Becoming a wound care nurse can be a rewarding career option because the training builds valuable expertise and helps patients heal. Wound care is about more than dressing wounds. In fact, wound care nurses provide a range of healthcare services to patients dealing with chronic and acute wounds. Identifying wound types, selecting treatment plans, and preventing infection are all part of a wound care nurse’s slate of responsibilities.
While the sensitive nature of wounds may deter some care providers, it is also what draws many others to the specialty. Wound care nurses have the unique opportunity to comfort and guide patients through a very stressful time in their lives, which can make the decision to pursue wound care education a fulfilling one.
But becoming a wound care nurse is not only rewarding in terms of interactions with patients; it’s also a smart career choice. As hospitals seek to improve patient satisfaction scores and deliver higher-quality care, the demand for specialists with wound care training has skyrocketed.
How Do You Become a Certified Wound Care Nurse?
When it comes to learning how to get wound care certified, practitioners must complete several steps. These steps ensure nurses are equipped with the skills and training they need to conduct effective wound management and keep patients safe.
Step 1: Earn Hands-On Experience
Nurses must gain tangible experience working in a wound care environment before they become Wound Care Certified (WCC). Whether in a skilled nursing facility, home healthcare practice, ICU, or other medical setting, this experience allows nurses to learn more about the world of wound care under the guidance of seasoned healthcare professionals. It also helps nurses decide if specializing in wound care is the right fit for them.
Healthcare professionals interested in earning WCC credentials must fulfill at least one of the following experience requirements outlined by the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy (NAWCO):
- Complete 120 hours of hands-on clinician training with an approved NAWCO preceptor.
- Work full time (40-hours per week) for two years or part time for four years in an approved profession with ongoing, active involvement in caring for patients with wounds.
- Work full time (40-hours per week) for two years or part time for four years within wound care management, education, or research.
Step 2: Complete Wound Care Specialist Training
Wound care certification for RNs, licensed practical nurses, and nurse practitioners requires candidates to receive additional wound care training beyond that received while earning their degrees. Wound care specialist training and education provides nurses with a thorough understanding of effective wound treatment, teaching them how to assess when a patient requires medication, surgery, or further clinical intervention. With these skills in hand, nurses provide patients with the support they need to safely heal and regain their quality of life.
Wound care training also helps organizations avoid legal and financial risks. Approximately 2.5 million people develop pressure injuries every year, which can result in costs of $150,000 for each patient. Because pressure injuries are often acquired in healthcare settings and deemed avoidable, about 17,000 lawsuits are filed each year over these types of wounds. WCC nurses learn how to prevent, assess, and treat a wide variety of wounds—including pressure injuries—to improve patient outcomes and reduce financial penalties.
To become a WCC nurse, a healthcare professional must fulfill at least one of the following NAWCO educational requirements:
- Graduate from a skin and wound management education course that meets the NAWCO certification committee’s criteria.
- Have active Certified Wound Care Nurse, Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse, or Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse credentials from the Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board.
- Have active Certified Wound Specialist credentials from the American Board of Wound Management.
Step 3: Seek Certification
After meeting the WCC eligibility requirements, passing the WCC exam is required before the clinician can become a wound care nurse. Administered by NAWCO, the WCC exam is one of the most common ways to earn wound care certification. Only after nurses have completed their prerequisites and passed the exam are they considered WCC nurses.
But even healthcare professionals who are not yet eligible to take the exam and obtain certification can participate in online wound care education. These courses serve as a jumping off point for anyone who can benefit from wound care knowledge, ultimately helping organizations improve their team’s level of patient care.
Step 4: Earn Continuing Education Credits
Wound care education for nurses continues long after they’ve earned their WCC credentials. Like all medical professionals, wound care nurses require continuing education (CE) credits to remain up to date on new treatments and medical best practices. Relias offers many courses that enhance wound care knowledge while providing nurses with essential CE credits.
In addition to elevating wound care knowledge, the education and CE credits also serve as stepping stones for those interested in pursuing a higher degree in nursing like a Master of Science in Nursing. With the right training, the career opportunities continue to expand.
Where Do Wound Care Nurses Work?
Wound care nurses work in a variety of medical settings. Skilled nursing facilities, home healthcare companies, and acute care institutions all have wound care nurses on their teams. Due to the diverse nature of their work environments, there is no standard schedule for these professionals. Some might work four 10-hour shifts, while others work more days for fewer hours.
Regardless of the work environment, all wound care specialists must have a thorough understanding of the basic areas of wound treatment: skin breakdown, infection, and injuries stemming from chronic or acute wounds.
Are Wound Care Nurses in High Demand?
The outlook is good for anyone interested in becoming a wound care nurse. Demographic changes in the past decade have increased the demand for wound care professionals nationwide. As the U.S. population ages, the need for wound care nurses is greater than ever before.
In tandem with this uptick in demand for their skills, wound care nurses can expect salaries for wound care professionals to increase in the near future. At present, the average salary for a WCC nurse is approximately $69,000. This salary can vary greatly depending on a state’s demand for WCC professionals.
What Is It Like To Be a Wound Care Nurse?
Ultimately, clinicians interested in how to become a certified wound care nurse are often pleased to discover that they are looking into a highly rewarding and stable profession. Like any career in nursing, wound care focuses on human connection. Wounds can be particularly challenging and sensitive, and patients need a compassionate, highly skilled professional by their side. Wound care nurses must tactfully educate their patients about their conditions, teach them how to care for their wounds, and provide updates to family members or caretakers.
Wound care is also a rigorous, challenging profession. Those considering becoming a wound care nurse should not make the decision lightly. However, nurses who take the leap are rarely disappointed—helping patients heal is one of the greatest joys of all.