Wound Care Nurse Overview
- What You Will Do: The wound care, or wound care, ostomy and continence (WOC) nurse specializes in assessment treatment and monitoring of wounds and skin breakdown, as well as in preventative measures aimed toward maintaining skin integrity.
- Where Will You Work: WOC nurses work in the acute care setting, in units such as ICU, critical care, and other areas where patients experience immobility. Other settings include long-term care, hospice, home health or public health agencies.
- Employment Projections: Nursing is expected to be the fastest-growing professions, with growth projected at 16% – 23%. The demand for WOC nurses is quite high in a variety of settings.
- How Much Will I Earn: The median salary of a WOC nurse is $64,000, with a range of $41,700 – $83,000.
- Requirements to Become One: Hold active Registered Nurse licensure, acquire nursing experience, complete specialty training and obtain specialty certification.
Five Steps to Become a Wound Care Nurse
- Earn Your RN: You must earn an RN degree from an accredited associate degree (ADN) or bachelor degree (BSN) program. It is important to note that WOC certification requires a BSN degree as part of the requirements.
- Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam: All RNs must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain licensure to practice nursing. See our NCLEX study guides.
- Acquire nursing experience: Accumulate direct patient care experience, over a minimum of one year, as well as continuing education credits.
- Obtain WOC Nursing Certification: The Wound Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB) offers several certification related to wound, ostomy, continence and foot care. Similarly, the American Board of Wound Management and the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy offer related certifications.
What is a Wound Care Nurse?
The primary focus of the WOC nurse is the assessment, monitoring and treatment of skin breakdown and wounds, as well as strategies to preserve skin integrity, consulting with caregivers to develop an effective plan of care. WOC nurses care for all types of wounds including burns, pressure ulcers, diabetic/arterial ulcers, and provide direct care for individuals with abdominal stomas, fistulas, drains and continence disorders. Additional roles include educator, consultant and researcher. The WOC nurse is an important part of the interdisciplinary healthcare team, guiding the provision of optimal patient care.
How Do I Become a Wound Care Nurse?
The first step toward becoming a WOC nurse is to become a Registered Nurse, preferably earning a bachelor of science (BSN) degree from an accredited nursing program. After graduation, you must obtain RN licensure by taking the NCLEX-RN examination in your state. Once you have achieved licensure, you will need to acquire clinical experience providing direct patient care for a minimum of one year post-licensure. Continuing education credits are also required. In terms of certification, the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB) offers several related certifications:
- Wound, Ostomy, Continence – BSN or higher degree required
- Foot Care – BSN or higher degree required
- Advanced Practice Wound, Ostomy, and Continence – requires MSN or higher degree to become an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) (Nurse Practitioner, Clinical Nurse Specialist, etc.)
- Wound Treatment Associate – open to Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), and RN with ADN or BSN degree.
To be eligible to take the WOCNCB WOC nurse certification exam, the traditional route requires the completion of a WOC Nursing Education program within the 5 years prior to the date of the certification exam. An alternative, experiential pathway requires 50 continuing education credits related to each specialty area, and 1500 direct patient care hours. Eligibility requirements for other certifications can be accessed at http://www.wocncb.org/certification/advance-practice-certification
The American Board of Wound Management (ABWM) offers two certifications related to nursing;
- Certified Wound Care Associate – requires professional licensure
- Certified Wound Specialist – requires professional licensure with bachelor’s degree or higher.
Further information regarding ABWM certification can be accessed at http://www.abwmcertified.org/
The National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy (NAWCO) offers the Wound Care Certification to various levels of professional disciplines, with certification related to nursing ranging from LPN to APRN levels. Further information regarding NAWCO certification can be accessed at https://www.nawccb.org/wound-care-certification
See our nursing resume guide.
Where Do Wound Care Nurses Typically Work?
WOC nurses find employment in a wide variety of settings: long-term care, acute care hospitals, home health agencies, hospice care, public health agencies, and wound care clinics or practices; any setting where patients experience immobility, are otherwise at risk for altered skin integrity, or have present wounds, ulcers, abdominal stomas, or continence concerns.
In general, the typical work schedule for a WOC nurse is Monday – Friday, 8AM to 5PM, depending on the job setting. For example, in a clinic, the hours may be 8AM – 5PM, but in a hospital setting the WOC nurse may work 12-hour shifts.
How Much Do Wound Care Nurses Earn?
Nursing, in general, is identified as one of the fastest growing professions in the US in terms of RN salary, with a projected growth of 16% +, much higher than the national average. This is dependent on the job, and the geographical area. Salaries are generally higher in urban areas, however, the cost of living is typically higher, as well. In addition, bachelor’s prepared nurses tend to earn higher salaries than nurses with associate degrees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the top five states for general nursing salaries are (range 96,470 – 81,380);
Specialty certification can increase earnings significantly. The median salary of a WOC nurse is $64,000 – 69,000 per year, with a range of $41,700 – $83,000.
Wound Care Nurse Education Programs
Programs Accredited by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society:
- Cleveland Clinic, WOC Nursing Education Program, Cleveland OH – clevelandclinic.org/wocschool
- Rutgers University, School of Nursing, Wound, Ostomy, Continence Nursing Education Program, Camden NJ – http://nursing.camden.rutgers.edu/wound-ostomy-continence-nurse-certification
- San Jose’ State University, The Valley Foundation School of Nursing, The Wound and Ostomy Education Program, San Jose CA – sjsu.edu/woundostomy
- University of Washington, Wound Management Program, Seattle WA – http://uwcne.org/woundcert
- Metropolitan State University, College of Nursing, WEB WOC Nursing Education Program, Minneapolis MN – webwocnurse.com
- Emory University, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Education Center, Atlanta GA – wocnec.org
What is a Typical WOC Nursing Curriculum?
WOC nursing programs will include courses addressing:
Skin and Wound Care;
- General skin care
- Preventions and management of pressure ulcers
- Assessment and interventions related to lower extremity ulcers
- Principles of wound debridement
- Appropriate and cost effective topical treatment
- Appropriate and cost effective use of support services
- Systemic support for wound healing
- Diabetic foot care
- Stoma site marking
- Management of bowel and urinary diversions
- Ostomy product selection
- Sexual counseling/rehabilitation care
- Continent diversions
- Assessment related to causative and contributing factors
- Conservative management
- Fluid and diet management
- Pelvic floor rehabilitation
- Behavioral therapies
- Absorptive and containment products
The Role of the Wound Care Nurse in the Nursing Shortage
The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that employment for nurses will increase at a rate of 16% by 2024. There is a national shortage of nurses in general related to the Baby Boomer population entering retirement, and the increased health needs of the growing aging population. It is projected that the South and West will be hardest hit by the nursing shortage. The 12 states expected to have the most acute shortages are; Florida, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and New Mexico.
Certified WOC nurses are in high demand, needed to provide specialty care in a wide variety of health care settings, including hospitals, clinics, public health agencies, home health agencies and hospice care providers.
Find additional nursing specialties.
Wound Care Nurse Resources
- American Professional Wound Care Association – https://www.apwca.org/
- Association for the Advancement of Wound Care – https://aawconline.memberclicks.net/
- Journal of Wound Care – https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/journal/jowc
- Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing – https://journals.lww.com/jwocnonline/Pages/default.aspx
- Organization of Wound Care Nurses – https://woundcarenurses.org/
- Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society – https://www.wocn.org/default.aspx
- American Board of Wound Management – http://www.abwmcertified.org/
- American Nurse Today – https://www.americannursetoday.com/
- National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy – https://www.nawccb.org/
- Payscale.com – https://www.payscale.com
- US Department of Labor; Bureau of Labor Statistics – https://www.bls.gov/
- Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society – https://www.wocn.org/default.aspx
- Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board – http://www.wocncb.org