What Is a Wound Care Nurse?
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What's the difference between a wound care nurse and an RN? Find out their differences, average salary, and steps to become certified.
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While all nurses care for wounds (like surgical incision sites and bedsores), a wound care nurse specializes in complex wounds and prevention of skin breakdown. Wound care nurses evaluate, plan, and carry out care for complex wounds.
It takes between 4-6 years to become a wound care nurse. The projected job growth is about average, with an expected 6% growth from 2021 to 2031, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
If you are considering a career as a wound care nurse, use this guide to find out where wound care nurses work, how much they make, and how you can become a wound care nurse.
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What Does a Wound Care Nurse Do?
A wound care nurse assesses deep wounds, skin tears, ostomies, severe burns, pressure injuries or bedsores, and diabetic foot wounds. The wound care nurse creates a plan of care that staff nurses follow. They often work with diabetics who have skin ulcers to prevent severe complications.
The wound nurse often implements a plan of care to help prevent wounds from worsening. Other key responsibilities for this role include:
- Educating staff nurses on wound care protocols
- Creating, updating, and managing care plans
- Performing specialized procedures (e.g., removing dead tissue, cleaning wounds, and bandaging)
- Working with a multidisciplinary team to plan skin care interventions
- Performing diabetic foot care
- Educating patients and their caregivers on wound care procedures and preventative measures
- Charting information for insurance reimbursement
- Writing nursing orders that promote wound healing and/or prevent skin breakdown
- Staying up to date with current wound treatments
Being a wound care nurse requires special career traits, including:
- Good organization and communication skills
- Ability to work well under pressure in a fast-paced, physically demanding environment
- Ability to make decisions and work independently while consulting with other healthcare professionals
- Patient advocacy skills
- Leadership skills
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Where Do Wound Care Nurses Work?
Wound care nurses commonly work in an acute care hospital and homecare settings. Other facilities, such as long-term residential and skilled nursing facilities, also often employ wound care nurses. They may be on call when residents develop complex wounds or are at high risk for skin breakdown.
Home Healthcare Companies
Home healthcare nurses travel to the patient's residential location. This could include private homes, independent living or residential facilities, or skilled nursing facilities. They often see patients after hospital discharge to ensure they are performing wound care correctly at home.
Acute Care Facilities
In an acute care setting, wound care nurses may care for high-risk patients prone to skin breakdown, like diabetics. They are often consulted by staff nurses when a patient is admitted with or begins to develop a complex wound.
On surgical units, wound care nurses consult with patients that have ostomies, an artificial opening created by a surgical procedure, such as a colostomy. They teach patients how to care for their ostomy after discharge.
Skilled Nursing Facilities
Home health agencies often employ wound care nurses to work at skilled nursing facilities. Wound care nurses work closely with staff nurses and members of the multidisciplinary team to ensure specialized treatment protocols are being followed correctly.
They also assess treatment outcomes and adjust the plan of care as needed. Wound care nurses in skilled nursing facilities often care for patients who are bedridden and incontinent.
How to Become a Wound Care Nurse?
Wound care nursing is a very specialized area of nursing. Most wound care nurses have a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree or higher, are certified wound care nurses (CWCNs), have an active registered nurse (RN) license, and have specialized training.
The minimum requirement to become a wound care nurse is an accredited BSN program, a passing score on the National Council Licensure Examination, and an active, unencumbered RN license. There are some nurses who pursue an advanced practice RN credential, such as nurse practitioner.
Certification is mandatory. Employers require a CWCN credential issued by the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification Board.
There are several types of certification credentials for wound care nurses, including;
- Foot care
- Wound, ostomy, and continence
- Wound treatment associate
- Advanced practice
Prerequisites for certification include:
- A BSN degree or higher from an accredited nursing school
- An active, unencumbered RN license
- Twenty-four continuing education (CE) credits in foot care and basic skin and wound care
- Forty supervised clinical hours under the direct supervision of an expert
- CE nursing credits and clinical hours completed within the past five years of the certification application
There are several types of certification for wound care nurses, including:
- CWCN — treats wounds
- Certified continence care nurse — treats skin breakdown in those who cannot control their bladder or bowels
- Certified ostomy care nurse — treats the area of the skin surrounding an artificial opening (e.g., an opening created for emptying the colon after colon cancer surgery)
- Certified wound, ostomy, and continence nurse — all three designations
Learn more about how to become a Wound Care Nurse.
How Much Do Wound Care Nurses Make?
According to the BLS, the job outlook for all RNs is slightly better than average, with a projected growth level of 6% from 2021-2031.
The BLS reports the median annual salary for registered nurses is $77,600. In September 2022, Payscale set the average hourly rate for wound care nurses at $30.65 per hour, with an average salary range of $47,000-$92,000, depending on level of education, geographic area, work setting, experience, and certification status.
Frequently Asked Questions about About Wound Care Nurses
How long does it take to become a wound care nurse?
It takes 4-6 years to become a wound care nurse, depending on the type of degree you pursue and whether you are certified as a CWCN or other specialty.
What's the difference between a wound care nurse and a trauma nurse?
A trauma nurse works with patients in critical condition after an accident or other cause of trauma, often providing life-saving medical intervention. Wound care nurses are more likely to work with patients who have chronic conditions, such as those who are bedridden.
What are the five rules of wound care?
There are five standards for wound management, including:
- Proper assessment
- Proper wound cleansing
- Timely dressing changes
- Appropriate choice of dressing
- Consideration of antibiotics (i.e., an order from the prescribing healthcare provider)
What skills do wound care nurses need?
Wound care nurses need the skills to work independently and methodically. They must employ step-by-step measures to help wound healing and prevent complications. Wound care nurses also need team-oriented abilities to work with the care team in planning wound care.
Page last reviewed September 18, 2022
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