These include experience, certification, educational level and location. Rural areas with smaller populations are going to offer lower salaries, and larger hospitals and medical facilities will generally pay more. Additionally, a nurse who has worked in wound care for years can ask for a higher rate of pay than someone who is just getting started. These are all important areas to consider when determining what salary to expect.

Top 4 Wound Care Nurse Specialties

Unlike a lot of other types of nursing, there are sub-specialties in wound care. This is important to note for two reasons. First, a nurse does not have to specialize in something to work in wound care. A wound care nurse can be more of a generalist, and treat all different types of wounds and health issues. But if they are interested in a particular kind of wound care, there are four specialties they can get involved in. These are Wound, Ostomy and Continence; Foot Care; Advanced Practice; and Wound Treatment Associate. All are certifications offered by the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification Board.

Specialty 1: Wound, Ostomy, and Continence

Nurses who have this specialty work in a more general way with a number of wounds, but also have training that allows them to handle ostomies and related types of medical procedures for patients. Caring for an ostomy takes proper knowledge to reduce infection risk and other types of problems, so nurses who do this kind of work must be focused on what they can offer to patients and what they need to know.

Specialty 2: Foot Care

For patients who have diabetes and circulatory problems that put their feet at risk for open sores, skin breakdown, and similar problems, a foot care nurse can be an excellent choice. These nurses can also treat other types of wounds, but they specialize in foot care and focus on it. That means they know more about how to treat foot problems than many other wound care nurses and can be the best choices for diabetics.

Specialty 3: Advanced Practice

With an advanced practice certificate, a wound care nurse is showing that they understand the most advanced and high-quality techniques to treat patients and their chronic or slow-healing wounds. These patients will need to have long-term care for their wound and nurses with an advanced practice certification are the ones to handle these types of more difficult or complicated patient cases.

Specialty 4: Wound Treatment Associate

For those who are just getting into the area of wound care, this is the certificate to consider. It shows that the nurse understands the basics of all kinds of wound treatment, and has dedicated themselves to treating wounds instead of focusing on another type of nursing specialty. It’s also possible for nurses with this certificate—or any of the others—to go on and earn other certifications in wound care, as well. That can give them more opportunities for employment, and can also help them provide more value to patients.

Important Resources

Anyone who’s thinking about being a wound care nurse will need to know how to get started and who to talk to. They may also need support as they move through their career. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions along with organizations that can help them succeed.

Wound Care Nurse FAQs

Whether someone is already a nurse and thinking about moving into wound care, or they are not sure if they want to become a nurse and make wound care their specialty, they probably have plenty of questions. Here are just a few of the most important things to think about.

1. Is wound care a good path to advancement? There are many ways to advance a nursing career, and all should be considered. Getting additional education and certifications is definitely one path to follow!

2. Does an LVN also handle wound care? One of the jobs of an LVN is dressing wounds, but it is not their specialty. However, with the proper training and education, an LVN can advance in their career to become a wound care nurse.

3. Is certification for a specialty required? Certification is not specifically required for wound care, but many facilities look for and expect it.

Helpful Organizations, Societies, & Agencies

When a wound care nurse wants information, here are some of the best organizations and sources to turn to:

Nursing Scholarship

We want every potential nurse to have a chance to follow their dream career. Apply for our scholarship here so we can help you get started!

List of Wound Care Nurse Programs

There’s no time to waste! We’ve already ranked the best nursing programs in the country so you can get started.

What Now?

If you are ready to start your wound care nurse career, we can help. Reach out to us today and we can provide you with information on working as a WOC nurse. We can also help you understand the career requirements, educational necessities, and more. Then you can give patients the care they need, want, and deserve. That will allow you to receive the satisfaction of helping others and will make the lives of others easier. That is a rewarding way of living life that can be yours when you take this particular path for your career.

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