Patients with a diverse range of health conditions rely on wound care nurses to manage their treatment and keep them safe from infection. But exactly what is a wound care nurse?
Wound care nurses perform a wide variety of critical services, from assessing diabetic foot conditions and mitigating infections to developing treatment plans and caring for pressure injuries.
The importance of wound care in nursing relates to the ability to reduce a patient’s pain and promote healing as quickly and completely as possible. To become a certified wound care nurse, you will need to enroll in specialized wound care courses. These courses provide nurses with the wound care information they need to remain current with evolving care standards, enhance their knowledge of skin and wound management, and stay legally defensible at bedside.
But a wound care nurse’s education doesn’t end with wound care certification. Like all healthcare professionals, wound care nurses must expand their skills on a yearly basis through continuing education courses and specialized clinical training.
As the demand for wound care nurses grows, so does the interest in this type of training among new nurses, seasoned registered nurses, and nurse administrators. With a comprehensive understanding of wound care in hand, these professionals are setting themselves—and their clinics—up for success.
What Does a Wound Care Nurse Do?
The wound care scope of practice involves a lot more than cleaning and dressing wounds. Chronic and acute wounds require the attention of experts equipped with the skills to monitor and assess wounds effectively while simultaneously educating patients on at-home wound care best practices. Here are just a few of the many areas a wound care nurse might address on a given day:
- Pressure injuries: Pressure injuries are one of the most common types of wounds a nurse will deal with as a wound care provider. While pressure injuries occur in all care markets, they are particularly prevalent in both long-term and post-acute care environments—including hospice and home health settings—where patients remain sedentary for extensive periods of time. Wound care nurses assess pressure injuries, identify treatment options, and implement wound care best practices to prevent future injuries from occurring.
- Foot care: Due to the prevalence of type 2 diabetes within the U.S., diabetic foot care is in high demand. Wound care nurses have the skills to manage foot ulcers in patients with diabetes. They also teach patients how to maintain a healthy foot care routine on their own, in many cases helping them prevent amputations.
- Burn treatment: All burns, even first degree ones, can be very painful for a patient. How a wound care nurse treats a burn depends on its severity (first-, second-, or third-degree), location, and size. Antibiotic ointments are commonly used in second-degree burn care to ward off infection. There are also a number of dressing options for a nurse to choose from when assessing and bandaging the wound, some of which may need to be changed more often than others. All burns must be closely monitored throughout the healing process.
- Traumatic wound care: Skin tears, lacerations, and wounds that penetrate the tissue all fall into the traumatic wound care category. Whether caused by a dog bite, car accident, or some other force, the severity of these wounds is based on the damage to the skin and underlying tissue. All traumatic wounds must be cleaned and assessed. Comprehensive care plans created with appropriate treatment measures will ensure the wound heals correctly.
- Educating patients and families: Education is one of the most important parts of any wound care nurse’s job. Through verbal instruction and hands-on training and demonstrations, wound care nurses empower patients and their families with a sustainable, self-sufficient care routine they can follow outside of a hospital setting.
Can LPNs Be Certified in Wound Care?
Many nurses and nurse administrators wonder whether a licensed practical nurse (LPN) can be certified in wound care. The short answer is yes. Any LPN, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant with an unrestricted license can earn Wound Care Certified (WCC) credentials from the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy. Even physicians, physical therapists, physical therapist’s assistants, occupational therapists, and a variety of other healthcare professionals can earn WCC credentials.
In addition to holding an unrestricted license, LPNs and their applicable colleagues must meet a number of educational and experience-related requirements before receiving WCC credentials. Nurses must either graduate from a skin and wound management course that meets certification committee criteria or hold a Certified Wound Specialist certification from the American Board of Wound Management. Individuals with an active Certified Wound Care Nurse, Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse, or Certified Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurse certification from the Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board also satisfy the educational requirement of the WCC certification.
The experience requirement can be fulfilled through 120 hours of hands-on clinical training from an approved National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy practitioner. Clinicians with two years of full-time or four years of part-time experience in a profession with ongoing, active involvement in the care of patients with wounds or in management, education, or research directly related to wound care also satisfy the experience requirement.
How Long Does It Take To Become a Wound Care Nurse?
The amount of time it takes to become a wound care nurse varies depending on the healthcare professional and the level of experience. Some may earn their 120 hours of hands-on wound care clinical training in a matter of months, while others opt for two years of full-time professional experience or four years of part-time experience in a wound care environment before pursuing WCC accreditation.
The educational requirements outlined by the WCC committee can be completed in approximately 23 hours through skin and wound management training offered by the Wound Care Education Institute, a Relias company. WCC nurses must continue taking educational courses on a yearly basis to expand their industry knowledge and remain up to date on wound care.
Clinicians who want to enhance their wound care knowledge but don’t yet meet the experience requirements needed to attain their WCC credentials are still encouraged to complete wound care courses. These courses are designed to ensure these professionals have a strong understanding of skin and wound care and are up to date on the latest treatment best practices.
Gaining Satisfaction From a Patient Connection
Many nurses find themselves drawn to wound care nursing for the human connection it offers. Wound care nurses have the opportunity to develop meaningful relationships with patients and their families, working by their side during extremely difficult moments in their journey. With the right training, a wound care nurse can reduce a patient’s pain and help them heal as quickly as possible.
Because the wounds treated by a wound care nurse are often chronic, they require close monitoring for weeks and months on end to ensure they heal appropriately. This provides wound care nurses with the unique experience of witnessing their patients’ progress over time. For many, the joy they receive from helping their patients transform their lives is extremely rewarding.
Are Wound Care Nurses in High Demand?
The U.S. nursing shortage has placed nearly every nursing role in high demand, and the wound care profession is no exception. In fact, wound care nurses are more in demand than ever due to the primarily older, high-risk populations they work with.
As the median age of the U.S. population continues to rise, an increasing number of people are requiring wound care services, including treatment for pressure injuries. As demand grows, these professionals can expect a higher level of job stability and increasing salaries.
Taking the Next Step in Wound Care
Wound care is a highly dynamic, rewarding career choice for many healthcare professionals. Wound care education positions nurses as experts in their field, providing them with the skills to support a wide array of patients with high-quality care. When patients feel heard, respected, and cared for by an extremely skilled and knowledgeable healthcare professional, patient satisfaction ratings soar.
Providing nurses with an opportunity to gain specialized wound care skills also helps improve confidence, ultimately reducing turnover and significantly elevating employee satisfaction. In fact, new research reports that employees are 54% more likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work when managers spend time developing them.
By supporting wound care training for your team, you can promote enhanced expertise, high-quality specialized care, professional confidence, and patient satisfaction.