As average life expectancy increases, conditions that are associated with wound management issues are becoming more prevalent in our society. The rise of diseases such as diabetes and peripheral arterial disease is leading to an increase in the number of chronic wound sufferers, resulting in a greater need for qualified individuals who can effectively treat these patients and improve their long-term prognosis.1
Wound care certification is a way that patients and facilities can be reassured that appropriately qualified clinicians are caring for them. Unfortunately, certification bodies are subject to few if any legal restrictions from state or federal agencies and almost any organization can claim to be a credentialing association.9 Accreditation can help lessen the confusion.
With the advent of the Internet, unaccredited wound care certifications and wound care certificate pathways are on the rise, causing confusion and a lack of standardization within the industry. This is further compounded by organizations promoting certifications that offer the same certification exam and credentials, irrespective of the applicant’s level of education or professional license.
This article discusses the currently available wound care certifications, the importance of choosing and accredited wound care certification program, and the benefits of accredited wound care certification.
Education and Training of Wound Care Professionals
Currently, there is no uniform system in place to gauge the knowledge and training of health care professionals in wound care. In addition wound care certificate programs and non-accredited wound care certification programs are on the rise. The lack of standardization regarding levels of education and certification within the specialty of wound care is an important issue affecting both patients and facilities. Therefore it vital that health care professionals and facilities carefully research the programs of study and wound care certifications available, before deciding on which path to choose.
Accreditation of Wound Care Certification Programs
Accreditation is a means of validating and authenticating a certification program and provides reassurance that the educational and assessment process involved is rigorous, valid and meets or exceeds industry standards.8,9 Accreditation is an assertion of quality and provides a ready means of identifying excellence in training, knowledge and expertise.
Accreditation of wound care certification programs provides impartial, third party validation that the program has met recognized national and international credentialing industry standards for development, implementation, and maintenance of certification programs.
Accreditation demonstrates that the credentials given by the certifying program are based on valid and reliable testing. Lisa Q Corbett, Advances in Wound Care6
It is essential, therefore, that persons interested in pursuing certification in wound care investigate whether the credentialing program is accredited and if so, by whom.
Certifying programs may earn accreditation only after extensive review by an external, independent accrediting body. Importantly, in order to qualify for accreditation, the certification exam must be independent of a specific class, course or other educational training program and also independent of any provider of classes, courses, or programs. Indeed, to maintain accreditation, it is essential that the certification program remain truly independent of any educational program offering training to sit for the certification test, so as to not appear biased that a specific program is recommended to pass the test.13 Additionally, by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) standards, no educational body can formally recommend their coursework solely to pass the examination, and in fact, it is recommended that an educational body list all alternative courses for formal study.14 The Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC) has similar criteria, where it clearly spells out the requirements as well as the elimination of undue influence of specific training programs that prepare the individual to sit for the accredited certification test:15
“Eligibility criteria should be based on a series of variables indicative of knowledge, skills, and abilities required for specialty practice and which are expected to enhance safe and effective practice. These variables may include education, experience, prerequisite credentials, references, and performance on an objective examination. Each variable in the eligibility criteria is defined by the certifying organization, the profession, and other stakeholders.” 27
“The certifying organization must be sufficiently independent from the specialty membership association to ensure integrity of the certification process, maintain clear lines of accountability, and prevent undue influence on the part of vested interests.” 27
Two major accrediting agencies exist that effect the formal certification of wound care:8,9
- National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). See NCCA accreditation standards
- Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC). See ABSNC accreditation standards
Current Accredited Wound Care Certification Programs
Accredited wound care certification requires prior wound care experience on the part of the candidate. Two organizations exist that currently offer formally recognized accredited certifications in wound care:
- The American Board of Wound Management (ABWM)
Wound certifications offered: CWCA, CWS, CWSP
- The Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB)
Wound certifications offered: CWCN
Non-accredited Wound Care Certification Programs and Certificate of Completion Courses
Wound care certification and certificate services offered by other organizations may be non-accredited certifications or merely certificates of completion, which can be mistaken for an accredited wound care certification. Two examples are:
- National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy (NAWCO)
Wound certifications offered: WCC
- VOHRA Wound Physicians
It should be noted that both the ABWM and the WOCNCB accredited wound care certifications differentiate educational levels, while other organizations that offer non-accredited certifications and certificates of completion present the same testing level for each test, whether the individual is an licensed practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or medical doctor (MD).
Achieving certification in a particular area of expertise is a worthwhile and noble pursuit, with tangible benefits for patients, employers and self. However, before embarking on a program of study and certification program, it is worth taking the time to research the available options. The wound care certification course should be rigorous, commensurate with the learners’ level of education and academic degree and prepare the individual for an accredited certification. The benefits of such a program and certification would ensure that the individuals credential met industry standards, and carried the prestige of a formal accredited certification.
For detailed information about accredited wound certification, download our white-paper
“Wound Care Certification; The Importance of Formal Accredited Certification in Wound Care”
- Duffy J, Carlson T. Understanding Wound Care Center Certifications. Today’s Wound Clinic 2011;5(5).
- Chizek M. Wound Care and Lawsuits. Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses, 2003;5(7):31.
- Fowler E. Deposed: A Personal Perspective, Legal Issues in the Care of Pressure Ulcer Patients: Key Concepts for Healthcare Providers, Medline.
- Fife CE, Yankowsky K. Avoiding Legal Pitfalls for Home Health Services in Wound Care. Today’s Wound Clinic 2013;7(4).
- Corbett L. Wound Care Nursing: Professional Issues and Opportunities. Advances in Wound Care, 2012;1(5):189–193.
- ABWM http://www.abwmcertified.org/abwm-certified/cwca/cwca-faqs)
- Darrah J. Measuring the Value of Wound Care Certification in a Quality-Based Healthcare System. Ostomy Wound Management, 2016;62(9):1943–2720.
- Rappl L, Flec C, Hecker D, et al. Wound Care Organizations, Programs, and Certifications: An Overview. Ostomy Wound Management, 2007;53(11):28–39.
- ABNS website; http://www.nursingcertification.org/. Accessed 18 January 2017.
- ICE website; http://www.credentialingexcellence.org. Accessed 18 January 2017.
- Sharkey S. Leveraging Certified Nursing Assistant Documentation and Knowledge to Improve Clinical Decision Making: The On-Time Quality Improvement Program to Prevent Pressure Ulcers, Advances in Skin & Wound Care
- Defining Features of Quality Certification and Assessment-Based Certificate Programs. Institute for Credentialing Excellence, 2010. Available from https://www.acfchefs.org/download/documents/certify/certification/certification_vs_certificate.pdf Accessed 18 January 2017.
- 2016 NCCA Summary Document. Interpretation of Standards, Institute of Credentialing Excellence, 2016.
- Accreditation standards. Revised 7-11-2016. Available from http://www.nursingcertification.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ABSNC-Accreditation-Standards-071116.docx. Accessed 18 January 2017.
- Certification vs. Certificate. How is certification different than a certificate? Available from http://www.amwa.org/certification_differences. Accessed 18 January 2017.
- Why Certify? The Benefits of Nursing Certification. American Nurses Credentialing Center, March 5, 2010. Available from http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/717805#vp_1. Accessed 14 January 2017.
- ABWM Certified. CWS: Why Certify? Available from http://www.abwmcertified.org/abwm-certified/cws/cws-why-certify. Accessed 15 January 2017.
- Mee C. Salary Survey. Nursing 2006;36(10):46–51.
- Poliey L. The Benefits of Dedicated Home Nursing for Treating Wounds. Harvard Business Review, September 19, 2013.
- Brem H, Maggi J, Nierman D, et al. High cost of stage IV pressure ulcers. Am J Surg. 2010;200(4):473–477.
- Zaratkiewicz S. Development and Implementation of a Hospital-Acquired Pressure Ulcer Incidence Tracking System and Algorithm. Journal of Healthcare Quality 2010;32(6):44-51.
- Kendall-Gallagher D, Aiken LH, Sloane DM, Cimiotti JP. Nurse specialty certification, inpatient mortality, and failure to rescue. Nurse Scholarship, 2011;43:188.
- Zulkowski K, Ayello EA, Wexler S. Certification and education: do they affect pressure ulcer knowledge in Nursing? Adv Skin Wound Care. 2007;20(1):34-8.
- Westra BL, Bliss DA, Savik K, et al. Effectiveness of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses on Agency-Level Wound and Incontinence Outcomes in Home Care. J Wound Ostomy Continence Nurs 2013;40(1):25–53.
- ABNS http://www.cc-institute.org/docs/aprn-articles/2013/01/21/ABSNC%20Accreditation%20Standards%2006%2020%202012%20PDF.pdf?Status=Master