Today begins Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (WOC) Nurse Week which runs April 11to 17 this year and brings a focus to WOC nurses who care for patients with a wide range of wounds and conditions.
Sponsored by the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society (WOCN), this week promotes the work WOC nurses do in their daily interactions with patients and as policy influencers on a local, national, and global scale. As nurses who care for those with incontinence (fecal or urinary), ostomies, or wounds that are non-healing, WOC nurses must rely on their ability to think critically, pivot when things change unexpectedly, and remain committed to lifelong learning for the best patient outcomes and the greatest career satisfaction.
WOC nurses fill many roles as they act as advocates for their patients, educators for patients and their loved ones, resources for their healthcare teams, and leaders in the areas of policy and protections for patients with these varied conditions. Because wound, ostomy, and continence nurses understand the conditions and the physical and emotional challenges all wounds bring, they are able to create meaningful and lasting change in the healthcare system.
Nurses can participate in all levels of advocacy to help patient outcomes and also to protect nurses in the industry. The WOCN suggests writing to a legislator, spreading awareness through social media channels, or meeting with representatives to inform them of concerns or challenges facing nurses and patients in this area. WOC nurses can also act as resources for their local communities by offering educational seminars about healthcare conditions, assistance options, and even current research and progress.
WOC nurses who value the constant learning their jobs provide are able to find different avenues to advance their expertise. As with other nursing practices, becoming certified as a WOC nurse is essential to providing the best patient care possible. The Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Certification Board offers information on how to begin. As a WOC nurse, certification is available in several areas depending on your specialty and focus including wound, ostomy, and continence care; foot care; advanced practice wound, ostomy, and continence care; and recertification that’s needed every five years. Options are also available through the National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy and the American Board of Wound Management. As with most certification paths, you’ll need to have experience in wound care before you apply for the certification exam, and it’s helpful to have general nursing experience in a related area as well.
Wound care expertise is in high demand, and nurses in this specialty will treat all kinds of complex wounds from a tube to a burn to diabetic wounds to surgical wounds to pressure wounds. Nurses help patients and their healthcare teams manage the care of their wounds so the body can heal properly and prevent infection.
The patient burden for coping with wounds, which are sometimes exceptionally painful, can’t be understated. Nurses will also navigate through the emotional and psychological supports of wound management so patients will be able to have healthy outcomes where risks of infection and pain are as minimal as possible. They will work closely with patients and often form close bonds as they help treat long-term or chronic wounds and conditions.
If you’re a WOC nurse, take this week to celebrate your strong influence on your patients and to even spend some time learning something new in your field through a seminar, a new journal, or a discussion with nurses in your network or members of a professional organization.