Wound Care Nursing: Everything You Need to Know

Staff Writer
Mar 24, 2022 | 23 min read

Wound Care Nursing is a specialty nursing career that requires additional training focused on the treatment and care of complex wounds. Nurses seeking a career change to this specialty must complete a certification program.

Top 10 Frequently Asked Questions about Wound Care Nursing

1. What is a wound care nurse?

Wound care nurses assess, treat, and create care plans for patients with complex wounds, ostomies, or continence conditions. Throughout their career, every nurse will care for a patient with a wound at some point. Certified wound care nurses demonstrate a high level of knowledge and specialty expertise, and often act as educators and consultants to other nurses and healthcare professionals.

These specialized nurses also educate patients and families about how to care for and prevent wounds at home. Wounds need consistent care to properly heal. Wound care nurses teach patients and caregivers how to clean and dress wounds, and what to look for to prevent complications like infection.

2. What does a wound care nurse do?

Wound care nurses assess, treat, and create care plans for patients with complex wounds, ostomies, and/or continence conditions. Every nurse in their career will tend to a wound at some point; certified wound care nurses, however, demonstrate a high level of knowledge and expertise in the field, and often act as educators and consultants to staff nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Just like any other specialty, what you’ll treat will run the gamut. One minute you may be cleaning a surgical wound, the next you’ll help a patient with pain management, and before your shift ends you’re consulting staff on how to prevent pressure ulcers. This specialty requires a lot of patience, respect for the patient, and ambition to stay up-to-date on current procedures and techniques.

Wound care nurses also help educate and provide care instructions for patients and families. Wounds often need continual care in order for the condition to properly heal. Wound care nurses teach patients and caregivers how to clean and dress wounds, and also what to look for in order to prevent any complications like infection.

3. Why Should I Become a Wound Care Nurse?

Those who specialize in wound care find the healing and treatment of our bodies fascinating — and rewarding. It’s a wonderful path for people with a natural inclination for teaching, positivity, and compassion. The emotional burden placed on a patient with an osteotomy, for example, can be overwhelming, and people need nurses who can help them overcome the physical and emotional hurdles of their condition.

4. What are Wound Care Nursing Skills and Requirements?

Certification isn’t necessary to gain experience and work directly with patients who require wound care — but it helps. Obtaining wound care nurse certification validates a nurse’s commitment and knowledge in the field of wound, ostomy, and continence. In order to become certified through the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN), you must hold an active RN license, a BSN degree (or higher), and do either of the following:

  • Traditional path: If you choose this path, you must complete a WOCN-accredited program and have one year of relevant clinical experience within the last five years (before applying to wound, ostomy, and continence nursing education program).
  • Experiential path: If you choose this path, you must have 50 continuing education contact hours (or the equivalent college coursework) within five years of applying to a wound, ostomy, and continence nursing education program and bank 1,500 clinical hours (at least 375 of those which need to be completed within the year prior to applying).

After completion of either path, you can sit for the national board examination.

Additional accredited organizations where you can obtain certification include the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy and American Board of Wound Management. The criteria differ from organization to organization, so make sure to research which program will best fit your experience and needs.

5. How Much Do Wound Care Nurses Make?

In 2021, the median annual salary for all RNs was $77,600 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS does not differentiate between different types of nurses or those with certifications, however in September, 2022 Indeed.com reported the highest paying cities for wound care nurses included:

  • Chicago, IL – $107,903
  • Philadelphia, PA – $104,969
  • Dallas, TX – $103,632
  • Houston, TX – $101,633
  • Phoenix, AZ – $101,394

The employment outlook for a wound care nurse is excellent, due to the high demand for this specialty in a variety of settings (acute care, nursing home care, etc). The aging population and the prevalence of obesity and diabetes make wound care nursing a popular nursing specialty.

Related Resource: What is Geriatric Nursing?

6. What are a Wound Care Nurse’s Responsibilities?

Just like any other specialty, what you’ll treat will run the gamut. One minute you may be cleaning a surgical wound, the next you’ll help a patient with pain management, and before your shift ends, you’re consulting staff on how to prevent pressure ulcers. This specialty requires a lot of patience, respect for the patient, and ambition to stay updated on current procedures and techniques.

Wound care nurse responsibilities include:

  • Assess and monitor wounds
  • Caring for ostomies
  • Providing diabetic foot care
  • Debriding, cleaning, and bandaging wounds
  • Providing burn treatment and management
  • Collaborating with other healthcare professionals
  • Working with the care team to determine if antibiotics, surgery, or other treatments are needed
  • Educating patients and caretakers on wound care, infection and injury prevention, and pressure ulcer care

7. What Degree is Needed for Wound Care?

Most wound care nurses hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree or higher. This is because the requirements for Certified Wound Care Nurse (CWCN) certification include a BSN degree. Nurses must also hold an active RN license, have professional nursing experience, and complete additional education in order to become certified.

Related Resource: How to Become a Wound Care Nurse

8. Are Wound Care Nurses in High Demand?

The outlook for this specialty is positive given the range of injuries and conditions that are treated by wound care nurses. As the demand increases with an aging population, and the prevalence of diseases such as obesity and diabetes, healthcare facilities can expect to hire more wound care nurses.

Related Resource: National Diabetes Month

9. Are Wound Care Nurses RNs?

Nurses must hold an active RN license, have professional nursing experience, and complete additional education in order to become certified in wound care. In order to become certified through the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN), you must hold an active RN license, a BSN degree (or higher), and complete specific education in wound care.

10. Is Wound Care Management a Nursing Specialty?

Wound care management is a specialized nursing practice used to assess and treat complex patient wounds, including:

  • Ulcers on skin
  • Burns
  • Skin tears
  • Lacerations
  • Animal bites
  • Pressure injuries on skin
  • Ostomies (a surgical opening in the skin)

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