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Wound / Ostomy / Continence Nursing

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Specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg.

What is Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing?

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 (RN) 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 (not all-inclusive)

  • Direct patient care
  • Consultation
  • Staff education
  • Patient education
  • Participation in research studies
  • Recommendations for evidenced-based care management involving cost-effective, individualized patient situations

These RNs 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 about how to care for their wounds after they return home.

Work Environment

WOC nurses can be found in various healthcare settings (not all-inclusive):

  • Hospitals
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Home health
  • Outpatient clinics
  • Industry and research
  • Nursing education programs
  • Colorectal surgery
  • Urology
  • Pediatrics
  • Oncology
  • Rehabilitative departments

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 RNs who hold a baccalaureate degree or higher, and have completed 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.


Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB)

After successfully passing the certification examination(s), individuals receive a CWOCN-AP®, CWON-AP®, CWCN-AP®, CCCN-APSM, or COCN-AP® credential.

Certification Eligibility (not all-inclusive)

  • Current RN or Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license
  • MSN or higher nursing degree program to become an APRN
  • Complete a WOC Nursing education program that is accredited by WOCN OR
  • Within each specialty for which certification is sought, 50 contact hours or an equivalent in college coursework post-Bachelor's, and 1500 clinical hours, must be completed over the previous five years. Accumulation of contact and clinical hours must be earned post-Bachelor's and while functioning as an RN
  • Current entry-level WOCNCB certification in the specialty or specialties for which Advanced Practice certification is desired.

American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM)

Certified Wound Care Associate (CWCA) Eligibility (not all-inclusive)

  • RN (ADN and higher) or LPN/LVN with 3 years of wound care experience
  • Current, unencumbered RN or LPN/LVN license in U.S. state(s) of practice

Certified Wound Specialist (CWS) Eligibility (not all-inclusive)

  • RN or APRN with Bachelor’s, Master’s, or Doctoral degree with 3 or more years of clinical wound care experience
  • Current, unencumbered RN or APRN license in U.S. state(s) of practice

Job Outlook

Wound/Ostomy/Continence nursing has always been prevalent in the 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.

Salary (2020)

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a Wound Ostomy Nurse in the U.S. is $103,883 a year.

According to salary.com, the average salary in the U.S. is $91,204 with a range between $82,754 and $100,979.

Other Resources

Wound Care Education Institute (WCEI) - The mission of the Wound Care Education Institute® is to impact the lives of both individual practitioners, and the patients in need of wound care.

National Alliance of Wound Care (NAWCO) - National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy® (NAWCO) is dedicated to the advancement and promotion of excellence in the delivery of wound care and ostomy to the consumer through credentialing proficiency of health care practitioners.

The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN) is dedicated to advancing the practice and delivery of expert healthcare to individuals with wound, ostomy, and continence care needs.

WOCN Nursing Education Programs

The Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing is the official publication of the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN).

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Mary specializes in Peds, Med-Surg, Disaster Nsg, Parish Nsg. As the Community Director, I'm here to help make your time here enjoyable. Please contact me if I can help you. I'd love to hear from you.

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Hoosier_RN, MSN

Specializes in dialysis. Has 28 years experience.

I'm WOCN certified, just renewed my cert in fact. The most I've ever been offered by any wound center is 43grand a year, FT, not good benefits. They wonder why they're often short staffed. In some settings (LTC) I was expected to have a patient load AND do wound care for the facility, when I was caught up. Any in LTC know that you're never caught up...