As average life expectancy increases, conditions associated with wound management 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 an 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 healthcare 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 for levels of education and certification within the wound care specialty is an important issue affecting both patients and facilities. Therefore, it is vital that healthcare professionals and facilities carefully research the programs of study and wound care certifications available before deciding which path to choose.
Accreditation of Wound Care Certification Programs
Accreditation is a means of validating and authenticating a certification program, and it provides reassurance that the educational and assessment process involved is rigorous, valid, and in-line with industry standards.8,9 Accreditation is an assertion of quality and gives 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 be 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, according to the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), no educational body can formally recommend their coursework solely to pass the examination; instead, an educational body should list all alternative courses for formal study.14 The Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC) has similar criteria that clearly spell out the requirements thus eliminating the 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
There are two major accrediting agencies for the formal certification of wound care:8,9
- National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).
- Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification (ABSNC).
Current Accredited Wound Care Certification Programs
Accredited wound care certification requires the candidate to have prior wound care experience. Three organizations 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
- National Alliance of Wound Care and Ostomy (NAWCO)
Wound certifications offered:WCC Wound Care Certified
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.
- 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 a 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 the professionals themselves. However, before embarking on a certification program, it is worth taking the time to research the available options. The wound care certification course should be rigorous and commensurate with the learner’s level of education and academic degree, and it should prepare the individual for accredited certification. The benefits of such a program and certification would ensure that the individual’s credentials meet industry standards and carry 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”
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- Chizek, M. (2003). Wound care and lawsuits. Advance Healthcare Network for Nurses, 5(7), 31.
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- Fife, C. E. & Yankowsky, K. (2013). Avoiding legal pitfalls for home health services in wound care. Today’s Wound Clinic, 7(4).
- Corbett, L. (2012). Wound care nursing: Professional issues and opportunities. Advances in Wound Care, 1(5), 189–193.
- ABWM Certified. (n.d.). Frequently asked questions. Retrieved from http://www.abwmcertified.org/abwm-certified/cwca/cwca-faqs
- Darrah, J. (2016). Measuring the value of wound care certification in a quality-based healthcare system. Ostomy Wound Management, 62(9), 1943–2720.
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- Institute for Credentialing Excellence. (2010). Defining Features of Quality Certification and Assessment-Based Certificate Programs. Retrieved from https://www.acfchefs.org/download/documents/certify/certification/certification_vs_certificate.pdf
- NCCA Summary Document. (2016). Interpretation of Standards, Institute of Credentialing Excellence.
- (2016). Accreditation standards. Revised 7-11-2016. Retrieved from http://www.nursingcertification.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/ABSNC-Accreditation-Standards-071116.docx. Accessed 18 January 2017.
- (n.d.). Certification vs. Certificate. How is certification different than a certificate? Retrieved from http://www.amwa.org/certification_differences. Accessed 18 January 2017.
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- Westra, B. L., Bliss, D. A., Savik, K., et al. (2013). Effectiveness of wound, ostomy, and continence nurses on agency-level wound and incontinence outcomes in home care. Journal of Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing, 40(1), 25–53.
- (n.d.). Eligibility. Retrieved from https://www.wocncb.org/certification/wound-ostomy-continence/eligibility
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