How to Become a Wound Care Nurse
Learn how to specialize as a Wound Care Nurse, including the education and certifications you’ll need
Did you know that 1 in every 38 adults is affected by a chronic wound every year in the United States? Chronic wounds, such as lacerations or diabetic foot ulcers, can be painful and limit social activities, mobility, and quality of life. These wounds require specialized medical attention.
Other complicated skin wounds, such as severe burns, animal bites, or other traumatic injuries, may also require advanced wound care. Nurses who work in this specialized field of medicine are called Wound Care Nurses. With advanced training, they play an essential part in the treatment and recovery of their patients.
In this article, you’ll learn about the role of a Wound Care Nurse, common duties, required skills, expected salary*, and job outlook. We’ll also review the steps you’ll need to take to become an RN and earn specific certifications.
To learn more about starting your career as a nurse, click here to learn how to become a Registered Nurse. You can also discover other popular nursing careers by exploring the different types of hospital nursing jobs.
Wound Care Nurse Definition
What is a Wound Care Nurse?
Wound Care Nurses specialize in treating many types of complicated wounds, helping patients manage pain and avoid infection. These wounds include conditions or injuries such as deep skin tears, burns, diabetic foot ulcers, animal bites, pressure injuries, ostomies, and bedsores.
Wound Care Nurse: Job Description
What Does a Wound Care Nurse Do?
Wound Care Nurses are specialized healthcare professionals who have undergone extensive training to provide advanced wound care and management to patients with complex wounds. They are well-versed in the latest techniques and technologies for treating all types of serious wounds, such as pressure ulcers, burns, surgical wounds, diabetic ulcers, and traumatic injuries.
Despite this, the job description for Wound Care Nurses can vary significantly depending on the type of healthcare facility they work in and the patients they treat. For instance, in a hospital setting, Wound Care Nurses may work in the intensive care unit, emergency department, or surgical ward, where they provide immediate and ongoing wound care to critically ill or injured patients. In contrast, in long-term care facilities, Wound Care Nurses may focus on preventing and managing chronic wounds, such as pressure ulcers, for patients with limited mobility or other underlying medical conditions.
Moreover, Wound Care Nurses may also work in outpatient clinics, wound care centers, or private practices, where they provide specialized wound care services to patients with complex wounds that require ongoing management and follow-up care. In these settings, Wound Care Nurses may collaborate with other healthcare professionals, such as physicians, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, to develop comprehensive treatment plans that meet the unique needs of each patient.
Overall, the role of a Wound Care Nurse is essential in ensuring the optimal care and management of patients with complex wounds, and they play a critical role in improving patient outcomes and quality of life.
Wound Care Nurse Duties
Wound Care Nurses assist physicians in the treatment of severe wounds and help implement care plans to ensure optimal patient outcomes. It’s important for these specialized nurses to maintain up-to-date knowledge of wound care treatment modalities, such as new types of dressings, technologies, and medications. Wound Care Nurses typically perform the following duties:
- Assess injuries, identify treatment options, and assist in wound care procedures
- Assist in treating traumatic wounds like burns, lacerations, and animal bites
- Treat pressure injuries caused by sedentary conditions such as hospice care
- Care for issues with foot ulcers for patients with type 2 diabetes
- Perform treatments such as negative pressure wound therapy and vacuum-assisted closure (VAC)
- Sterilize, dress, and bandage various open wounds and burns
- Educate patients and families on self-sufficient care outside of the hospital
Wound Care Nurse Skills
To become a successful Wound Care Nurse, you’ll develop a diverse set of skills that you’ll rely on daily. But you’ll also want to continually stay up to date with the latest developments in wound care research and technology. Some of the most important skills to acquire include:
Communication: Wound Care Nurses will benefit from superior communication skills, including written and verbal skills, as they discuss treatments with physicians and other healthcare professionals. When speaking to patients, they must relate information in non-technical, easy-to-understand language.
Enthusiasm: This trait may not come to mind at first, but it’s a great advantage for Wound Care Nurses to maintain positivity and enthusiasm as they treat patients and help to obtain positive outcomes. They should also be willing and motivated to learn about new treatments and medications.
Compassion: Nurses in this field who display a compassionate and caring tone when updating patients and families with status updates or recovery instructions will have an advantage. By showing respect and empathy for patients, they will be more successful in establishing a positive rapport.
Technical Expertise: Hands-on skills are essential. In this field, you’ll need to acquire the skills to perform technical procedures such as vacuum-assisted wound closure, negative pressure wound therapy, and other specialized treatments.
Where Do Wound Care Nurses Work?
As an RN specializing in wound care, you will have the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, each with its unique challenges and patient populations. Hospitals are a common setting for Wound Care Nurses, where they may work in emergency departments, surgical units, or inpatient wards. In these settings, Wound Care Nurses collaborate with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive wound care to patients with acute injuries or surgical wounds.
Intensive care units (ICUs) are another setting where Wound Care Nurses may work. In the ICU, patients may require specialized interventions such as negative pressure wound therapy, debridement, or advanced wound dressings. Wound Care Nurses in the ICU work closely with critical care physicians and other members of the healthcare team to provide individualized care to patients with complex wounds.
Skilled nursing facilities and long-term care centers are also common settings for Wound Care Nurses. These facilities often care for patients with chronic wounds, such as pressure injuries or diabetic foot ulcers, and require specialized wound care interventions to promote healing and prevent complications.
Home healthcare settings offer another opportunity for Wound Care Nurses to provide specialized care to patients in their own homes. In this setting, Wound Care Nurses provide education and support to patients and their families on proper wound care techniques, as well as administering wound care interventions as needed.
Wound Care Nurse Schooling & Certification
How Long Does it Take to Become a Wound Care Nurse?
What Degree Do You Need to Be a Wound Care Nurse?
Following are the typical steps to specializing as a Wound Care Nurse, including schooling, licensing, and certifications.
1. Earn a Nursing Degree
Because certified WOC nurses must hold a bachelor’s degree, you should plan to earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Typically, a BSN program usually takes about four years to complete (note that the accelerated BSN Program at Eagle Gate College can be completed in three years).
2. Earn a Master of Science in Nursing Degree
This step is optional. Some will choose to pursue a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), especially if their long-term goals include more advanced leadership roles or a desire to work as a nurse educator. Most MSN programs, like the online MSN program at Eagle Gate College, can be completed in about two years for those who already have a BSN.
3. Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam
Once you’ve graduated from your nursing program, you’ll need to prepare for and pass the NCLEX-RN exam (National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses) to become licensed as an RN. This exam is administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Their website offers candidates information about the exam, its format, and study aids to help you prepare for the exam.
4. Complete a Certification Program
The final step to specialize as a Wound Care Nurse is to complete one of three board-approved certification programs offered by the WOCNCB®, One certification is involved in treating wounds (CWCN®), one certifies you in continence care (CCCN®), and one in ostomies (COCN®). If a nurse certifies in all three, they identify as a Certified Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurse (CWOCN®).
5. Continue Your Training and Education
Even after obtaining one or all of the WOCNB certifications, your education and training won’t end. Depending on the type of facility you work in, you may choose to pursue additional certifications. You may also choose to enroll in continuing education programs that will increase your knowledge regarding the latest techniques, technologies, and medications.
By staying on top of Wound Care Nursing best practices, including evidence-based wound care management, wound care documentation, and infection prevention and control, you’ll position yourself for a healthy career path with plenty of chances for advancement.
You may also choose to join one of several wound care nursing organizations, such as the Wound Ostomy Continence Nurses Society (WOCN), and pursue additional resources and opportunities in wound care nursing education.
Wound Care Nurse Salary
How Much Do Wound Care Nurses Make?
Although the BLS doesn’t report salary* data specifically for Wound Care Nurses, they report that the average salary* for all Registered Nurses is about $83,000 per year or roughly $40 per hour.
Note that your exact salary* as a Wound Care Nurse will vary based on your geographic location, level of education, and experience.
Wound Care Nurse Job Outlook
What is the Job Outlook for Wound Care Nurses?
As with salary* data, the BLS doesn’t report job outlook data specifically for Wound Care Nurses, but they project that employment of all Registered Nurses will grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031. This means that over 200,000 job openings will become available each year. Some of the demand is due to the ongoing nursing shortage, while additional jobs will be created by those who transfer to different occupations or retire from the workforce.
Wound Care Nurses may also find opportunities for advancement, including positions such as a head nurse, assistant director, or director of nursing. Some leadership positions may require a graduate degree in nursing.
Consider Specializing as a Wound Care Nurse
After learning more about how to become a Wound Care Nurse, including some of the common duties, average salaries, and the job outlook, you may be interested in specializing in this field.
An estimated 6.7 million Americans currently live with chronic wounds, and more than 29 million live with diabetes. Consequently, Wound Care Nurses are needed more than ever to support the team of physicians, podiatrists, surgeons, and other healthcare providers in treating these patients. Helping these patients recover from severe wounds and learn to manage skin conditions associated with diseases like diabetes can lead to an extremely rewarding nursing career.
To get started on the path to becoming an RN and specializing as a Wound Care Nurse, take a look at the accelerated BSN Program at Eagle Gate College. Or, if you already work as an RN with an associate degree, consider our RN-to-BSN Program.