Working as part of a multidisciplinary team, nurses in the wound, ostomy, and continence (WOC) specialty are highly autonomous. Traditionally focusing on ostomies, WOC nurses now also apply their expertise to many other conditions, such as draining wounds, fistulas, chronic wounds (vascular ulcers, pressure ulcers, neuropathic wounds), acute wounds (surgical wounds, bite wounds, lacerations), urinary incontinence, fecal incontinence, and functional disorders of the bowel and bladder. They offer both acute and rehabilitative care to patients with disorders of the gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and integumentary systems associated with acute and chronic wounds.
Today, opportunities for nurses in this specialty include:
- using their clinical knowledge about dressings and other topical products, skin care products, specialized beds and mattresses, incontinence supplies, and pouching systems to support primary care providers in inpatient and outpatient settings
- working in home health care, teaching patients and families how to manage wounds, ostomies, and continence problems
- working as case managers
- acting as liaisons between manufacturers, primary care providers, and patients.
Where do WOC nurses practice?
They practice in all settings—long-term care, home health care, acute care, and hospital-based and freestanding outpatient clinics—and they may be self-employed or contract for services.
What background and education do WOC nurses need?
Most wound-care nurses are graduates of an accredited WOC nursing education program or have successfully completed the written WOC certification examination. Several university programs—including one distance education program—are accredited to offer instruction in all three clinical areas (wounds, ostomy, and incontinence management). Requirements for admittance to these programs vary. For more information, visit http://www.wocn.org/education/wocet/programs.htm.
What about certification?
There are two certifying bodies in this field: the Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board and the multidisciplinary American Academy of Wound Management, which offers the certified wound specialist (CWS) designation.
Specialty organization: Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN)
4700 W. Lake Ave., Glenview, IL 60025
Web site: http://www.wocn.org.
Certifying bodies: Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB)
611 E. Wells St., Milwaukee, WI 53202
Web site: http://www.wocncb.org.
American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM)
1255 23rd St. NW, Suite 200, Washington, DC 20037
Web site: http://www.aawm.org.