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A wound care nurse is a nurse who specializes in wound management. These nurses work with a patient's medical team to monitor a variety of wounds and their healing process, and they also care directly for the patient, promoting healthy and rapid healing of a wide variety of wounds. The minimum qualification for work in this nursing specialty is a nursing certification, but most wound care nurses pursue additional board certification from a professional organization to make themselves more employable.
Chronic wounds such as bedsores, ulcers, and abscesses are often an important part of wound care nursing. These nurses can also care for ostomy sites, as well as the areas around feeding tubes, ports, and recent surgeries. Most work in a hospital setting, treating patients who require acute care, although some travel as home health consultants, or work in nursing homes and other residential facilities.
The first task of a wound care nurse is to assess a wound, determining the depth of the wound and taking note of any developing issues, such as signs of infection. Then, the nurse develops a treatment plan, which often starts with debridement of the wound to clean out dead tissue and any foreign material. In long-term care of the wound, the nurse regularly cleans and inspects the wound, rebandages it if necessary, and keeps an eye on the wound's progress.
Wound care nurses may need to consult with doctors to discuss the need for antibiotics, surgical drains, or surgical debridement in the case of serious wounds. They also work with other patient caregivers to educate them about wound care and handling the patient's case. For example, in an elderly person with bed sores, regular rotation of the patient and the use of specialized pillows to relieve pressure on the sores may be an important part of patient care.
People who are interested in a career as a wound care nurse should take extra classes in wound care while in nursing school to explore this nursing specialty. They may also want to ask for rotations and clinical experience under an experienced nurse so that they can get first-hand experience in wound care nursing. Wound care can be very rewarding, but it can also involve some unpleasant tasks, as neglected wounds can become quite gruesome, and the ability to handle unpleasant-looking wounds gently and respectfully is key to success as a wound care nurse.