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Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Certification: What Nurses Need to Know

Higher Education Articles September 9, 2013

Whether someone has been a part of the nursing profession for many years or just now thinking about starting a new career, becoming a certified wound ostomy continence nurse is a wonderful way to gain new knowledge and differentiate in the world of nursing. Before deciding whether or not to pursue this path, it’s wise to learn more about benefits, eligibility, course requirements, and certification and find out more about this possible career move.


For one thing, credentialing in the wound, ostomy and continence fields means that nurses who do so are likely to expand their range of experience and have a more interesting career. Not only that, but additional certification is likely to bring increases in compensation as well.

The requirements for getting certified in these areas state that the candidate must already possess a license as a Registered Nurse. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs are part of a field that can expect 26% growth between the years 2010 and 2020, which is significantly higher than average. They make on average $64,690 per year, and their employability is only increased by a valuable certification such as this one: Medscapequotes a survey of nurse managers in which, all other things being equal, 86% would choose to hire a certified nurse over one who had no certifications.

Considering heightened employability and salary increases that accompany such a position, becoming certified puts nurses in an even more stable position than RNs are already in.


As stated, nurses hoping to receive the wound, ostomy and continence certification must already hold a license as an RN. However, they must also hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Moreover, they are required to complete one of two pathways, necessary steppingstones toward gaining the experience needed to become proficient in this area.

The first pathway is traditional, and can be fulfilled by the completion of a Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society-accredited WOC Nursing Education Program. That completion must have occurred within five years prior to applying for certification.

The second is experiential, meaning that the nurse candidate is drawing from clinical practice. Specifically, it requires 1,500 hours in five years and 375 hours in the last year. In addition, the candidate must have 50 hours of post-baccalaureate college-level work for each specialty in which they wish to be certified.

Course Requirements

Education programs vary according to the student’s preferred learning style. Much like other nursing licensing and accreditation programs, the candidate can choose to enroll in programs that are completed through a traditional classroom setting, online, over distance or through home study. Depending on the flexibility of the student’s schedule and financial abilities, these options can be combined for optimum ease and maximum learning.


The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB) offer an independently certified credential for nurses who wish to become proficient at this type of care. In fact, the WOCNCB offers the only independently certified credential for nurses, according to their website. This makes their certification very valuable to the nurse in question and very impressive for those looking over his or her credentials, assuring that the nurse who possesses it is highly qualified to perform duties in the area in which they are certified.

Certification is not required in all three areas. Nurses may choose to only get certified in one area, or perhaps two, instead of all three. Examinations for each subject are separate. Passing the national exam to receive even one of the certifications is bound to improve skill level and expand expertise, which can be added to later with another certification. Schedule exams by looking up locations by area.

So why become a certified wound ostomy continence nurse? Well, for one thing, “Certification is a profession’s official recognition of achievement, expertise, and clinical judgment,” also according to Medscape. It brings more trust to the nurse from patients, employers and the public. It represents their hard work and the skills they’ve gained. And most of all, it broadens the horizons of an already fulfilling career in nursing.

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