Wound Care Nursing: A Complete Guide to Starting Your Career
Wound care professionals are an important part of the healthcare ecosystem. Their role is pivotal in ensuring speedy recovery to improve patients’ quality of life.
Wound care nurses on the other hand, also play a role in educating patients and caregivers for safer and effective wound care practices.
Did you know that a growing number of non-communicable diseases and their consequences are making wound care nursing an attractive career option?
What is a Wound?
A wound is defined as the breakdown in the skin’s protective function or loss in continuity of epithelium, either with or without the loss of underlying connective tissue (i.e., muscle, bone, nerves).
It can either be acute or chronic based on tenure, and open or closed based on its occurrence.
Additionally, wounds are caused by injuries, blows, cuts, pressure, friction, or diseases such as skin conditions, ulcers, or carcinomas. Here are some common types of wounds:
- Open wounds: Two types of open wounds include penetrating wounds (i.e., puncture, surgical, and gunshot wounds plus thermal chemical and electric burns) and blunt trauma (i.e., abrasions, laceration, and skin tears).
- Closed wounds: Some types of closed wounds include contusions, blisters, seroma, hematoma, and crush injuries.
- Ulcers: Some types of ulcers include pressure, venous, arterial and neuropathic ulcers.
What is Wound Care?
Wound care involves complex wound management and care by specialized wound care professionals.
Likewise, it enhances the healing of skin abrasions, blisters, cracks, craters, infections, lacerations, necrosis, and/or ulcers.
It also requires advanced nursing skills and training to address the complex array of complications that arise.
Did you know that skin wounds have an adverse systemic and economic impact on healthcare worldwide? As a matter of fact, around 1 billion people suffer from acute or chronic wounds.
Not to mention, wound management and care can amount to up to 3% of total healthcare expenditure in developed countries.
On the other hand, the United States has an approximated expenditure of 50 billion USD per year and can increase based on the low healing rate.
In the United States alone, 6.5 billion patients are affected by chronic wounds.
Therefore, as you can see wound care professionals play a critical role in healthcare and towards a patient’s healing and recovery, both physically and mentally.
Who Performs Wound Care?
Wound care is a critical component of healthcare and requires special nursing skills and training.
Registered nurses can become specialized in wound care and are known as Certified Wound Care Nurses (CWCN) and perform wound care and management.
Various specializations are also available, such as Certified;
- Continence Care Nurse (CCCN)
- Ostomy Care Nurse (COCN)
- Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse (CWOCN)
Wound Care Nurse Responsibilities
The responsibilities of a wound care nurse go beyond cleaning and dressing wounds.
It is about rehabilitation, care, and patient education.
Some common responsibilities include:
- Assessment of patients for wounds at admission and during treatment.
- Wound cleaning to prevent infection. Skin debridement and dressing.
- Body positioning of the patient to prevent excessive pressure. Use of cushion and support.
- Facilitation of blood flow and oxygen.
- Treatment of edema, lymphedema, and infection.
- Nutritional requirements assessment and maintaining blood glucose levels.
- Wound dressing to protect and create a sterile environment.
- Treatment planning for faster wound healing and recovery, such as the use of antibiotics, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, cleaning, or surgery.
- Patient and caregiver education and promotion to assist healing and prevent infection.
- Devising patient care programs.
- Paperwork, patient records, and insurance claims.
Skills Required to Work as a Wound Care Nurse
Wound care nurses need to demonstrate a number of technical and soft skills to succeed in their roles.
Most healthcare facilities look for the skills below before hiring.
- Knowledge and technical skills- Elaborative knowledge of wounds and treatment modalities to help determine the best plan for the patient towards a speedy recovery. Various new technological advances and their use can aid in patient healing; hence technical knowledge is required. Nursing students can take up Wound Care Certification courses to fill the knowledge gap.
- Diagnostics skills- Accurate diagnosis determines the course of the treatment. Therefore, comprehensive diagnostic skills are required.
- Patience- Wound care requires collaboration with a busy medical professional and care team and occasional involvement of caregiver. Non-cooperative patients can create a stressful situation; hence patience is the most sought-after trait.
- Respect and empathy- To provide care, there is a need for good rapport and mutual respect, and empathy for the patient as the sessions can be long and uncomfortable. Cultivating respect and empathy makes the process more rewarding.
- Communication skills- Strong verbal and written communication is required to complete patient charts and paperwork seamlessly. As the patients and caregivers lack medical knowledge sometimes, it becomes of utmost importance to explain the treatment plans in lucid format. Therefore, communication skills come in handy on a day-to-day basis.
- Physical endurance- Wound care nursing requires dedication and long working hours with complex instructions to be followed precisely. Physical endurance becomes an important factor in the process.
- Enthusiasm– Given the ever-expanding nature of the field and the addition of newer treatment modalities, learning newer concepts becomes important. Being enthusiastic surely helps.
What are the Various Steps of Wound Care?
Various factors interplay while one cares for a chronic wound.
To ensure an organized approach, the TIME principle has been used for the past decade to manage chronic wounds.
- Tissue assessment and management- Debridement of the wound and removal of any foreign material, including necrotic tissue, previously used dressing material, biofilm, slough, exudate, and debris from the surface of the wound.
- Infection/Inflammation management- Assessing the type and etiology of the wound to determine the use of topical or parenteral antibiotics and management of inflammation-related infections.
- Moisture imbalance management- Assessing the etiology and management of the exudate of the wound.
- Edge of the wound observation- Observing the state of the surrounding skin and assessment of wound edges.
Where Do Wound Care Nurses Work?
Wound care nurses typically work in hospitals, nursing homes, and home health agencies. Other healthcare settings include:
- Hospital operating rooms
- Critical care units
- Intensive care unit
- Burns unit
- Skilled Nursing Facilities
- Patient homes
- Healthcare centers
- Chronic disease wards for diabetes and obesity
Depending on the type of care and treatment needs, various specializations are available, such as ostomies, working with diabetic patients, or foot care.
Wound Care Nurse Salary and Benefits
The average salary for a wound care nurse is 1392 USD per week and 13.31 USD per hour in the United States.
Salaries can range from 300 USD to 3,300 USD per week depending on experience and training.
Experienced nurses with higher qualifications and demonstrable skills typically earn more than nurses with only a bachelor’s degree in nursing. For them, salary depends on the kind of settings they choose to work in (i.e., Hospitals, ICU, home/personal healthcare agencies).
When it comes to benefits, wound care nurses receive numerous benefits, such as mileage reimbursement, prescription drug insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, health insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, and referral program.
As you can see, compensation and benefits depend on numerous factors, and a typical trend depicts higher compensation in cases of experience and knowledge.
How Do I Become A Wound Care Nurse?
If you are looking to start a career as a wound care nurse, there are a few steps you have to take.
Step 1: Bachelors in Nursing degree
A bachelor’s degree in nursing is the prerequisite.
As we know, Bachelor degrees usually take four years to complete. In cases of accelerated programs, the degree can be awarded in 3 years. Course work is a combination of classroom training and clinical rounds for hands-on experience. For candidates wanting to enter the academic realm and leadership roles, an advanced nursing degree is recommended.
Step 2: Nurse license registration
Acquiring a license for being a registered nurse is the next step after earning your degree.
To be eligible for the license in the United States, the National Council Licensure Examination for Nurses (NCLEX-RN) is the qualifying exam.
This exam is conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, a multiple-choice examination that tests knowledge of effective patient care environments, health promotion, and physical, social, and mental rehabilitation of patients.
Post clearing the exam, you can apply for a registered nurse license and be eligible for working in the state. If relocating to another state, you need to apply through the respective state board of nursing.
Step 3: Work experience as a registered nurse
Hands-on training and work experience in the healthcare setting is a must.
These practical experiences and demonstrated skills are considered a bonus when recruiting nurses for specialized roles.
As nurses with relevant experience are sought after for specialized roles by healthcare facilities, there also remains flexibility to plan classroom training and exam schedules accordingly for the candidate.
Step 4: Wound care course/specialization-
While working as a registered nurse, you can complete a wound care certification.
The specialization includes earned credentials after successfully completing the coursework.
The tenure of the program ranges from two months to one year and can be made available in a classroom or online format along with practical experience.
Granted that, the demand for wound care professionals is ever-increasing due to the increase in the cases of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, hospitalizations, road traffic injuries and more.
Wound care not only has an impact on patients but also incurs large expenses globally.
Given the dynamic field of work with advancements in treatment modalities and technology, wound care does require extensive experience, training and technical skills. Therefore, advanced courses are also available for professionals looking to pursue leadership roles.
Wound care nurses can work in a variety of settings including public, private, and home care health services – giving them a multifaceted approach to care thanks to the collaborations with other attending healthcare professionals and care teams of various experiences and backgrounds.
Overall, wound care nursing is a potentially lucrative career option for young and experienced nursing professionals.
Looking for wound care physician jobs? Simply fill out this form and a MASC Medical recruiter will personally reach out to you within 24-48 hours.
About Our Contributor, Dr. Angela Thompson:
Dr. Thompson is a Physician at Vohra Wound Physicians.
She joined Vohra as Wound Specialist, where she was responsible for patient rounds and treatment. Soon, she emerged as a leader and became capable of administering Skilled Nursing Facilities’ entire processes. Her innovations and strategies have helped Vohra to bring better outcomes and increased profitability for our clients.