Wound Care Nurses (or WOC nurse, for short) are trained to evaluate injuries, reduce patient pain and promote a safe and steady healing process. Those who choose to specialize in this area will enter a surprisingly competitive, yet highly on-demand sector in the healthcare industry. This guide covers everything you need to know about this exciting career path.
WOC Nurses are nurses who possess the following certifications: ostomies (COCN), continence care (CCCN) and wound treatment (CWCN). By acquiring one or all of these, you can become a Certified Wound Ostomy and Continence Nurse (CWOCN). These nurses are responsible for managing and treating wounds in a variety of healthcare facilities, such as hospitals or long term residential care facilities.
Compared to regular RNs, WOC nurses enjoy higher salaries, more job opportunities and greater professional standing, all while fulfilling their continuing education requirements.
Tasks and Responsibilities
Specific responsibilities may differ, depending on the facility you work in. With that said, WOC nurses can generally expect to handle the following responsibilities:
Burn treatment and management
Organizing patient documentation for Medicare reimbursement
Collaborating with a care team to determine the need for further treatment or medication
Diabetic foot care
Creating policies for wounds, incontinence and ostomies
Educating patient and patient families on wound care and prevention strategies
Writing detailed wound care orders to promote proper healing while avoiding skin breakdowns
Wound Care Nurse Salary
In 2020, BLS estimated that registered nurses made $75,330 a year, on average. Since the role requires more specialized training and certifications, WOC nurses can expect to earn more than this amount. At the time of writing, Indeed estimates a median yearly wage of $98,234.
It is important to note that this figure does not account for the various certifications. Your actual salary will depend on other factors like your additional education, experience and geographical location.
Listed below are the top paying cities for WOC nurses, according to Indeed:
New York, NY: $113,555/yr
Chicago, IL: $106,296/yr
Philadelphia, PA: $103,176/yr
Portland, OR: $102,085/yr
Dallas, TX: $101.983/yr
How to Become a Wound Care Nurse
In this section, we will go over all you need to know about becoming a WOC Nurse. The process can be costly and takes additional steps, but the payoff is often worth it.
Step 1: Acquire Bachelor’s Degree
At the bare minimum, The Wound Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB) requires a bachelor’s degree from its WOC nurses.
Step 2A: Complete a Board-Certified WOC Program
There are a number of certifying boards for WOC Nurses in America. The aforementioned WOCNCB is commonly recognized and exclusively for nurses. To gain certification, you must complete a course from one of their board-approved programs. Thankfully, this list encompasses both traditional on-campus classes and online offerings.
The curriculum consists of two semesters worth of courses (or around 15 hours). Students must also complete 140-180 clinical hours, under a board-certified preceptor. Students can choose between a number of specializations, like ostomy, foot care, wound care and incontinence. Depending on how many you take, tuition can range from $2,500 to $6,500. All in all, it will take around two to three months to complete most programs.
Meanwhile, there are two certification offerings that extend to many HCPs, like Physicians or LPNs. The National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy offers the Wound Care Certification, while The American Board of Wound Management provides the Certified Wound Specialist certification. Regardless of what you pick, you want to make sure your facility-of-choice recognizes your certification.
Step 2B: Get certified via work experience
Alternatively, the WOCNCB can certify you if you have accrued enough relevant clinical experience. Within a span of 5 years, you must complete 50 related Continuing Education Units and 1500 clinical hours per specialization. No matter what branch of you choose, you have to renew your certification every 5 years.
Step 3: Pass the Certification Test
Once you finish your education, you can finally take the certification test. Pre-exam fees depend on how many specializations you are taking on. One speciality costs $395 and four specialties bumps the price up to $670. If you fail and take the test again, you need to repay the fee (although you will receive a $100 discount.)
Although The WOCNCB reports 9,700 certified Wound, Ostomy, Continence and Foot Care nurses, these certification tests should be taken seriously. In December 2020, the organization reported the following passing rate for each certification:
Foot Care - 92%
Continence Care - 86%
Ostomy Care - 78%
Wound Care - 76%
No matter where you choose to specialize, coasting is not an option. Passing these programs will take a lot of work, skill and dedication. Once you pass your test and receive certification, you can finally start work as a WOC nurse.
Many hospitals have designated and salaried positions for WOC nurses. They are most commonly found in the ICU and surgical operating units. If they are needed, they can be circulated through different sections in the hospital. Depending on the facility, you might work within a wound care team that offers prevention, consultation and treatment services.
If you prefer a change of scenery, facilities often employ WOC nurses as travel nurses. Payment is comparable to nurses in other fields of specialization.
According to the CDC’s 2020 National Diabetes Statistics Report, diabetes cases across the country are skyrocketing. 34.2 million Americans have diabetes, which is over 1 in 10 of all Americans. Meanwhile, 88 million, or 1 in 3 of all Americans, are dealing with prediabetes. Across multiple demographics, diabetes has become a massive issue and most people are not even aware of it. This alarming trend will inevitably increase the demand for wound treatment specialists, in the coming future.
In addition, hospitals are feeling pressure to promote wound prevention in inpatient settings. Between the cost of treatment to possible fines, neglecting this could prove costly for facilities, in the long run. As a result, hospitals are pushed to find WOC nurses and assign them full-time positions.