Career spotlight: wound care nursing

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Staff at Iringa Regional Hospital performing surgery whilst students observe. Injuries, diseases, infections and even medical treatments can leave a person with a serious wound. Some wounds require specialized treatment in order to heal. A wound care nurse assesses patients with serious wounds, provides treatments and monitors patients’ progress.

Responsibilities of a wound care nurse

Wound care nurses examine patients and determine what type of treatment a wound may need. For example, wound care nurses may provide treatment to help ostomy or feeding tube sites heal, clean wounds and remove dead tissue. Nurses also make recommendations to doctors, such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy to aid the healing process. 

In addition to developing treatment plans, wound care nurses also follow up with patients and monitor their conditions to determine if their wounds are healing. They also work with nursing staff to prevent bedsores.

Education is another one of the key responsibilities of a wound care nurse. Patients and possibly family members may need to learn how to take care of wounds at home. Patients may be taught how to apply medication or change dressings. They will also learn signs to watch for that may indicate complications.

The road to becoming a wound care nurse

In order to become a certified wound care nurse, you will need to graduate from an accredited registered nursing program and meet a few other requirements. Certified wound care nurses must also earn a bachelor’s degree. In addition, nurses interested in working in wound care will need to complete a wound care education program, which is usually two to three months long.

For those who do not complete a wound care program, the following criteria must be met to become certified:

-50 hours of continuing education in wound care

-1500 hours of clinical experience in wound care

Both continuing education and clinical experience must be completed within the most recent five years worked. Once the requirements for certification are met, nurses are eligible to take an exam administered by the Wound Ostomy and Continence Certification Board.

Is it right for you?

As a wound care nurse, you will be taking care of all types of wounds in all areas of the body. Those who are even slightly squeamish may not be well suited for wound care nursing. 

It is helpful to have patience, since part of the job involves teaching patients and family member who may need repeated instruction. You should also be someone who enjoys continued learning. There are often advances in procedures, and nurses need to stay current in this constantly changing field.

As with other types of nursing, wound care nurses need to have compassion. Not only can serious wounds be painful, they can require a lot of care to heal. Patients dealing with wounds may also have complex medical conditions, which can slow down the healing process. Wound care nurses need to be sensitive to various factors affecting patients.

Salary and opportunities

Wound care nurses work in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and hospices. Although occasionally wound care may be needed urgently, wound care nurses usually work daytime hours. According to the United Stated Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for wound care nurses in 2013 was about $68,000 a year.  

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