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How to Become a Wound Care Nurse Practitioner? (Answered by an NP)
Written By: Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Wound care is becoming a much more specialized field in nursing. Advancements are continually happening regarding how we care for and manage wounds. These advancements have led to the need to have practitioners specifically dedicated to wound care: nurses, therapists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and physicians.
But, I am sure many of you are still unsure of precisely what a wound care nurse practitioner does. Maybe even thought, what is a wound care nurse practitioner? Or, would it be a good fit for you? Below, I will dive more into the specialty of wound care nurse practitioner—including what they do, how to become a wound care NP, organizations and certifications that may be beneficial, and both the starting salary and average salary of a wound care NP.
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What Does A Wound Care Nurse Practitioner Do?
So, what does a wound care nurse practitioner do? It might seem straightforward about what a wound care nurse practitioner does—care for wounds. But, the wound care nurse practitioner duties are so much more involved. While they may be involved with assessing, cleaning, and dressing wounds, they may also order tests, prescribe more complicated treatments, prescribe medications, and educate patients.
There are many types of wounds the wound care NP cares for
• Non-healing wounds
• Pressure wounds
• Diabetic foot wounds
• Any kind of wound or laceration
The wound care NP works with the interdisciplinary team, including other physicians, nurses, and therapists, to ensure the patient receives the appropriate treatment. The wound care NP assesses the patient, orders appropriate tests as indicated, prescribes treatment plans and medications, and reassess to ensure the treatment plan is working—and if it isn’t, they will alter the treatment to meet the patient's needs better. Lastly, they will educate the patient and their family regarding correct wound care at home.
What Skills And Abilities Are Needed To Work As A Wound Care NP?
Have you wanted to become a wound care NP but wondered what skills are needed? Wound care nurse practitioner skills are extensive but specialized. In other words, they have to know a lot about a particular disease process—wounds. Their technical skills need to be great, but they must also have strong communication skills to be successful. I will discuss four of the skills necessary to be a wound care NP, but there are many more.
1. Technical Skills:
Having the appropriate technical skills to perform your job as a wound care NP is necessary. This includes knowing how to perform appropriate assessments, specifically the wound, and how to treat these wounds. Wound care is complicated, and you must know how to stage wounds, which medications to prescribe and how to dress wounds appropriately. You must also be competent with different devices such as wound vacs and ostomies. While you may not know everything when you first start, through education, experience, and certifications, you will gain the knowledge necessary to care for wounds.
Teamwork is essential in all aspects of healthcare. The wound care NP is part of a team caring for a specific patient. This team may be the wound care NP, primary care provider, and nurse—or it could be more complex with multiple specialties involved in the patient’s care. Regardless, the wound care NP is rarely working alone, and therefore, she must be able to work well with a team to ensure their patient receives the best care possible.
Just like teamwork, communication is necessary when delivering wound care. The communication must be strong between the wound care NP and other physicians involved in the patient’s care. The wound care NP must also communicate effectively with the healthcare team, including the nurse, therapists, care managers, and anyone involved. This communication is critical to ensure the patient is receiving the appropriate treatment. Lastly, the wound care NP must communicate effectively with the patient and their family. This is incredibly important if the patient performs wound care at home.
4. Professional Development:
Professional development refers to the desire to grow as a wound care NP. It shows you are committed and passionate about wound care and want to ensure you are delivering evidence-based care. This is achieved through attending conferences, online webinars, online learning, and purchasing appropriate resources for you to use in practice (i.e., Up to date). It is also achieved through setting goals for yourself and completing annual evaluations with your manager.
Where Do Wound Care Nurse Practitioners Work?
When you become a wound care nurse practitioner, you have flexibility in regards to where you work. They can work in inpatient and outpatient or clinic settings, and in some practices, the wound care NP may see patients in both environments. Inpatient wound care NPs will see a patient while admitted in the hospital but do not follow the patient after discharge. That is when the outpatient or clinic wound care NP takes over care—they may follow patients after discharge from the hospital or see referrals from the patient’s primary care provider, emergency department, etc. There is also the opportunity for the NP to go to the patient’s houses and deliver home healthcare. Regardless of where you work, your focus is the same—providing wound care to your patients.
What Is The Typical Work Schedule For A Wound Care NP?
The typical work schedule for a wound care NP will vary based on the setting worked. A wound care nurse practitioner working in an outpatient or clinic setting will typically work during the day from 8 am or 9 am to 4 pm or 5 pm. They may also have to go in for Saturday morning clinic, but not all clinics offer this, and it would most likely be on a rotating schedule. The wound care NP working in the outpatient setting will also typically not be on-call or work weekends.
The wound care nurse practitioner working in the inpatient setting will have similar daytime hours. The one difference is that they may have to go into the hospital over the weekend as well—this would most likely be on a rotating schedule with the other providers in practice. The wound care NP working inpatient may also have to work an occasional holiday, depending on the organization they work for or the need in the hospital.
What Is The Difference Between Wound Care NP And Wound Care Nurse?
The difference between a wound care NP and a wound care nurse is based on the education, license, and scope of practice. A wound care registered nurse (RN) works alongside the NP when delivering care to the patient. They can assess, administer medications and change dressings as prescribed by the wound care NP. They can also evaluate the patient and communicate their assessment to the wound care NP to ensure the patient receives the best care possible. The wound care RN will also communicate with the patient and their family--which involves educating on wound care, notifying them of lab results, or educating them on medications and treatment plans. The wound care RN may also go to the patient’s house to assist wound dressing changes and medication administration for the wound.
The wound care nurse practitioner has a greater scope of practice. They can assess, diagnose, treat and evaluate their patient. They can interpret results such as wound cultures and ensure appropriate antibiotics are prescribed. They can also assess the wound and prescribe specific dressings to promote wound healing. The wound care NP will also educate, just like the RN. They will inform the patient and their family regarding medications, wound care management, and dressing changes that need to be done at home. They will also order specific follow up with their patients to assess the wound and ensure it is improving routinely.
Pros Of Becoming A Wound Care Nurse Practitioner
There are a few pros of becoming a wound care nurse practitioner. First, the hours are good. Overall, you won’t work evenings, nights, or entire weekends. You may not even have to work holidays, depending on where you work. In most settings, you will not be on-call either. Next, you are specialized. You are doing what you enjoy and becoming very good at it. This is a source of comfort for many people—they can focus on managing one specific illness/problem for a patient and become very confident in their diagnoses and treatment plans. Lastly, while you are specialized, you can still work in various settings. This allows the wound care NP to still do what they love but maybe switch up their environment to provide a sense of change or variety to their career.
Cons Of Becoming A Wound Care Nurse Practitioner
I do not like to think there are cons of becoming a wound care nurse practitioner, but more things to consider when starting this career path. If you work inpatient as a wound care NP, one thing to consider is that you may have to work weekends and holidays. This would not be an issue for some people because it may mean they have an extra day off during the week, while this would not work for others. Another item to consider is that becoming a wound care NP is specialized. While you can care for patients of any age, you will focus the majority, if not all, of your time on wound care. There are multiple aspects to wound care, so it is not the same thing repeatedly, but the population you are caring for all have problems with a wound.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Wound Care Nurse Practitioner?
It takes approximately six to eight years to become a wound care nurse practitioner. It is important to note that this does not include any years of experience you get as a registered nurse or completing a terminal degree such as your DNP.
To break that number down, on average, it takes four years to complete your BSN. Next, you apply for graduate school—and getting your MSN will take approximately two to four years. This number will vary based on whether you attend full-time or part-time and if your program offers summer classes. If you choose to pursue a terminal degree, such as your DNP, there will typically be another one to two years of school needed before graduation.
To reiterate, the six to eight years does not include years of experience as a nurse, and I strongly recommend a minimum of one to two years of experience as an RN before applying to graduate school. As an RN, the experience and knowledge you gain are invaluable and will help you tremendously in graduate school.
How Much Does It Cost To Become A Wound Care Nurse Practitioner?
The cost of becoming a wound care nurse practitioner can vary significantly based on the school you choose and the status (full-time or part-time) you attend. The first step, though, is completing your BSN. The cost of obtaining your BSN can range from $40,000 to $200,000—and again, this range is variable upon the school you attend and if you go full-time or part-time. The tuition will also be higher going to a private university or paying out-of-state tuition for a public university than paying in-state tuition for a public university. Choosing to complete your associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) first and then getting your RN-BSN will also impact your cost. Ultimately, it does not matter the path you choose to complete your BSN, and it is just necessary that you be a BSN-prepared nurse before applying to graduate school.
The next step is to complete graduate school. Just like tuition for your BSN, the cost of graduate school is influenced by multiple factors. School you selected and the status you attend are the two driving factors to the cost of graduate school. The cost will also be vary depending on if you choose to complete an MSN or a DNP program. The average cost for a BSN-to-MSN program is $81,810 to $185,280 and the average cost for a BSN-to-DNP program is $ 26,490 to $254,260.
There are also other costs to consider when becoming a wound care NP. Most graduate students will take a prep course for their board certification exam—which is an added cost. Plus, you have to pay to take your board certification exam. You may also have to pay out-of-pocket for some certifications that may be required or strongly recommended for your jobs. Please keep in mind, though, many employers will give you a specified amount of money each year to put towards continuing education, licenses, certifications, and other resources you may need for your job.
Step-By-Step Process Of Becoming A Wound Care Nurse Practitioner
Becoming a wound care nurse practitioner takes time. There are multiple steps that must be completed in order to start practicing as a wound care NP. Below are the eight steps you need to take to become a wound care NP.
1. Complete BSN:
To become a wound care nurse practitioner, you must first complete your BSN. The pathway to achieving this may look different for everyone—and it does not matter which path you choose, as long as you have your BSN.
2. Pass NCLEX and obtain RN licensure:
After you graduate from your BSN program, you must pass the NCLEX. Passing NCLEX is necessary to get your RN licensure, which is needed to practice bedside. You must also have an active RN license to apply to graduate school.
3. Get Experience:
Experience before applying to graduate school is not necessary. However, I strongly encourage one to two years of experience—specifically in wound care or as a nurse before applying for graduate school to become a wound care NP. The reason for this is the experience you gain as an RN will carry over into your NP practice. This doesn’t only apply to technical skills but also knowledge about medications and treatment options and learning to communicate with the healthcare team, the patient, and their families.
4. Complete Accredited Graduate Program:
Most states require graduation from an accredited program. Therefore, when applying for graduate school, ensure the school is accredited.
5. Pass the Board Certification Exam:
After graduation from your program, you must pass the board certification exam specific to the program you pursued (i.e., Family practice, pediatrics, or adult-gerontology). Your program can provide more guidance regarding which exam to take and how to sign up.
6. Obtain NP Licensure:
After you pass your board certification exam, you can apply for NP licensure in your primary state of residence. Visit your state board of nursing for specifics regarding the application process.
7. Apply for wound care nurse practitioner jobs:
The next step of becoming a wound care NP is to apply for wound care NP jobs. Keep in mind, you can start applying for jobs before graduation from NP school.
8. Complete wound care certifications if needed or desired:
To be a wound care nurse practitioner, some jobs may require specific wound care certifications—and this would be a question to ask during your interview. If your job requires certification, ask which ones, and you can even ask if they reimburse you for the cost of the certification once you pass.
Recommended Certifications To Enhance Your Job Role As A Wound Care NP
When you become a wound care NP, I highly recommend completing at least one certification. Getting certified, specifically in wound care, is a great way to set yourself apart from others. Certifications indicate your passion for a specialty and demonstrate that you are an expert in that area. Certifications also show your passion for learning and the use of evidence-based practice when delivering care to patients. There are a lot of certifications available to the wound care nurse practitioner. Below I will discuss two.
A Certified Wound Specialist (CWS) is a distinct certification completed by many healthcare specialties, including NPs, PAs, RNs, and MDs. It demonstrates a dedication and passion for ensuring appropriate wound care and management. The American Board of Wound Management provides this certification.
A Wound, Ostomy, Continence Nurse (WOC) certification is available to nurses and demonstrates their expertise in caring for patients with wounds, ostomies, and incontinence. This certification is geared more towards nurses caring for patients in the acute care and rehab setting. Still, it can also apply to nurses caring for more chronic conditions such as an ostomy. The WOC nurse will also deliver education as needed to the patient and their families to ensure proper wound management is performed. This certification is provided by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN), the largest and most recognized professional nursing community dedicated to wound management.
Continuing Education Requirements For Wound Care Nurse Practitioners
You must consider two different factors when discussing continuing education requirements for wound care NPs. There are CEU requirements to maintain your RN and NP license, and there are CEU requirements for any certifications you have.
The continuing education requirements for your RN and NP license will vary based on your primary state of residence or where you are licensed. Each state requires a minimum of CEU hours every one or two years. There are also specific requirements for both your RN and NP license—so you must ensure you fulfill the criteria for both those licenses to maintain practicing as an NP. For more specific information, visit your state board of nursing.
Besides the CEUs required for your RN and NP license, there are CEUs needed to maintain your certifications. Fortunately, you can apply many of these hours to your license renewal. Above, I discussed two specific certifications that apply to the wound care NP, but as I stated there, other certifications may pertain to you or your current job. Regardless, it is essential to know the CEU requirements for your certification and how often you need to renew. For example, you must renew the CWS certification by the end of every January. To renew, you must have completed a minimum of 6 hours of CEUs in the specialty of wound management. For specific information regarding your certification renewal, visit their website or reach out to someone within their organization.
| Per Hour||$40.07 |
| Per Month||$6,950|
| Per Year||$83,350|
Average Salary Of A Wound Care Nurse Practitioner
Have you wondered, what is the average salary of a wound care nurse practitioner? The average wound care nurse practitioner salary is $114,504 a year or $55.05 per hour. As I stated above, this number varies based on multiple factors, including if you work full time or part-time and if you work for an organization or a private practice. Also, the state you live in and if you work in a city vs. rural setting will impact your salary. Years of experience are also often factored into your average salary.
| Per Hour||$55.05 |
| Per Month||$9,540|
| Per Year||$114,504|
Job Outlook For Wound Care Nurse Practitioners
The job outlook for wound care nurse practitioners is excellent. People will never stop getting wounds—partially because there is a variety of wounds ranging from traumatic to non-traumatic. While the advancement of treatments and improvement of assessing and implementing wound care earlier will benefit the patient, the need for wound care practitioners is only growing. Patients’ needs are becoming more complicated, and people are living, coupled with the advancement in wound care treatments, all support the need for more wound care nurse practitioners—and this will be in demand and lucrative for many years to come.
Useful Organizations & Associations
There are organizations available to those who want to become a wound care nurse practitioner. These organizations can provide a community of like-minded people to improve the delivery of wound care to patients. Below are two of these organizations available to the wound care NP and other wound care specialists.
This organization is an excellent resource for wound care nurse practitioners. The Organization of Wound Care Nurses and Allied Health Professionals aims to support wound care NPs by providing evidence-based training programs and opportunities to collaborate and consult with other wound care experts. They provide resources and educational opportunities to build on your knowledge to improve the care you provide to your patients.
The Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society aims to support, educate and improve the care given to patients with wound, ostomy, and continence needs. It is the largest and most recognized organization dedicated to this specialty. They have numerous educational opportunities, a supportive network, and advocate for their patients—all of which will lead to the ultimate goal of improved patient outcomes.
Finally, Is Wound Care Nursing The Right NP Specialty For You?
After reading the information above, can you answer the question, what is a wound care nurse practitioner? Becoming a wound care nurse practitioner takes time and dedication, and you must also have a passion for wound care, and all that entails. You will have the opportunity to provide care that can lead to life-changing results and positively impact patients’ quality of life daily.
Kasee Wiesen DNP, APRN, FNP-C
Kasee Wiesen is a practicing family nurse practitioner. Her nursing background includes emergency medicine, pediatrics and peri-op. Education is a passion of Kasee’s, and she has taught BSN, RN-BSN and DNP students, and has enjoyed every moment of it!