Wound Specialists: How They Are Different

Wound specialists are health care professionals who have been trained in the care and treatment of all types of wounds, acute and chronic. Among the most commonly treated wounds are those sustained from an acute injury, surgical wounds, diabetic wounds and pressure sores.

Additionally, health care professionals are needed to help the estimated 5 million Americans who suffer from wounds that will not heal. Those suffering from wounds that will not heal experience a disruption to their everyday lives, and wound specialists can have a significant impact on their quality of life.

How They Are Different

These health care professionals and technicians are specially trained in wound care. After successfully completing the basic courses for a career in the health care field, a wound care specialist accrues at least three years of experience in wound care before sitting for a written examination to prove their specialized knowledge and competence. To maintain their wound care specialist status, continuing education credits and periodic re-certification testing is required.

Who They Are

Nurses, a variety of specialty physicians, physical therapists and medical technicians all work together as a multidisciplinary team to deliver care to patients with acute, chronic and non-healing wounds of all types. They work in acute care hospitals, emergency rooms, nursing homes, home health agencies, clinics and other health care facilities.

Nurses clean, treat and dress wounds as well as teach patients and their families how to care for the wound at home. Educating the patient and family is important to not only promote healing but to help watch for signs of infection that can delay healing and extend the need for professional care. Nurses are instrumental in developing and executing a formal plan of care for the patient.

Nurses seeking to become a certified wound specialist can do so through the American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM). These certified professionals not only care for open wounds, but are also instrumental in treating and educating new and established patients. In this capacity, they make an initial assessment and plan of care while the patient is still hospitalized and then continue home care while the patient adjusts to the new way of life, whether permanent or temporary in nature.

Physicians caring for wounds may come from several different disciplines including general surgery, vascular surgery, podiatry and dermatology, among others. Other medical specialists may become involved in patient care, depending upon the origin, location and extent of the wound. Plastic surgery may be another involved discipline. Doctors also attain certification through the American Academy of Wound Management to become a Certified Wound Specialist Physician (CWSP).

A primary care physician is often the referring doctor and is instrumental in coordinating communication and therapy among the team of wound care specialists.

Physical therapists in some health care facilities work with patients requiring wound care. They specialize in treatment modalities such as ultrasound, electrical stimulation, whirlpool and compression therapy, among others.

Why See a Wound Care Specialist?

Wound care specialists deliver cutting-edge health care. As a multidisciplinary team, the combined expertise and diverse clinical knowledge may cover a wide range of modalities to improve the patient's wound healing and thus, improve their quality of life.

Some wounds the health care team treats may include:

A patient with a wound that has not healed after one month of conventional therapy is often referred to a wound care specialist for further evaluation and treatment. The wound specialist may add new therapies such as a specialized treatment like the hyperbaric oxygen chamber to improve the healing process. Hyperbaric treatments provide 100% oxygen inside a pressurized chamber to aid healing.
A key role of a wound specialist lies in patient and family education. Wounds heal differently for everyone and improvements are not seen overnight. Wound specialists need to demonstrate patience and compassion to their patients as they navigate the often long road to recovery.
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