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5 Pros and Cons of Being a Wound Care Nurse + Salary + Steps to Become
Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
A wound care nurse is a clinical nurse who specializes in assessing and treating lacerations, puncture wounds, surgical wounds, pressure sores, ostomies, diabetic ulcers, and other breakdowns of the integumentary system. Wound care nurses primarily deal with complex wounds whose healing time is longer than two weeks. The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB) is the wound care nursing specialty’s preeminent certifying body, and as of 2021, more than 9,700 registered nurses in the U.S. are WOCNCB-certified. Interested in finding out whether becoming a wound care nurse is the right career move for you? Keep reading to find out everything you’d like to know about the professional role of the wound care nurse – what is it, how to become, salary, and the pros & cons.
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WHAT DOES A WOUND CARE NURSE DO?
Wound care nurses frequently work with patients for whom skin breakdown is a chronic issue. Their professional responsibilities depend upon the practice setting where they’re employed. Wound care nurse duties include:
• Assessing wounds:
In order to identify optimal treatment, wounds must be evaluated to ascertain their anatomy, their underlying etiology, whether they’re acute or chronic, and whether the patient has comorbidities that may affect the healing process.
• Cleaning and bandaging wounds:
Cleaning and bandaging removes any bacteria that are present and reduces the possibility of infection. Wound bandages need to be changed at least once every two days.
• Collaborating with other healthcare professionals:
Wound care nurses frequently work with physicians, nurse practitioners, physicians’ assistants and other medical professionals to determine the optimal course of treatment for a wound. Treatment interventions can include antibiotics, surgery, or even hyperbaric oxygen therapy
• Wound care education:
Teaching patients and their caregivers proper, antiseptic wound care techniques promotes more rapid healing and reduces the threat of infection.
• Pressure sore care:
Pressure sores, also called bedsores or decubitus ulcers, are wounds that develop on areas of the body that are under pressure if a patient is immobile for too long. Pressure sores most often develop on skin that covers bony parts of the body such as the coccyx, hips, ankles, and heels.
• Burn care:
Burn treatments depend upon the severity of the burn and can include debridement, the application of topical antibiotic ointments, and various types of bandages.
• Ostomy care:
Ostomies are surgically created wounds. These abdominal openings are created as a way to bypass diseased intestines or urethras. Ostomies can be temporary or permanent.
• Diabetic ulcer care: Approximately 15 percent of all diabetics develop open sores on their feet
because of vascular disease and/or neuropathy. Approximately 6 percent of the diabetics who develop foot lesions end up having to be hospitalized for them.
WHERE DOES A WOUND CARE NURSE WORK?
Wound care nurses work in a variety of different practice settings, including:
• Long-term care facilities: In long-term care facilities, wound care nurses may actually lead wound care rounds because the prevalence of decubitus ulcers is so high
. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), between 2 and 28 percent of patients in skilled nursing facilities are affected by pressure ulcers
In hospital settings, wound care nurses often hold positions in intensive care units (ICUs) and surgical operating units. They circulate to other inpatient care settings within the hospital as the need arises.
Wound care specialists play a significant role in the delivery of palliative healthcare. Wound care nurses in hospice settings focus upon relieving pain, preventing additional skin breakdown and other complications, and minimizing any deleterious effects a wound may be having on a patient’s overall condition.
• Home healthcare: More than one-third of all patients receiving healthcare in their homes are being treated for wounds
WHAT ARE THE TYPICAL WORKING HOURS OF A WOUND CARE NURSE?
Practice settings determine the hours a wound care specialist will work. Wound care nurses who work in specialty units of medical centers and long-term care facilities may work several 12-hour shifts every week, while floating wound care nurse specialists employed by hospitals typically work 9 to 5. Wound care nurses employed by clinics and physician practices will typically put in four or five 8-hour shifts a week. Home healthcare nurses tend to have more control over the hours they work: In a single week, they may work one 8-hour shift or multiple 12-hour shifts.
WHAT ARE THE PERSONALITY TRAITS OF A SUCCESSFUL WOUND CARE NURSE?
The most successful wound care nurses are those that exhibit the following personality traits:
Providing treatment for complex wounds can often take an hour or longer. Good wound care nurses don’t look for shortcuts that may make treatment protocols go faster but that may result in sub-optimal care. Some patients may not be compliant with the guidelines you give them, and you have to remain calm and nonjudgmental with those patients.
Good wound care requires precision. Wound care nurses must be detail-oriented so that they avoid making mistakes that could cause infections or otherwise slow wound healing.
• Strong stomach:
This job entails a fair degree of physical stamina. Gangrenous wounds and burn trauma create noisome odors while the appearance of a bleeding laceration can frighten many people. A good wound care nurse has an excellent bedside manner that never makes a patient uncomfortable.
Good wound care nurses must be able to zero in on his or her task no matter what other distractions are at hand.
• Fine motor coordination:
The fundamentals of wound care require a steady hand.
All nursing, including wound management, requires the ability to see a situation from the patient’s point of view. This kind of empathy builds trust.
No matter how good a nurse you are, some patients won’t follow your wound care guidelines or your lifestyle advice. You can’t take it personally when a patient refuses to comply with your counsel. There’s only so much that’s up to you as a wound care nurse; the rest is up to the patients themselves.
WHAT ARE THE KEY SKILLS NEEDED TO WORK AS A WOUND CARE NURSE?
Certified wound care is a specialty that requires clinical competencies far beyond those possessed by a traditional RN. Wound care is generally guided by institutional policies as well as by the type of training a wound care specialist has received. Wound care nurse skills include:
Proper wound care draws from a continually evolving foundation of knowledge. Wound care nurses must have a thorough understanding of the underlying etiology of wounds as well as an understanding of the full range of available treatment options and the latest wound care techniques.
• Critical thinking:
Much of the time, wound care nurses make their own decisions about which treatment protocols are the appropriate ones to use. They are constantly called upon to reassess the nursing care plans they’ve developed as wounds either improve or grow worse. This calls for excellent critical thinking skills.
• Assessment skills:
As RNs, wound care nurses are not allowed to diagnose. But, in effect, that is what they’re doing when they assess patient wounds and determine the most effective methods for treating them. A wound care nurse’s assessment skills must be first-rate.
• Technical skills:
Wound care interventions such as vacuum-assisted wound closures and debridement require a fair degree of technical know-how if they’re to be performed properly. Wound care nurses must be up to the challenge.
As a wound care specialist, it’s likely you’ll be the go-to person at your place of employment. You must be comfortable making independent decisions and operating with a fair degree of autonomy.
Some wounds like decubiti and diabetic ulcers can take a very long time to heal. It’s likely you’ll be changing your original nursing care plan many times during the course of treatment. You must have the ability to stick with what you’re doing without getting discouraged even when improvement is very slow.
Wound care nurses need excellent communication skills in order to interface effectively with patients, other health care providers, and hospital administrators. Many wounds such as decubiti and diabetic ulcers are chronic in nature, and in these situations, an important part of a wound care nurse’s responsibilities is patient education. Patient education is facilitated by strong communication skills.
HOW TO BECOME A WOUND CARE NURSE?
What Education Is Required To Become A Wound Care Nurse?
The wound care specialty is open to licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) as well as to registered nurses (RNs). You must have a high school diploma in order to enroll in either an LPN/LVN training program or an RN program. Your high school curriculum should include classes in chemistry, biology, and mathematics.
Community colleges and technical schools offer one-year LVN/LPN programs. LVN/LPN programs are also offered online. You’ll graduate from an LVN/LPN program with either a vocational nursing diploma or a practical nursing diploma rather than a degree.
RNs have their choice of graduating from either a two-year Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) program
or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program
. ADN programs are typically offered at community, technical and vocational colleges while BSN programs are offered at campus-based colleges and universities. Both ADN and BSN degree programs are also offered online.
What Licensure Is Required To Become A Wound Care Nurse?
In order to become a wound care nurse, LVNs and LPNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses (NCLEX-PN) exam
sponsored by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing
(NCSBN). Tests include 60 to 145 multiple choice questions that are selected by an algorithm on the basis of answers you submitted to previous questions. The passing score for the NCLEX-PN is -0.18 logits. (Logits measure the difference between the test-taker’s abilities and the difficulty of the test questions.) The fee for the NCLEX-PN is $200.
In order to become a wound care nurse, RNs must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN)
exam. The NCLEX-RN exam also utilizes computer adaptive testing technologies in which questions are dynamically generated by an algorithm. The passing score for the NCLEX-RN is zero logits. The fee for the NCLEX-RN is $200.
Once you’ve passed the NCLEX exam for your level of licensure, you must apply to the Board of Nursing in the state in which you’re interested in practicing for a nursing license. Pertinent regulations vary from state to state.
What Certifications Are Required OR Recommended For A Wound Care Nurse?
Nursing programs don’t focus extensively on wound care techniques, so nurses who are interested in going into this specialty would be well advised to pursue wound care certification. You may not need certification in order to be hired as a wound care nurse, but the intensive training you’ll receive in the course of the certification process is likely to prove invaluable. There are many wound care certifications. They include:
• Certified Wound Care Nurse (CWCN) certification:
The CWCN certification is overseen by the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB)
. In order to sit for any exam administered by WOCNCB, you must hold a BSN. You must either complete 1,500 hours of clinical wound care practice and 50 continuing education credits related to the specialty, or you must graduate from a wound care management educational program that’s been accredited by WOCNCB. The CWCN exam fee is $395, and there’s a discount if you take more than one specialty certification exam offered by WOCNCB. The exam consists of 120 multiple choice questions, and the passing score is 500 or above. You have two hours to complete the exam.
• Certified Ostomy Care Nurse (COCN) certification:
The COCN certification is also administered by WOCNCB, and the exam’s eligibility requirements are the same as those described above. The COCN exam fee is $395, and the passing score is 500. Like most of the other WOCNCB exams, the test consists of 120 multiple-choice questions.
• Certified Continence Care Nurse (CCCN) certification:
The CCCN certification is administered by WOCNCB as well. Eligibility requirements for the same are identical to those described above. The CCCN test is a written exam
: 36 percent of it consists of questions about assessment and care planning while intervention and treatment comprise 37 percent, and education and referral comprise 27%. The exam fee is $395.
• Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse (CWON) certification:
The CWON certification exam has the same eligibility requirements as the other certification exams administered by WOCNCB. It consists of 120 multiple choice questions, and the exam fee is $395.
• Certified Foot Care Nurse (CFCN) certification:
In order to be eligible to sit for the CFCN certification exam, you must have a BSN, you must complete 24 continuing education credits (CEUs) in foot care and you must have at least 40 hours of clinical experience in foot care
. The CFCN certification test contains 110 multiple-choice questions. The passing score is 70 percent or above. The exam fee is $395. The exam is administered by the WOCNCB.
• Wound Care Certified (WCC) certification: The WCC certification exam
is administered by the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy (NAWCC)
. LVNs, LPNs, RNs, physical therapists, physicians, physician assistants and APRNs are all eligible to sit for the exam if they’ve graduated from an approved wound care training course, or they have four years of experience in the wound care field, or they already have one of the certifications mentioned above. The experience requirement can also be fulfilled if nurses have 120 hours of hands-on clinical training from an approved National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy practitioner. The application fee for the exam is $30 while the fee for the exam itself is $330. The exam consists of 100 multiple-choice questions.
• Certified Wound Specialist (CWS) certification: The CWS certification is open to RNs, physicians, podiatrists and physical therapists with at least three years of professional experience related to wound management
. The exam consists of 150 multiple choice questions, but only 125 of these are used to determine your score. The passing score is 87/125. The exam fee is $575. The certification is offered by the American Board of Wound Management
WOCNCB offers exam fee discounts to candidates who are sitting for more than one of their exams
WOCNCB also offers advanced certifications in wound, ostomy and continence care that are designed for APRNs
What Additional Training And Experience Is Required To Become A Wound Care Nurse?
Most employers prefer to hire RNs or LVNs/LPNs with previous wound care experience into this position. Geriatric patients and patients with chronic conditions that limit mobility are the most likely to develop decubitus ulcers, so an increasing number of long-term nursing facilities have put together wound management teams. If you are looking for a way to accumulate the experience you’ll need to have before sitting for a certification test, working as a member of a wound care management team in a skilled nursing facility may be the best way to do it.
What Are The Continuing Education Requirements For A Wound Care Nurse?
There are no continuing education requirements as such for wound care nurses at the state level, but employers may have their own continuing education requirements. You must take six CEUs a year in the field of wound management in order to retain your CWS certification and 60 CEUs every five years in order to renew your WCC certifications. (WOCNCB recertifications typically entail retesting).
TIME & COST ASSOCIATED WITH BECOMING A WOUND CARE NURSE
How Long Does It Take To Become A Wound Care Nurse?
The length of time it takes to become a wound care nurse varies according to the professional setting you’re working in and whether you’re an RN or LVN/LPN.
An LVN or LPN can probably become a wound care nurse in as little as two and a half years: one year of nurse training, approximately six months for an accredited wound care class and then another year spent studying—first for the NCLEX-PN and then for the WCC certification exam.
It will take RNs longer to become wound care nurses, simply because the educational requirements for obtaining RN licensure take longer to fulfill. For an RN with an ADN degree, it may take approximately three and a half years while for an RN with a BSN degree, it may take approximately five and a half years.
How Much Does It Cost To Become A Wound Care Nurse?
The costs associated with becoming a wound care nurse vary by nursing license. For LVNs and LPNs, the cost will be anywhere from $8,000 to $47,000: between $5,000 and $40,000 for a state-approved educational program, $200 for the NCLEX-PN, $2,500 to $6,500 for a board-approved wound care program, and $360 for WCC application and test fees.
For RNs, the cost will be anywhere between $43,000 and $107,000: $40,000 to $100,00 for a BSN (which is the minimal requirement for WOCNCB certifications), $200 for the NCLEX-RN, $2,500 to $6,500 for a board-approved wound care program plus anywhere between $360 and $670 in certification exam costs, depending upon which certification you decide to pursue.
Nurse licensure fees should also be factored into costs, but these vary from state to state.
CAREER ADVANCEMENT OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOUND CARE NURSES
Wound care nurses who are LVNs/LPNs have the option of becoming registered nurses. This would entail going back to school and earning either an ADN or an RN, passing the NCLEX-RN exam and becoming licensed in the state where they wish to practice. Earning an RN would allow these wound care nurses to pursue the WOCNCB certifications and the CWS certifications.
Wound care nurses who are registered nurses have the option of becoming APRN practitioners. Indeed, WOCNCB offers CWCN-AP, COCN-AP and CCCN-AP certifications designed for nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, nurse-midwives, and certified registered nurse anesthetists.
WHAT ARE THE TOP CONS OF BEING A WOUND CARE NURSE?
Like all nursing specialties, wound care has its advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the top cons of being a wound care nurse:
1. Comparatively low salaries: Despite their extensive training, wound care nurses on average earn only 7 percent more than floor nurses. (Wound care nurses average $75,464 annually; floor nurses average $70,335 annually.)
2. Physical unease: Chronic cutaneous wounds such as diabetic foot ulcers and pressure sores are often associated with suppuration and foul odors. This can lead to feelings of physical disgust toward patients. Healthcare professionals receive little training in how to manage such feelings.
3. Exposure to infectious microorganisms: Wound care nurses are exposed to infectious microorganisms on a regular basis. This heightens their own risk of infection.
4. Liability: Twenty percent of all U.S. legal medical claims and more than 10% of settlements are wound-related, and there are more than 17,000 pressure ulcer-related lawsuits filed annually in the United States. As a wound care nurse, you are much more likely to be targeted in a malpractice tort than members of other nursing specialties. This may be one of the biggest disadvantages of being a wound care nurse.
5. Lack of support: Some wound care nurses feel unsupported by their fellow healthcare professionals, particularly when they are dealing with patients with hard-to-heal wounds. They may end up feeling that physicians and other healthcare professionals have written these patients off and that they are their patients’ only advocates.
WHAT ARE THE TOP PROS OF BEING A WOUND CARE NURSE?
There are many positive aspects to becoming a wound care nurse. Here are some of the top pros of being a wound care nurse:
1. Autonomy: Wound care nurses have a great deal of professional independence. In fact, outside the realm of advanced practice RNs, wound care nurses may have the most autonomy of any nurse specialists. They follow assessment protocols, which means they don’t diagnose as such, but they have a great deal of leeway in the application of those protocols. This is one of the biggest advantages of being a wound care nurse.
2. Multidisciplinary work teams: Wound care nurses are typically part of a patient care team that also includes physicians, staff nurses, dieticians, and other ancillary medical professionals. They frequently update patient treatment plans based upon input they receive from collaborating health care professionals.
3. Regular work hours: Even when they work in hospital settings or long-term care facilities, wound care nurses often keep nine-to-five hours. They are not expected to work evening or night shifts, weekends, or holidays.
4. Intellectual challenge: In order to become a wound care nurse, you must possess a huge amount of knowledge. Since the body’s systems are integrated holistically, treating a wound will tax your knowledge of proper cardiovascular circulation, metabolic balance and nutrition, to name just a few of the factors that affect optimal healing. When you’re a wound care nurse, there are always exciting new things to learn.
5. High demand: The Baby Boomer generation is aging. By 2035, there will be more individuals over the age of 65 than there will be children beneath the age of 18 in the U.S. Proper wound management is especially important to seniors because as people age, their skin loses its ability to regenerate itself. The demand for competent wound care nurses will increase across the U.S. as the population ages.
WOUND CARE NURSE SALARY + BENEFITS
What Is The Starting Salary Of A Wound Care Nurse?
The starting salary of a wound care nurse is $24.22 an hour, $4,200 a month, or $50,380 a year. This figure is 33 percent less than the average wound care nurse salary. Nurses who are just entering the field of wound care require a great deal of mentoring when they begin this specialty since wound care nurses must be able to work more-or-less autonomously once their probationary period is finished. This comparatively low starting wage gives their employers the opportunity to recoup some of the onboarding costs.
What Is The Average Salary Of A Wound Care Nurse?
The average salary of a wound care nurse is $36.28 an hour, $6,290 a month, or $75,464 annually. Most wound care nurses work for a decade before they achieve this salary milestone.
It’s likely that registered nurses in the wound care career track make considerably more than this figure. Wound care is a specialty open to both RNs and LVNs/LPNs, so this average figure represents the combined average wages of both classes of license-holders. But average LVN/LPN pay on average is 34 percent lower than average RN pay: $46,282
annually versus $70,335
. It’s likely that the average salary for wound care LVNs/LPNs is less than it is for their RN counterparts.
How Much Does The Wound Care Nurse Salary Grow With Experience?
Wound care nurses with one to four years of experience make 15 percent more than entry-level wound care nurses while wound care nurses with five to nine years of experience make 41 percent more than entry-level wound care nurses. Wound care nurses with two or more decades of experience make more than twice the wages that entry-level wound care nurses earn. Wound care is one of those specialties that nurses tend to stick with for many years, so there are quite a few wound care nurses with 20 or more years of experience.
| Level of Experience || Annual || Monthly || Hourly |
| Entry-Level ||$24.22||$4,200||$50,380|
| 1-4 Years of Experience ||$27.95||$4,840||$58,130|
| 5-9 Years of Experience ||$34.16||$5,920||$71,050|
| 10-19 Years of Experience ||$42.44||$7,360||$88,270|
| 20 Years or More Experience ||$52.71||$9,140||$109,630|
What Benefits And Perks Can A Wound Care Nurse Expect?
In addition to wages and salaries, full-time wound care nurses who work at least 36 hours a week are also compensated with non-cash perks in the form of benefits. Some benefits like COBRA, workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance are legally mandated while others are awarded at an employer’s discretion:
• Paid time off:
This includes vacations, sick days, and personal/professional time. Note, however, that the wound care nurse pool includes both RNs and LVNs/LPNs, and while 93 percent of all RNs get paid time off, only 84 percent of LVNs/LPNs get paid time off
• Health insurance:
This can include medical, dental, and vision coverage. Once again, registered nurses are more likely to receive health insurance benefits than LVNs/LPNs.
• Retirement contributions:
Wound care nurses often receive employer contributions to their 401(k) retirement plans.
• Educational allowances:
Wound care requires a lot of continuing education in the form of classes, certifications, and recertifications.
AVERAGE SALARY OF A WOUND CARE NURSE IN YOUR STATE
Wound care nurses in California earn the highest average wages while wound care nurses in Alabama earn the lowest. Wound care nurses in the Golden State earn more than twice the pay that wound care nurses in the Cotton State earn. This is mostly due to regional variations in the cost of living: California’s cost of living
is 45 percent higher than Alabama’s cost of living
| State || Hourly || Monthly || Annual |
| Alabama || $27.31 || $4,730 || $56,810 |
| Alaska || $43.20 || $7,490 || $89,860 |
| Arizona || $36.45 || $6,320 || $75,810 |
| Arkansas || $28.86 || $5,000 || $60,020 |
| California || $54.67 || $9,480 || $113,710 |
| Colorado || $35.31 || $6,120 || $73,440 |
| Connecticut || $38.48 || $6,670 || $80,030 |
| Delaware || $33.71 || $5,840 || $70,110 |
| Florida || $31.52 || $5,460 || $65,560 |
| Georgia || $32.43 || $5,620 || $67,450 |
| Hawaii || $47.53 || $8,240 || $98,870 |
| Idaho || $32.49 || $5,630 || $67,570 |
| Illinois || $33.81 || $5,860 || $70,320 |
| Indiana || $30.61 || $5,310 || $63,660 |
| Iowa || $28.37 || $4,920 || $59,010 |
| Kansas || $29.11 || $5,050 || $60,550 |
| Kentucky || $29.35 || $5,090 || $61,050 |
| Louisiana || $30.84 || $5,350 || $64,150 |
| Maine || $32.21 || $5,580 || $67,000 |
| Maryland || $37.00 || $6,410 || $76,950 |
| Massachusetts || $43.64 || $7,570 || $90,780 |
| Michigan || $33.55 || $5,820 || $69,780 |
| Minnesota || $36.71 || $6,360 || $76,360 |
| Mississippi || $27.77 || $4,810 || $57,770 |
| Missouri || $29.88 || $5,180 || $62,160 |
| Montana || $31.98 || $5,540 || $66,520 |
| Nebraska || $31.50 || $5,460 || $65,530 |
| Nevada || $40.70 || $7,050 || $84,650 |
| New Hampshire || $34.45 || $5,970 || $71,650 |
| New Jersey || $38.87 || $6,740 || $80,850 |
| New Mexico || $34.33 || $5,950 || $71,400 |
| New York || $40.70 || $7,060 || $84,660 |
| North Carolina || $31.26 || $5,420 || $65,030 |
| North Dakota || $31.57 || $5,470 || $65,670 |
| Ohio || $31.63 || $5,480 || $65,790 |
| Oklahoma || $30.20 || $5,240 || $62,820 |
| Oregon || $43.63 || $7,560 || $90,760 |
| Pennsylvania || $33.63 || $5,830 || $69,960 |
| Rhode Island || $37.54 || $6,510 || $78,090 |
| South Carolina || $30.45 || $5,280 || $63,330 |
| South Dakota || $27.64 || $4,790 || $57,500 |
| Tennessee || $29.08 || $5,040 || $60,480 |
| Texas || $34.83 || $6,040 || $72,440 |
| Utah || $31.91 || $5,530 || $66,370 |
| Vermont || $32.71 || $5,670 || $68,040 |
| Virginia || $33.73 || $5,850 || $70,150 |
| Washington || $41.40 || $7,180 || $86,120 |
| West Virginia || $29.53 || $5,120 || $61,430 |
| Wisconsin || $33.90 || $5,880 || $70,510 |
| Wyoming || $32.92 || $5,710 || $68,480 |
HIGHEST PAID WOUND CARE NURSES
What Are The 10 Highest Paying States For Wound Care Nurses?
Wound care nurses earn their highest salaries in the northeast and in the Pacific states. Once again, cost of living is the primary factor behind this salary distribution pattern. If wound care nurses weren’t paid high salaries in California, they might not be able to afford to live there, and demand for wound care services would remain unmet.
| Rank || State || Average|
| 1 || California ||$113,710|
| 2 || Hawaii ||$98,870|
| 3 || Massachusetts ||$90,780|
| 4 || Oregon ||$90,760|
| 5 || Alaska ||$89,860|
| 6 || Washington ||$86,120|
| 7 || New York ||$84,660|
| 8 || Nevada ||$84,650|
| 9 || New Jersey ||$80,850|
| 10 || Connecticut ||$80,030|
What Are The 10 Highest Paying Metros For Wound Care Nurses?
California leads the nation in wound care nurse salaries, so it’s not surprising that all 10 of the metropolitan areas where wound care nurses earn the highest salaries are located here. The cost of living varies considerably from locale to locale throughout the Golden State, though, so there’s still a great deal of regional variation. Wound care nurse salaries in the affluent San Francisco Bay Area run 25 percent higher on average than they are in Redding, the seat of rural Shasta County.
| Rank || Metro || Average|
| 1 || San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA ||$140,720|
| 2 || San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA ||$138,530|
| 3 || Vallejo-Fairfield, CA ||$134,060|
| 4 || Sacramento--Roseville--Arden-Arcade, CA ||$126,720|
| 5 || Salinas, CA ||$124,650|
| 6 || Santa Rosa, CA ||$117,750|
| 7 || Modesto, CA ||$114,210|
| 8 || Stockton-Lodi, CA ||$109,280|
| 9 || Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA ||$106,690|
| 10 || Redding, CA ||$105,500|
WOUND CARE NURSE JOB OUTLOOK
Is There A Demand For Wound Care Nurses?
Wound care nurses are in high demand throughout the U.S. in hospitals, long-term nursing facilities, and home healthcare agencies.
Why Is There A Demand For Wound Care Nurses?
Two trends are implicated in the rising demand for wound care nurses: the aging population and the escalating incidence of diabetes. According to a 2020 report
from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 10.5 percent of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with diabetes, and one in three Americans may be pre-diabetic. Over the course of their disease, diabetic patients have a 10 to 15 percent risk of developing a foot ulcer that will require serious medical attention
The number of Americans aged 65 or older is projected to double by the year 2040
. Even when they are not immobile, elderly patients are at risk for developing cutaneous wounds because skin becomes more friable as it ages.
MOST COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS FOR WOUND CARE NURSING JOBS
Here are some wound care nurse interview questions you may encounter when you’re applying for a position in the field:
Question #1: Why did you choose wound care as your specialty?
What the Interviewer Really wants to Know: How enthusiastic are you about the field of wound care?
Sample Answer: I chose wound care because I wanted to be involved in the healing process in an immediate, hands-on fashion. Wound therapy was one of the earliest uses of medicine, and it’s evolved into an evidence-backed process that utilizes many of the latest scientific technologies. I enjoy that aspect of wound care! And I enjoy working on a one-to-one basis with patients, gaining their trust, and seeing how my skills can improve their quality of life.
Question #2: How would you deal with a non-compliant diabetic who’s repeatedly hospitalized with suppurating foot ulcers?
What the Interviewer Really wants to Know: Questions about difficult patients are very common in job interviews. The interviewer is interested in learning about your degree of empathy and professionalism. One rule of thumb: Never say anything negative about the patient.
Sample Answer: I stay pleasant and patient, but I keep emphasizing the fact that there are negative health outcomes associated with diabetes when the condition isn’t managed properly. I don’t scold the patient, but I do point out that most of these negative outcomes are entirely preventable. As much as I possibly can, I try to involve family members and other loved ones in the care I deliver because they can pressure patients in a way that would be unprofessional if I tried to do it. And while it can be very difficult to detach myself from a patient outcome, sometimes that’s what I have to do. I remind myself that the patient retains the ultimate responsibility for his or her behavior. His or her lack of compliance is not a reflection on how well I do my job.
Question #3: In the last year, what have you done to improve your knowledge about the wound care field?
What the Interviewer Really wants to Know:
This question aims at finding out whether you’re a self-starter. It’s also an attempt to discover your dedication to the field of wound care. Are you someone who’s committed to expanding your expertise in your chosen field?
I signed up for two continuing education classes exploring aspects of wound care with which I am unfamiliar. I began preparing for my CFCN certification. I subscribe to The Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing
Question #4: What do you do when you’re unsure how to care for a particular type of wound?
What the Interviewer Really wants to Know: The interviewer wants to make sure that you’ll never put patient safety at risk by pretending to know something that you don’t.
Sample Answer: If a wound isn’t responding to the treatment I’m providing, then I start thinking my initial assessment was incorrect, and I refer my patient to a specialist who has the ability to perform a biopsy, tissue culture, radiological study or other type of examination that will determine the wound’s etiology with more specificity. With that information in hand, I can provide a treatment that’s more precisely targeted to the type of wound I’m dealing with.
USEFUL RESOURCES FOR WOUND CARE NURSES
Organizations And Associations
• Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society
(WOCN): WOCN is widely recognized as the premier professional association for wound, ostomy and continence care needs health professionals. The organization boasts more than 5000 members
. It sponsors the CWCN certification. Membership benefits include free continuing education credits, networking opportunities and an annual conference the first week in June. WOCN offers individual and corporate memberships. Students pay $65 a year; regular memberships are $135 a year.
• American Professional Wound Care Association
(APWCA): APWCA membership is open to physicians and other healthcare professionals involved in the care of complex wounds, including nutritionists, podiatrists, and wound care nurses. The organization offers several wound-care certifications for physicians. Non-physician memberships are $135 a year. The association publishes the professional journal, Advances in Skin & Wound Care
. It offers networking opportunities and sponsors a yearly conference the last week in February.
• Organization for Wound Care Nurses and Allied Healthcare Professionals
(OWCNAHP): Although OWCNAHP is open to all healthcare professionals employed in the field of wound management, its emphasis is upon support services for nurses. The organization sponsors training events, seminars and conferences for nurses and offers networking opportunities. Membership is free for wound care nurses.
• Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board
(WOCNCB): WOCNCB is an organization that sponsors various wound, ostomy, continence, and foot care certifications. It’s a certifying body rather than a professional membership association.
• Speaking of Wounds
: This podcast, produced by the Wound Care Learning Network
, features episodes on issues like pressure injury criteria, pre-operative ostomy care, clinical stress in wound care, and how human microbiomes affect wound healing. Episodes are approximately 16 minutes long. Two episodes are produced each month.
: This podcast focuses on research that supports the delivery of proper wound care. The series is produced by WOCN. Topics include the impact of COVID on wound care and whether telehealth consultations can be an appropriate venue for wound care management. Each podcast is approximately 40 minutes long, and two podcasts are released every month.
• Dia-Beat-It! How to Treat It
: This podcast focuses on best practices for diabetic wounds. Only one episode has been released so far.
• Today's Wound Clinic's show
: This podcast is produced in conjunction with the professional journal Today’s Wound Clinic
. Past episodes include topics like biofilm debridement, stem cells and wound healing, and detection and prevention of pressure ulcers. The podcast series is carried on the Apple Podcast network.
• Wound Care Essentials
: This book is widely considered to be the classic textbook in its field. Its 5th edition was released in January, 2022. It focuses on the information you will need to know in order to pass the WOCNCB certification tests.
• Wound Care Made Incredibly Visual
: One of the big challenges of wound care nursing is translating the information in your brain so that it applies to the symptoms your patients are displaying. The many colorful illustrations in this book help simplify that process.
BONUS! A TYPICAL DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WOUND CARE NURSE
A wound care nurse’s responsibilities on any given day depends upon the practice setting in which he or she is employed. Here, we talk to Frank who is a wound care RN at a leading hospital in a midsized Midwestern city.
6:30 a.m. – 7:30 a.m.:
Although I’m not an advanced practice registered nurse (APRM), my office is located in the small cluster of offices where the clinical nurse specialists employed by my hospital work. I report to the diabetes clinical nurse educator, though the majority of my patients are not diabetics.
Day shifts start at 7:00 a.m., but I usually come in half an hour early so that I have a full hour to review the charts of the patients referred to me for care that day. I don’t find my work particularly stressful, so I’m not worried about burnout, and as a salaried employee, I won’t be putting in for overtime for that half-hour. By 7:30 a.m., I can start seeing patients without getting in the way of bedside nursing reports. Today, I have five wound care consultations. Each consultation takes approximately one hour.
7:30 a.m. – 8:45 a.m.:
Nancy was rehospitalized yesterday, following a hyperglycemic episode. Nancy was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes a few years ago, and she’s not compliant with the lifestyle changes that have been recommended to her. She has a large diabetic foot ulcer on her right foot, and the nails of her feet are long and thick. Thankfully, the ulcer is not infected.
I debride the ulcer, wash it, and bandage it while Nancy’s floor nurse watches. The floor nurse will be washing and bandaging the wound from this point on while Nancy remains hospitalized. I also trim Nancy’s toenails. I explain to Nancy that for at least a week, she’ll need to keep pressure off the foot that has the ulcer—and that means she will need to use crutches. I make referrals to the diabetes clinical nurse educator and to physical therapy so Nancy can learn to use the crutches she’ll need. I also spend a significant amount of time talking with Nancy about what she’ll need to do to help heal this ulcer and how she can avoid developing foot ulcers in the future. Because I’ve spent this extra time with her, I’m late to my next patient appointment.
8:45 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.:
My next patient, George, is about to be discharged following a bowel resection that left him with an ostomy. He and his wife understand the basics of ostomy care but I want him to demonstrate a successful bag change to me before he’s discharged. The couple also has a few additional questions about potential complications that need to be addressed. Just before I leave George’s room, the hospital dietician pops in to review dietary guidelines for ostomy patients.
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.:
I’ve been asked to sit in on an interdisciplinary patient care conference for Miles, a patient with Stage 4 melanoma who will shortly be transferred over to hospice care. Miles has developed an ulcerating wound that’s extremely painful and malodorous. I explain the various treatment options that are available to Miles to control the odor and reduce the threat of further infection. Sometime today, I will develop a nursing care plan that addresses this issue; the plan will be part of the discharge paperwork that will be sent over to the hospice when Miles is officially admitted as a patient there.
11:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.:
My next patient, Margaret, is an elderly woman who’s been bedridden for several months and who’s developed severe decubitus ulcers while being cared for in her home by her elderly husband. This family is going to need social service interventions to provide Margaret’s husband with the assistance he needs if he’s going to continue caring for Margaret at home as is the couple’s wish.
But today, I am only focusing on decubitus care. Margaret has developed a stage 2 decubitus on her heel and a stage 3 decubitus on her coccyx. The tailbone decubitus has been exacerbated by Margaret’s incontinence. I demonstrate the process of cleaning and dressing the ulcers to the RN who will be acting as Margaret’s primary nurse while Margaret is hospitalized. I also review how to reduce pressure on the affected areas by repositioning and using external supports.
12:00 p.m. – 12:30 p.m.:
I grab a quick lunch.
12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.:
One of my responsibilities as the hospital’s only wound care specialist is staff education. Today, I am giving an in-service to a group of new nurse hires on the management of decubitus ulcers with particular emphasis on identifying and treating stage 1 ulcers, which is what we see most commonly at this hospital. I’ve put together a short PowerPoint slideshow on the subject, and the 10 or so nurses attending the in-service have many questions. It’s good to see that they’re paying attention.
1:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.:
Pedro is another diabetic with foot ulcers. His foot ulcers are more severe than Nancy’s were, and it looks to me as though he may require surgical debridement. Pedro is a happy-go-lucky guy, and it’s not clear to me that he understands how serious his foot ulcers are because there’s relatively little pain associated with them due to the nature of diabetic neuropathy. I don’t want to scare him, but I do want him to know that unless he begins taking better care of himself, he could be looking at amputation down the line.
2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.:
My next patient, Molly, is recovering from a bowel resection, secondary to a bad flare-up of Crohn’s disease. If all goes well, her ostomy will only be temporary. It’s been three days since her surgery, and Molly is doing her own ostomy care. She is due to be discharged tomorrow. I am here just to make sure that the ostomy care she’s doing is conforming to the proper protocols—and it is.
3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.:
I’ve finished my patient appointments, and the final hour and a half of my day is spent at my computer, catching up on emails, reading the latest issues of professional journals like Advances in Skin and Wound Care and The Journal of Wound Care
. It’s been a long day, and at 5:00 p.m., I am happy to go home.
My Final Thoughts
This article offers a comprehensive look at the challenging role of the wound care nurse – what is it, how to become, salary, and the pros & cons. The decision to become a wound care nurse is not for everyone. In addition to hands-on clinical skills and an enormous amount of knowledge, you will also need to cultivate the ability to remain unfazed by sights and smells that make many people physically uncomfortable. The job can be an extremely rewarding one for the right nurse, however—particularly if that nurse is an LVN/LPN looking for the opportunity to specialize. Though the pay scale is not one of the highest among the nursing specialties, a wound care nurse will always be in demand, so you will have job security. And given the fact that demand for qualified wound care nurses is likely to rise, it’s likely salaries will rise, too.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ANSWERED BY OUR EXPERT
1. Is Becoming A Wound Care Nurse A Good Career Choice?
Becoming a wound care nurse is an excellent career choice for a nurse who values professional autonomy and job security. The greying of America and the high incidence of diabetes across the nation helps ensure that competent wound care nurses will continue to be in high demand.
2. Why Is Wound Care Important In Nursing?
Wound care is one of the oldest of the healing arts. Wound care promotes healing and eases patient pain—two of a nurse’s most important professional functions. Patients with a wide variety of acute and chronic conditions depend upon wound care nurses to help manage their healing processes.
3. Can A New Grad Nurse Become A Wound Care Nurse?
There are no official proscriptions against hiring new grads as wound care nurses, and employers make their own hiring decisions. However, it is probably not a good idea for a new grad to tackle this specialty without at least a few years of experience as a medical/surgical nurse.
4. Can An LPN Be A Wound Care Nurse?
Yes, an LPN can be a wound care nurse. The WCC certification is open to LVNs/LPNs who have accumulated at least four years of professional wound care experience. Once they are certified, they will need to keep up their skills by taking continuing education classes.
5. Is It Hard To Become A Wound Care Nurse?
Wound care is not an official educational track for nurses, so in one sense, becoming a wound care nurse isn’t very difficult: All you have to do is persuade an employer to hire you! But the job entails a high level of clinical competency as well as an enormous amount of knowledge, so in that sense, it is difficult.
6. On Average, How Much Does A Wound Care Nurse Make Per Hour?
Wound care nurses make $36.28 an hour on average. Wound care nurses are evenly divided between salaried employees and hourly wage employees who are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act
and receive overtime when they work more than 40 hours in a single week.
7. Is Wound Care Nursing Stressful?
Wound care is surprisingly unstressful. Nurses have a great deal of professional autonomy, and most of their patients improve. Wound care nurses have high job satisfaction: It’s gratifying to see how much the care you give is able to improve a patient’s quality of life.
8. How Many Hours Do Wound Care Nurses Work?
Most wound care nurses work 9-to-5 shifts on weekdays, putting in approximately 40 hours a week. A few nurses who are salaried staff in ICUs may work 12-hour shifts that include evenings, nights and/or weekends.
9. Do Wound Care Nurses Work 12 Hour Shifts?
Most wound care nurses work 8-hour shifts. A few wound care nurses who are affiliated with specialty units like ICUs may work 12-hour shifts, but these wound care nurses are in the minority.
10. Do I Need To Be Certified To Work As A Wound Care Nurse?
No, you don’t have to be certified to work as a wound care nurse. But the vast majority of employers prefer to work with wound care nurses who have been certified. The WCC certification is widely considered to be the most inclusive wound care certification.
11. What Is The Best Wound Care Certification To Have?
The WCC certification is widely considered to be the most inclusive wound care certification because it’s open to clinicians from all disciplines and from a variety of educational backgrounds. However, all the major wound care certifications testify to a wound care nurse’s excellence in his or her chosen field.
12. What Is The Pass Rate For The Wound Care Certification Exam?Eighty-five percent of the nurses who take the WCC certification exam pass it on their first try
13. How Many Times Can I Take The Wound Care Certification Exam In Order To Pass?WCC exam candidates can take the certification examination up to four times
. Each attempt costs $380: $30 for the application fee and $350 for the exam fee.
14. Can I Get A Refund If I Don’t Pass The Wound Care Certification Exam?
No, you will not receive a refund if you don’t pass the wound care certification exam.
15. What Is The Difference Between The Wound Care Certification Program And The 30 CEU Wound Care Management Course?
Wound care certification programs focus on giving you the information that will enable you to pass a specific wound care certification exam. Wound care management courses, on the other hand, are more geared toward imparting the skills and information you will need in your practice as a wound care nurse.
16. How Long Does Wound Care Certification Last?
Both the WCC certification and the WOCNCB certifications are good for five years.
17. Do Wound Care Nurses Make Good Money?
Wound care nurses earn $75,464 a year on average. While this is a comfortable salary, it is not one of the higher salaries among nursing specialties.
18. Do Wound Care Nurses Get Paid More Than Other Nurses?
As noted above, wound care nurses' average salaries that are 7 percent higher than floor nurses and staff nurses: $75,464 annually versus $70,335
19. How Much Do Wound Care Travel Nurses Make?The average pay for a wound care travel nurse is $87,940 a year
20. Do I Have To Be A Nurse To Do Wound Care?
No. Wound care certification is open to many different healthcare professionals, including physicians, physical therapists, podiatrists, and other ancillary medical professionals. Wound care certification is not open to medical assistants, however.
21. What Types Of Wounds Do Wound Care Nurses Manage?
Wound care nurses primarily treat patients with complex wounds. These can be surgical wounds, lacerations, puncture wounds, surgical wounds, pressure sores, ostomies, and diabetic ulcers.
22. Can Wound Care Nurses Create Orders?
No, wound care nurses cannot write patient orders. In fact, technically speaking, wound care nurses cannot do diagnoses. They work according to highly detailed protocols.
23. How Do I Become A Wound Care Nurse Practitioner?
You will need to complete an accredited graduate program, either a Master’s in Nursing Science (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). Most nurse practitioners who focus on wound care are either family nurse practitioners or adult-gerontology nurse practitioners (both acute and primary). You will then have to apply for APRN licensure in the state in which you wish to work. WOCNCB offers a number of certifications specifically designed for APRNs.
Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.