Being a nurse is a challenging career and many nurses decide to go into a specialized area within their career. Nurses who specialize have increased knowledge and skills which make them not only more credible at their job, but they also enjoy more opportunities within their job.
There are many different areas that a nurse can specialize in; one being in wound care.
What is Wound Care?
Wound care is just that: caring for wounds as well as ostomies and continence conditions. Wound care is focusing on the wound and helping the body heal. Many wounds need specific types of treatment in order for it to heal.
What Does a Wound Care Nurse Do?
A wound care nurse provides treatment and cares for chronic and acute wounds that can be caused by anything such as an incision or an ulcer that may not heal as quickly as it should. Wound care nurses also care and rehabilitative needs for patients who have abdominal stomas, drains or continence disorders.
A WOC nurse educates the patient and their family on how to care for the wound in order for it to heal properly. They also serve as a consultant for other healthcare professionals.
For wound care, the roles and duties of the WOC nurse include:
• Assess and determine the cause of the wound and identify the appropriate treatment options
• Coordinate care by working with physicians
• Educate patients on how to prevent bedsores and other wounds from developing
• Educate the patient, their family, and the nursing staff on strategies for optimizing wound care
For ostomy care, the roles and duties of the nurse include:
• Evaluate and recommend pouching systems
• Develop rehabilitation plans
• Assist in selecting pre-operative stoma sites
• Educates the patient and their family
For continence care, the nurse’s roles and duties include:
• Assessing physical, psychological and social aspects of incontinence
• Recommend the appropriate treatment
• Educate the patient and their family
• Monitor results and evaluate outcomes
• Support treatment to restore continence
Where Does a WOC Nurse Work?
A WOC nurse generally works in different units within a hospital such as the OR, ICU, critical care or other inpatients units where patients are bedridden. WOC nurses may also work for nursing homes, home health care agencies, public health agencies or hospice.
Wound Care Certifications
Before you become a Wound Care Nurse, you’ll need to become have an accredited wound care certification. There are three major organizations that offer the Wound Care Certification exam. To be eligible for any of these exams, you’ll of course, need to have a current RN license and hold a bachelor’s degree or higher.
American Board of Wound Management
Certified Wound Specialist (CWS)
– The fee to take the CWS exam is $575.
– Your score report for the CWS will show the number of questions you got correct and the number of questions that are required to be correct in order to pass.
Registered Nurses are not the only professionals that can sit for the CWS exam. Nurse practitioners, veterinarians, physician assistants, physical therapists, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and registered dietitians are also eligible to sit for the exam.
To be able to sit for the CWS exam, you must have at least 3 years experience in wound care. Your primary responsibility does not necessarily have to be wound care as long as you have three cumulative years of experience in wound care.
Candidates must have a Bachelor’s, Master’s or Doctoral degree. If you’re a licensed RN with an Associate’s degree, you will be required to have 3 years of clinical wound care experience. You must also have an unrestricted license in at least one state that you currently practice in.
CWS Content Outline
The Certified Wound Specialist exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions which include 25 non-scored pretest items that do not count towards your final score. You are given three hours to complete the 150 questions.
- Wound Healing Environment
- Assessment and Diagnosis
- Patient Management
- Etiological Considerations
- Professional Issues
In addition, you will also be given tasks which include:
- History and Physical Examination Tasks
- Evaluation and Diagnosis Tasks
- Treatment Tasks
- Follow-up Care Tasks
- Professional Practice Tasks
National Alliance of Wound Care (NAWC)
Wound Care Certification (WCC)
– The pass rate for the WCC certification in 2018 was 76%.
– The fee to take the WCC certification exam is $300.
To be eligible to sit for the WCC certification exam, you must have an active and unrestricted license such as RN, LPN/LVN, NP, PA, PT, PTA, OT, OTA, MD, DO, DPM.
You must have graduated from a skin and wound management education course or have a current and active CWCN, CWON, CWOCN or CWS certification from the American Board of Wound Management.
You must also have completed 120 hours of hands-on clinical training or two years full-time or four years part-time experience with ongoing and active involvement in the care of wound care patients or in management, education, or research.
WCC Content Outline
The WCC exam contains 110 multiple-choice questions include 10 questions that do not count towards your final score. You are given two hours to complete the 110 questions.
The WCC exam includes 4 domains:
1.Patient and Wound Information
2. Plan of Care
Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB)
The Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board offers four certification exams:
• Certified Wound Care Nurse (CWCN)
• Certified Ostomy Care Nurse (COCN)
• Certified Continence Care Nurse (CCCN)
• Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse (CWON)
To be eligible to sit for one of these exams, or even all four, you must meet these requirements:
• Have a current RN license
• Have a bachelors degree or higher
• Have completed one of these pathways of education or practice:
– Traditional Pathway –
• Graduated from a WOC Nursing Education Program that is accredited by the WOCN Society within the last 5 years (If you’re looking for one of the best wound care courses and a current list of programs, visit the WOCN Society website)
– Experiential Pathway –
• The accumulation of direct patient clinical hours and continuing education credits must be earned post-bachelor’s degree while practicing as an RN
• For each specialty certification sought, 50 CE/CME or an equivalent in college course work must be completed over the 5 years previous to the date of your application. All CE/CME credits or college course work must apply directly to the specialty area that you have applied for.
• For each certification specialty, you will need to have 1500 direct patient clinical care hours must be completed within the previous five years. 375 of those hours must have been occurred within three years prior to your application.
Fees for WOCNCB exams:
1 Specialty – $395
2 Specialties – $510
3 Specialties – $610
4 Specialties – $ 670
Each WOCNCB exam consists of 120 multiple-choice questions that are to be completed in 120 minutes.
Certified Wound Care Nurse (CWCN)
– The pass rate for the CWCN exam in 2018 was 75%.
The CWCN exam includes 7 tasks:
1.Assess Comprehensive Factors Affecting Wound Care
2. Implement Principles of Wound Management
3. Assess and Manage Pressure Ulcers
4. Assess and Manage Lower Extremity Venous Disease
5. Assess and Manage Lower Extremity Arterial Disease
6. Assess and Manage Lower Extremity Neuropathic Disease
7. Assess and Manage Other Types of Wounds
Certified Ostomy Care Nurse (COCN)
– The pass rate for the COCN exam in 2018 was 77%.
The COCN exam includes 9 tasks:
1. Assess Factors Affecting Fecal and Urinary Diversion
2. Implement Management Principles of Fecal and Urinary Diversion
3. Assess and Manage Colostomy
4. Assess and Manage Ileostomy
5. Assess and Manage Ileal Conduit
6. Assess and Manage Fecal Diversions
7. Assess and Manage Continent Urinary Diversions
8. Assess and Manage Fistulas
9. Assess and Manage Percutaneous Tubes and Drains
Certified Continence Care Nurse (CCCN)
– The pass rate for the CCCN exam in 2018 was 83%.
The CCCN exam includes 7 tasks:
- Assess Principles of Continence
- Implement Management Principles for Urinary Incontinence
- Assess and Manage Stress Incontinence
- Assess and Manage Urge Incontinence
- Assess and Manage Functional Incontinence
- Assess and Manage Other Voiding Disorders
- Implement Management Principles for Bowel Dysfunction
What is the Certified Wound Specialist exam?
The Certified Wound Specialist exam is a certification exam that shows formal recognition of a master level of knowledge to practice in wound management. The certification shows that you are specialized in this area.
Can I retake the CWS exam again if I fail?
You can retake the CWS exam again if you fail. After your first attempt at the exam, you must wait 30 days after the date of your last exam. You will be required to pay a $275 re-application fee each time you retest.
How many times can I retake the CWS exam?
You can take the CWS exam up to three times before you will be required to have an additional 20 hours of continuing education before taking the exam again.
How long is the Certified Wound Specialist exam?
The Certified Wound Specialist exam contains 150 multiple-choice questions that are to be completed within three hours.
How long is the WCC exam?
The WCC exam contains 110 multiple-choice questions include 10 questions that need to be completed within two hours.
How many times can I retake the WCC exam?
You can retake the WCC exam up to 4 times within a 2 year period. If you do not pass your first attempt, you can retake the test immediately. If you need to retake the test a third and fourth time, you will be required to wait 30 days before scheduling the retest.
What exams are offered by WOCNCB?
• Certified Wound Care Nurse (CWCN) • Certified Ostomy Care Nurse (COCN) • Certified Continence Care Nurse (CCCN) • Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse (CWON)
How long are the WOCNCB exams?
Each exam that is offered by the WOCNCB has a total of 120 questions that are to be completed within two hours.
If I fail any of the WOCNCB exams, can I retake it?
Yes. You can retake any of the WOCNCB exams up to three times within a 12 month period. You are required to wait for a minimum of 30 days between each attempt.