Becoming A Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse

Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing

What Is Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing (WOCN)?

Wound ostomy continence nursing involves working with patients that have, among other things, specific disorders of the skin, the gastrointestinal tracts, and the urinary tracts. Although each is technically a separate discipline, nurses are usually trained to be skilled in treating wounds, in ostomy, which is a surgical procedure that creates an artificial opening for the elimination of bodily wastes, and in continence which is related to bladder control and urinary issues, at the same time.

Nature Of the Work/Duties

The basic job roles of the average wound ostomy continence nurse are to treat and assess wounds (including conditions, bedsores, abscesses, wounds from feeding tubes, and surgical incisions), educate the patient on how to care for their wounds and conditions once they are at home, speak with family members about treatment options, engage in pain management with the patient when necessary, work with patients who have bowl and bladder problems, record vital signs, track the progress of patients, and continuously look for infections so they can be treated as quickly as possible. Overall the average wound ostomy continence nurse has a varied and broad range of conditions to diagnose, manage and treat in patients.


Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse
There are a number of areas that you could be employed in as a wound ostomy continence nurse:

  • You could be employed in a hospital where you will focus on caring for the wounds of your patient
  • You could become a legal nurse practitioner and deal with legal issues, complaints, and lawsuit arising from malpractice resulting in things such as bedsores

In general, however, the area in which you can work is narrower than that of a general RN. Although this may be the case, you must remember that you will also have the training to be a general RN and work in a health care setting where no specialties are required, so this means that, if you can’t find work in wound ostomy continence nursing, you can seek a job in general nursing.

Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse (WOCN) Requirements

To become a wound ostomy continence nurse you need to be a licensed RN. This involves graduating from an accredited RN training or degree program and passing the NCLEX-RN examination in order to be licensed by your state board of nursing. In addition, in order to receive certification, you must complete 50 contact hours within the discipline in a five-year period in wound care, you must obtain 50 contact hours within a five-year period in ostomy, OR you must obtain 50 contact hours within a five-year period in continence. In addition 1,500 clinical hours must be completed during the same time frame and 375 of those hours must be completed in the 12 months prior to submitting the application to become a wound ostomy continence nurse. Health and background checks may also be necessary.

Personality Traits

There is always a personality component involved when discussing requirements for a position. In the case of wound ostomy continence nursing they are as follows:

  • A sense of humor will keep you and your patients focused on the positive aspects of life
  • Professionalism is required in all areas of nursing, no less in wound ostomy continence nursing
  • Diligence and hard work will be needed to address the many different aspects of the job
  • Compassion that is nor forced or faked is a requirements
  • A sense of hope for what to others may seem hopeless will keep up your spirits and those of your patients
  • A sense of pride in being a nurse, and, specifically, a wound ostomy continence nurse
  • Comfort with bodily fluids is a definite requirement of this specialty

Educational Requirements

Like all disciplines there are a number of educational requirements involved in becoming a nurse practitioner with a specialization in this type of nursing. To begin with you must be a licensed registered nurse (RN) with a baccalaureate degree earned from an accredited school. The degree can be in nursing or in another discipline. Secondly it is necessary for you to complete a program accredited by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN) in order for you to gain the knowledge and skills required in the job. Last but not least you must pass an exam in wound ostomy continence nursing within the five years after completing the training program that you attended. The educational path is a fairly long one, but having a specialization in nursing comes with benefits that make it worth it.


The only license required in order to be a wound ostomy continence nurse is your RN license. This is obtained by:

  • Completing an accredited RN program successfully and meeting all of the program requirements
  • Applying for licensure with your state board of nursing and submitting all necessary documentation and paying any licensure fees necessary
  • Setting a date with Pearson VUE, submitting the necessary documentation to them and paying the $200 exam fee
  • Passing the exam and being licensed by your state board of nursing

Refresher courses are available to revise for the exam online. Your license will need to be renewed regularly, but the exact renewal periods depend entirely on the specific rules that are followed in the state where you are licensed.

How To Become A Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse (WOCN)

Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications

The specific training involved in becoming a wound ostomy continence nurse involves completing a WOCNCB-accredited educational program. If the program is not accredited but the WOCNCB you will effectively be wasting your time and your money. These programs include involve completing post-bachelor’s studies, foundational courses in wound and ostomy care, and a clinical program is included which lasts for about 120 hours. At the end of the training program you will have a graduate diploma. Naturally all of this must be preceded by completing your basic RN training in an undergraduate program. These programs result in a number of different qualifications, including diplomas, associate’s degrees and bachelor’s degrees. Generally speaking a more advanced degree will improve your chances of finding excellent employment opportunities, as well as improving your chances of being paid a higher rate by your industry or employer.

Source An Accredited Education Program

The program that you attend in order to become a wound ostomy continence nurse must be accredited by the WOCNCB. If it is not your ‘qualification’ that you earn, it will count for very little and you will most likely need to begin an entirely new program in order to become properly qualified. You can find accredited programs by:

  • Enquiring as to your options from your state board of nursing.
  • Speaking with nurses currently employed as wound ostomy continence nurses and find out what programs in your area they discovered when they were searching for an accredited training program through which to become qualified.
  • Asking the programs you are interested in attending to provide proof of accreditation and information regarding their accreditation standards and approval ratings.

The school you choose at this point will affect the rest of your career, so choose wisely.

Earn Your Associate’s Degree

Although you will need a more advanced qualification in order to work as a wound ostomy continence nurse, earning your associate’s degree is an excellent place to start. This degree will allow you to become licensed as a registered nurse in the state in which you would like to work, an important first step. There are a number of colleges, universities, and vocational schools that offer associate degree programs, as well as several hospitals. Apply to all that meet your requirements and wait to hear back. Select a school from among those that accept you. You will be required to work hard, completing both a theoretical and a clinical side of your studies. Meeting the program requirements and graduating successfully will earn you an associate’s degree in nursing.

Obtain Your Licensure

In addition to the RN license that all wound ostomy continence nurses must hold, you need to seek additional certification in this area of nursing. There are two paths that you can follow in order to receive your certification:

  • You take an educational path through which you complete the necessary training in wound ostomy continence nursing until you are able to take the certification examination.
  • You can take the experience route, which involves simply working in a wound ostomy care environment until you have gained enough experience in that area of nursing to be well equipped to write the certification examination and become an expert in the area.

Both routes are effective ways of becoming certified and both lead to the same end: a specialization in wound ostomy continence nursing.

Online/Distance Education Programs

Although your RN training program can only be partially completed online due to the large degree of hands-on training required, your wound and Ostomy Care Nurse (WOCN) certification can be done entirely online from a number of accredited and well respected nursing schools and colleges. This is convenient way for you to complete your studies without having to give up your job in the process. Be careful when looking into these programs as some of them do require that you go in to the campus on a regular basis. This is convenient as it allows you to continue working in your current job without sacrificing valuable time and money to attend a brick and mortar school. It must be noted that online training does not suit everyone, so consider your personality traits when considering this option.

Job Outlook

When considering a career it is always worthwhile to consider the job prospects and career outcome of that job. For a nurse that has wound ostomy continence nurse training, the job prospects are excellent. Overall we expect to see overwhelming growth in the nursing industry of about 22% from 2008 to 2018. This, clearly, will affect wound ostomy continence nurses positively. In addition any nurse that has a specialization in a particular area of nursing is broadening her job prospects significantly. This is because she will be able to work as a general nurse in health care setting where specializations are not required, and in addition she will also be employable in positions where wound ostomy continence expertise is needed. In short, nursing is a stable occupation, and having a specialization makes it even better.


Your level of experience will affect the salary that you will earn as a wound ostomy continence nurse. On average you can expect to earn something like $55,986 to $74,685 a year as a nurse with a specialty in this area. However it is important to note that the actual salary you will earn can be affected to quite a large degree by the state in which you work and live. In addition different cities within the same state often offer different rates. A wound ostomy continence nurse has the opportunity to earn, on average, a little more than an average registered nurse in a normal hospital setting. An average RN earns something in the region of $52,980 to $79,020. The difference is not enormous, but it is enough to make the specialty attractive.

This is a line of nursing in which you will have to be extremely comfortable with bodily fluids. It is a very necessary aspect of nursing, and someone has to do it. However, if you feel you might get disgusted by the tasks involved, an alternative form of nursing may be better for you to consider. Becoming involved in wound ostomy continence nursing can be a very good career move as it will open up your employment opportunities. In addition the salary is a little higher than that of an average RN, making it a good move financially as well. If you feel interested in this area of nursing, it may be the best option for you to choose.