Wound care crosses many other fields of healthcare. It is important in many environments, from emergency rooms to nursing homes. The Wound Care Certified (WWC) certification is a way for nurses to validate that they have a high level of expertise in this field.
There are many different types of wounds that can exist, with a wide variety of treatment options that nurses must be familiar with and understand how to apply based on the specific situation. Wound care nurses are often consulted by other clinicians to provide their expert insight on how to best manage the care of a patient’s wounds.
What do wound care nurses do?
As the name suggests, wound care nurses play an important role in managing wounds. While all nurses care for wounds to some extent, wound care nurses specialize in assessing complex wounds and helping plan long-term treatment for these wounds.
Those outside of the medical field may not understand how much wound care matters. Wounds that are not cared for properly can lead to serious infection, amputation, and even death.
Where do wound care nurses work?
Unlike fields of nursing such as emergency room nursing or maternity nursing, wound care nurses do not follow the complete care of a patient over a period of time. Wound care nurses will instead follow just the care of a patient’s wounds. This can cross over into other areas that impact wound healing, such as assessing and improving a patient’s nutrition, but will only cross into other areas that are related to wounds.
Wound care nurses will often work in wound clinics. In these clinics, patients will visit on a regular basis to have their wounds evaluated and receive treatment. During visits to these clinics, the wound care nurse will evaluate how the wound has healed, if complications have developed, and what next steps in treatment will be most helpful.
Wound care nurses can also work in hospitals, but will normally be someone that is consulted specifically for a patient’s wound care and will not take on a patient assignment. The role of a wound care nurse in the hospital will be very similar to their role in a clinic, except they will need to coordinate care with other healthcare professionals and visit the patient regularly instead of having the patient visit them. Wound care nurses will often work in a clinic while also consulting in a connected hospital as needed.
5 Types of wounds wound nurses work with
While not limited solely to these types of wounds, there are three that wound care nurses often work with:
1. Large wounds
Large wounds typically cover an area of the body that is big enough that it cannot be easily closed. Wounds that wound care nurses work with are also often deep, extending through skin and fatty tissue to the muscle or bone.
2. Pressure ulcers
Pressure ulcers, commonly referred to as bedsores, occur when a portion of the body spends a prolonged period of time pressed against something. They typically occur on bony parts of the bodies like ankles, heels, hip bones and tailbones. Wound care nurses will often be consulted for more serious wounds pressure ulcers to properly assess and recommend the proper treatment.
Burns can range widely in severity and complexity. Two key factors doctors and nurses look at is wound depth and burn size on the body. Wound care nurses will have to determine the severity of a burn and what appropriate treatment methods to use – ointments, dressings, and potentially skin grafts.
4. Complex wounds
Wound care nurses are almost always consulted when wounds are complicated. Complex wounds can be wounds caused by thermal or chemical burns, wounds that are infected, or wounds that are surgical wounds that did not heal correctly.
Wound care nurses will also care for ostomies. Ostomies are surgically-created wounds that open a body orifice to the external environment. The most common type of ostomy is a colostomy, where part of the colon is made to exit the body through a surgical incision in the abdomen. The contents of the intestinal tract will exist through a colostomy into a bag that collects these contents.
Ostomies require ongoing care, as they are a type of deliberately created wound that must be maintained to avoid complications. When complications do occur, correctly managing these complications is essential, as ostomies are only created to maintain necessary body functions. Because of how important ostomy care is, wound nurses will often be called wound and ostomy nurses.
What types of treatments do wound nurses provide?
Treatments for wound care can vary extensively. Wound care nurses can administer ordered medications, such as antibiotics and ointments to improve and speed wound healing. Wound nurses also change dressings and determine what types of dressings are most likely to allow wounds to heal correctly.
There are many complex medical treatments used on wounds that nurses specialized in this area are trained to provide.
- Wound vacuums are an example of one of these types of treatment and involve a wound dressing that provides suction to the base of a wound, drawing out contaminates and increasing circulation to the area.
- Hyperbaric chambers are another wound care resource (they are even hyperbaric nurses).
- Wound debridement – or the removal of unhealthy or nonviable tissue from a wound – is another method wound care nurses help with.
What is the Wound Care Certified (WWC) Certification?
The WWC certification is a professional certification awarded to clinicians who are experts in wound care. This certification indicates advanced professional knowledge and experience in caring for complex wounds.
The WWC certification is awarded by the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy (NAWCO) to professionals who meet eligibility requirements, have passed an examination on the topic of wound and ostomy care, and who pay a small certification fee.
The WWC is valid for a five-year period after being awarded.
Advantages of wound care certification
Wound care certification offers many advantages to nurses who choose to pursue it. Obtaining a WWC certification is particularly helpful when changing roles or advancing within a current role. A nurse with their WWC is usually more likely to be selected for a position in wound care nursing than a nurse without their WWC.
This certification can also be particularly helpful for nurses who are wishing to advance into a leadership role in wound care management or want to advance their career as a specialist in wound care in other ways.
How to get certified as a wound care nurse
To get certified as a wound care nurse with the WWC certification, there are five different requirements that a wound care nurse must meet:
- Hold a valid clinical license to practice as a nurse. Other providers, such as nurse practitioners or physicians are also eligible for the WWC certification
- Completed education on wound care that meets the NAWCO’s requirements
- 120 hours of hands-on training by a NAWCO-approved preceptor or must have either two years of full-time experience or four years of part-time experience as a wound care nurse
- Adhere to the NAWCO code of ethics
- The nurse must pass a 100-question exam
While the requirements to ultimately achieve the WWC certification are relatively complex, requiring extensive work and experience in the field, these requirements are part of what adds so much value to the WWC certification. Someone with this certification has been proven to meet rigorous requirements that indicate they are an expert in this field.