Job Profile: Wound Care Specialist

Proper wound care is essential whenever a patient’s skin is broken, damaged, or inflamed to prevent infection from setting in. Acute wounds include cuts, punctures, animal bites, burns, surgical incisions, and abrasions. It’s estimated that around 6.5 million Americans also deal with chronic wounds, such as pressure sores, varicose veins, and diabetic ulcers. Many individuals also have ostomies, which are openings created surgically to eliminate waste. Treating these various types of wounds lands on the qualified shoulders of wound care specialists. As specialized RNs, wound care nurses are highly trained healthcare providers who evaluate, treat, and monitor patients’ wounds to promote optimal healing. Wound care nurse specialists play a prominent role in minimizing the potentially life-threatening effects of wounds.

Salary

According to the giant salary database PayScale, wound care nurse specialists working in the United States earn a median annual salary of $66,380. This could be equated to a mean hourly wage of $27.70. With bonuses, medical benefits, and retirement planning factored in, wound care specialists bring home an average income of $70,502 each year.

Beginning Salary

When just starting out in wound care management, RNs can expect to land in the bottom tenth percentile of earnings with a yearly salary around $42,156. With years of experience, wound care specialists eventually make upwards of $80,381. Based on salary statistics from the WOCNCB, advanced practice wound care nurses make the most at $91,500 annually.

Key Responsibilities

Wound care specialists have the primary responsibility of delivering competent care to patients suffering from mild to severe wounds to minimize their suffering and risk for function loss. On a typical day, wound care nurses will be involved in recording patients’ medical histories, carefully assessing wounds, creating a treatment plan, administering stitches, consulting with physicians, bandaging wounds, cleaning contaminants from abrasions, and monitoring the healing process. Depending on the patient’s condition, wound care specialists may provide antibiotic therapy or hyperbaric oxygen therapy. Wound care nurse specialists also will educate patients on good prevention tips or management strategies for dealing with wounds resistant to curing.

Necessary Skills

To be successful in wound care management, nurses must have the specialized knowledge needed to treat various types of wounds on top of general nursing principles. Wound care specialists should possess solid leadership, management, and critical thinking skills to make pivotal decisions in forming treatment plans. Being a good communicator is a must because wound care nurses collaborate with physicians, surgeons, and other healthcare providers often. Wound care specialists should be compassionate in caring for diverse patients who are usually in pain. Having effective organizational skills with a keen attention to detail will help nurses track progress and setbacks in healing.

Degree and Education Requirements

Although there are several routes to receive RN licensure, wound care nurse specialists will need to obtain at least a bachelor’s degree for certification. Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited four-year nursing school is advised for well-rounded clinical preparation. If you’re already a registered nurse, many colleges offer RN-to-BSN programs to further nursing knowledge either on-site or conveniently online. Taking electives focused in wound assessment, wound management, skin physiology, adjunctive therapies, nutritional management, and wound bed preparation will be helpful. Receiving a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) can also help wound care nurses advance as supervisors, clinical nurse specialists, nurse educators, and nurse practitioners.

Pros and Cons of the Position

There are many rewards that wound care specialists reap within this RN specialty. Wound care nurses have tremendous job flexibility in working in virtually any healthcare facility anywhere in the world. Wound care specialists bring home a higher than average median salary each year for their hard work. Job growth is plentiful in wound care management to make landing your first position easier than some other specialties. Wound care specialists also have the intrinsic reward of treating patients with painful abrasions or stomas to optimize the recovery process. On the other hand, wound care specialists are often on call to quickly respond to wound emergencies, including on weekends and holidays. Investing in a post-secondary degree and nursing certification is required. There’s a risk that nurses may contract infections or illnesses from their patients. Wound care specialists also must be mentally prepared to treat severe, gruesome, and infected wounds.

Getting Started

Once you’ve earned your nursing degree, you’ll have the qualifications needed to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam and become licensed through your state’s board of nursing. From there, you can start building entry-level staff nursing experience for your resume. Working on the medical-surgical floor or in a critical care ward is advised to develop your skill sets for treating wounds. Attending seminars on wound care or joining a formal Wound, Ostomy and Continence (WOC) nursing education program can specialize your knowledge too. Becoming a Certified Wound Care Nurse (CWCN) will require that you hold current RN licensing, a bachelor’s degree, and at least 1,500 direct patient clinical hours. You’ll also need to successfully pass the examination given by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB).

Future Outlook

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, more than $25 billion dollars is spent on wound treatment in the United States each year. Demand for wound care specialists is only expected to rise as our nation’s large baby boomer population ages and reaches late adulthood. Higher prevalence rates of diabetes, obesity, and other chronic conditions often causing non-healing wounds will also spark job growth in wound care. The BLS reports that overall employment of registered nurses will skyrocket faster than average at 19 percent before 2022, thus creating 526,800 new positions across all specialties. Wound care nurse specialists will find favorable job prospects, especially in hospitals, surgical centers, nursing homes, home health agencies, acute care facilities, and emergency rooms.

Overall, wound care nurse specialists devote their practice to treating patients with open areas on their skin that are prone to infection and blood loss. Wound care specialists use their fine-tuned skills to help patients heal wounds resulting from disease, injury, and surgery so that they can return to their homes. Wound care nurses serve on the front-line of healthcare providers when patients present acute or chronic wounds for treatment. If you make the decision to become a wound care specialist, you’ll have the rewarding chance to promote the best health management practices that speed up recovery time.

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