Make Wound Care Nursing Your Next Career Milestone

Published on March 2, 2022 by Terrey Hatcher

As many wound care nurses would tell you, a career in wound care nursing can be extremely rewarding if you have a passion for the work and can create a trusting relationship with patients.

Wound care nurses’ responsibilities go much deeper than just dressing wounds — although dressing a wound properly using the right materials and regimen is a crucial part of the wound treatment process. These specialists also know how to assess, debride, and clean wounds, and are an integral part of a patient’s care team.

Whether patients have chronic or acute wounds, wound care nurses can decide on treatment plans that promote healing and prevent infection. And patients profit from having these compassionate, highly skilled professionals by their sides.

While the sensitive nature of wounds may deter some providers from seeking wound care certification, it is also what draws many others to the specialty.

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 in wound care nursing has skyrocketed.

Do You Know the Steps for Becoming a Certified Wound Care Nurse?

To earn wound care certification, 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: Learn On the Job

Nurses must have hands-on experience working in a wound care environment before they become Wound Care Certified (WCC). Whether in an inpatient setting, a skilled nursing facility, or in home health, 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 should, in fact, be their next career milestone.

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: Fulfill All Training Requirements

Wound care certification for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nurse practitioners requires candidates to receive additional training in wound care 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: Pursue 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: Be Vigilant About Continuing Education

Wound care education continues long after nurses have 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 steppingstones 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 Can Wound Care Nurses Work?

Wound care nurses work in a variety of medical settings. Skilled nursing facilities, home healthcare agencies, 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.

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 annual wound care nurse salary ranges from $47,000 to $86,000 and an average wound care nurse salary at just over $69,000.

Check out our on-site and online options for our wound care certification prep courses, including Wound Care, Diabetic Wound Care, Nutrition Wound Care, and Ostomy Management Specialist.

Terrey Hatcher

Terrey Hatcher has worked in professional development and curriculum design organizations for more than 20 years. At Relias, she has collaborated with physicians, nurses, curriculum designers, writers, and other staff members to shape healthcare content designed to improve clinical practice, staff expertise, and patient outcomes. Besides her current focus on healthcare solutions, her experience includes sharing best practices in education, IT, and international business.

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