Wound / Ostomy / Continence Nursing

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    Wound ostomy and continence (WOC) nursing is a specialty involved with caring for patients with acute and chronic wounds (fistulas, vascular ulcers, pressure ulcers, neuropathic wounds, surgical wounds, lacerations), bowel or bladder diversional ostomies, or continence conditions involving skin care issues. WOC nurses provide a multidisciplinary approach to treatment across a continuum of care and in a number of settings.

    Wound / Ostomy / Continence Nursing

    "Formerly known as Enterostomal Therapy (ET) nurses, Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (WOC) nurses are registered nurses who specialize in the care of patients with wounds, ostomies, or continence disorders. WOC nurses' primary responsibilities are to direct, coordinate, and evaluate patient care in the area(s) of their expertise. Specific functions include direct patient care, consultation, staff and patient education, and maintenance of an evidence-based practice through use of and participation in research studies. Recommendations for care management are evidence-based, cost-effective, and individualized for the specific patient situations."

    These registered nurses not only support healing, but they also provide preventative care to ensure infection does not set in and that other complications do not arise. In addition to their hands-on role, they also play a crucial teaching role, educating patients how to care for their wounds after they return home.

    Work Environment

    WOC nurses can be found in various healthcare settings, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, home health, outpatient clinics, in industry and research, and in nursing education programs. They are also in demand in colorectal surgery, urology, pediatrics, oncology, and rehabilitative departments. They may be self-employed or contract for service.

    Duties / Responsibilities
    • Keep up-to-date with state-of-the-art equipment and treatment programs and make these innovations available to patients.
    • Use evidence-based knowledge and skills to manage complex patients
    • Provide care for patients with pressure ulcers, surgical incisions, draining and traumatic wounds, tubes, fistulas, bowel and bladder diversions, incontinence problems
    • Assist with psychological support, discharge planning, rehabilitative counseling, follow-up care
    • Use specialized 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
    • Work in home health care, teaching patients and families how to manage wounds, ostomies, and continence problems
    • Work as case managers
    • Act as liaisons between manufacturers, primary care providers, and patients

    Education Requirements

    WOC nurses are Registered Nurses who hold a baccalaureate degree or higher and complete a formal accredited WOC specialty education program. Most Wound/Ostomy/Continence nurses are graduates of an accredited WOC nursing education program or have successfully completed the written WOC certification examination. Several university programs are accredited to offer instruction in all three clinical areas: wounds, ostomies, and incontinence management.

    There are two certifying bodies for this specialty: the Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board and the multidisciplinary American Academy of Wound Management, which offers the certified wound specialist designation (CWS).

    Job Outlook

    Wound/ostomy/continence nursing has always been prevalent in acute care setting. But now, as healthcare is switching more from acute care to outpatient settings, and home health and long-term care increases, WOC nursing has become more valuable. The demand for nurses with this specialized training will continue to grow as the baby boomers move into their senior years, as WOC nurses are particularly skilled at managing complex cases in frail elderly patients.


    In 2012, registered nurses earned an average of $67,930 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But this number reflects the salaries of all RNs, regardless of specialty or certifications. A survey by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society found that WOC nurses earned an average of $82,104 a year as of 2012. Education level does affect salary. WOC RNs with bachelor's degrees averaged $76,578, while those with master's degrees averaged $89,665.


    Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB)

    American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM)

    Wound Care Education Institute

    National Alliance of Wound Care (NAWC)

    The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society is a professional nursing society that supports members through educational, clinical, and research opportunities in the delivery of healthcare to those with wounds, ostomies, and incontinence issues.

    The Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing is the official publication of the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society. It is an international journal that provides continuing education for WOC nurses and includes, original, peer-reviewed articles regarding WOC nursing.

    WOC Nursing Education Programs

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    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 27, '17
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  3. by   cashew1
    This article is very helpful. Thanks.