A wound care nurse, often referred to as a wound, ostomy and continence nurse, is a registered nurse who specializes in this specific field. The future for nurses in general is promising, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Bureau reports that the job outlook is better than average for nurses with an expected growth rate of twenty-six percent.
One way they can distinguish themselves is by selecting a specialty like wound care. Through continuing education in wound management, nurses improve their employment opportunities and increase their salaries.
What is Wound Care?
The Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society define this distinctive role as a nurse who specializes in the care of patients with wounds, ostomies, or continence disorders. Nurses in wound care management work with patients who have gastrointestinal stomas for feeding tubes or colostomy bags, skin ulcers, drains, surgical incisions, or pressure sores. Any type of breach in the skin qualifies as a wound and might need additional treatment.
The goal of the nurse is preventative care and wound healing. In some cases, a wound care nurse must evaluate the skin surface of at risk patients such as bed ridden elderly individuals to prevent decubitus ulcers. They provide treatment protocols to ward off skin irritation and infection for wounds that may not heal well, because of other medical problems, such as diabetes or poor circulation.
The exact duties of a wound nurse vary by condition. Generally, the healthcare professional will follow the standard of care for each specific wound including infection control and maintenance. They may also provide patient education and consult with staff, to recommend evidence-based treatment options.
To be eligible to work in wound management, as nurse must have a Certified Wound Care Nurse certification, or CWCN. These candidates must also receive a bachelor’s degree, or higher, from an accredited nursing program. The nurse must already have a valid RN license to apply for certification. In addition, the nurse completes a wound care education program from either the Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society or a graduate school. As an alternative, a nurse can have 50 continuing education contact hours in wound care over a five-year period plus 1500 clinical hours.
Wound care continuing education lasts several months and includes both classroom and clinical training.
Wound care nursing is a specialty that requires continuing education, therefore, salaries are higher than those of general registered nurses. Indeed.com reports that the average wound care nurse makes around 70,000 dollars a year. The salary range will vary by location. For example, a wound care nurse in Lincoln, NE averages around 51,000 dollars per year while a nurse in Los Angeles makes 74,000 dollars annually.
Wound care nurses have a variety of employment opportunities. They can work in nursing homes, on surgical wards at hospitals or in clinics that specialize in wound management. Wound care is often associated with aging patients. More retirees are turning to home health care, or assisted living as the population of the elderly increases in the United States. This opens up another job source for nurses with this specialty that are able to travel.
Advanced degrees in nursing include a master’s or doctorate. A candidate interested in going further in the wound care industry can become a nurse practitioner who specializes in this niche. Any advanced degree would allow a CWCN professional to work as an administrator in a wound care ward, clinic or nursing home. A nurse care practitioner would qualify to run a private practice for patients requiring wound treatment and prevention.