WOCNs Are Scarce. Can A Specialized Wound Documentation System Help RNs Fill The Gap?

Digital wound care management dramatically improves the efficiency of a limited staff

They deserve recognition every day–but we’re celebrating our Wound, Ostomy, Continence Nurses (WOCNs) extra this April 17-23. It may be WOCN week, but these nurses give excellent care to a staggeringly broad range of patients every day.

They may work with fellow WOCNs or by themselves moving case-to-case. Either way, they help any facility give their patients truly holistic care. They’re insightful, intuitive, and collaborative. They’re no stranger to working with many specialties to help a patient get the specialized wound care they need.

Because their caseloads are usually large and broad, they need all the support they can get.  Their RN colleagues are essential team members, as they often continue the WOCN’s care when they’re not there.

But the significant shortage in the specialty can hardly be filled by the RNs available. In the 40+ years the WOCNCB has certified nurses…less than 10,000 WOCNs have been certified. Yet the US healthcare system handles over 5.7 million patients with chronic wounds annually. This doesn’t even include acute wounds–estimated at over 17 million patients annually.

Both the RN and the WOC-trained RN have wound care education. However, WOCNs also train rigorously for 2-3 months. Their alternative course is to accumulate 50 related CEUs and a whopping 1500 hours of wound care over 5 years. To get certified, they then need to pass the Wound Ostomy Continence Nursing Certification Board exam.

On the other hand, an RN without a WOC certification may only have a few hours of wound care training in their entire education. This training might only be in lectures, and not clinical practice.

With such a vast gap in education and experience–how can RNs and WOCNs help each other give patients quality continuity of care?

A patient’s care continuity relies on the staff’s communication. While a face-to-face report is indispensable, it’s not conducive to keeping every staff member up-to-date.

The biggest factor in streamlined communication–and the education gap for RNs–is the facility’s documentation system. When it comes to the documentation of wound care and ostomies, a system’s user-friendliness may be the difference between a patient getting prompt care…or grossly delayed interventions.

Without an efficient digital wound management system, how will a WOCN compare a current wound to what it looked like last week? How can their RN colleague visualize the WOCN’s assessment of an ostomy if the RN is unfamiliar with what a healthy one looks like?

Here are 6 crucial features of a robust digital wound management system in supporting a WOCN:

1.   An efficient system is user-friendly for both RNs and WOCNs.

These professionals are working together, so it only makes sense for the digital system to feel familiar to both. A digital tool can help reconcile differences in education and experience. A user-friendly platform for charting assessments helps prompt a nurse to chart relevant details.

The easier a platform is to use, the faster a nurse can chart correctly. For example, a nurse can measure a wound 47% faster (and with 95% accuracy) with WoundZoom’s image-capturing measurement technology. Manually measuring a wound with a ruler, then inputting it into the chart, is replaced by taking a single picture that uploads straight to the chart.

Consistency promotes accurate documentation, which is critical for a facility that wants to maintain a standard of practice.

“[Our] non-WOCNs all learned and grew their wound care understanding as a result of using [WoundZoom].” –a home health WoundZoom client

2.   A great ostomy & wound care management system is organized & intuitive.

Would an ostomy assessment go under wounds–or lines and drains? Would an incontinence skin breakdown go under an integumentary assessment–or a wound? There’s no need for different nursing staff to be charting these assessment details in inconsistent places.

Duplicate charting–and charting gaps–are too common in wound, ostomy, and continence care. These have devastating implications on continuity of care. A good digital wound management system can transfer the assessment right where it needs to go in the EHR.

Removing an inefficient and disorganized charting system gives nurses a quick pre-assessment review–and more time to spend with the patient. With today’s limited RN staffing, there’s no room to slow down their care with extra steps in charting.

3.   Care handoff details should be extremely clear.

Wounds can deteriorate rapidly. Chronic conditions, like incontinence, diabetes, or venous insufficiency, are prime culprits. Even diabetic foot wounds are often delayed over a month in getting specialized wound treatment.

Does your wound charting system have a report-friendly dashboard? Can it pull an RN or WOCN’s wound documentation details into automatic graphs to track patient progress? If not, a patient’s wound, ostomy, or continence care is at serious risk of declining without notice.

4.   A good system lets WOCNs set a standard of charting with their documentation of wound care.

Missing information–especially for ostomy care–is a huge problem. It’s a common contributor to inappropriate payments for a patient’s supplies. Supply companies often review a patient’s assessment to determine coverage. A nurse’s missed measurement or exudate assessment might deny a patient’s coverage. The WOCN picking up care then needs to work with patients who couldn’t get their supplies.

To avoid missed assessment details, a robust digital wound management system prompts nurses to chart critical details quickly.

5.   A WOCN’s wound documentation should allow easy picture uploads.

Written records are standard for assessments. But what truly elevates a wound/ostomy assessment is images.

While nurses aim to assess objectively, there’s plenty of room for different interpretations. For example, an RN that’s not familiar with how a specific wound or ostomy looks may have trouble recognizing infection signs. When there are images, an RN can learn from a WOCN’s corresponding assessment.

Images aren’t just valuable for reference. A state-of-the-art system (like WoundZoom) can take accurate measurements from an image alone. This dramatically improves the accuracy of a patient’s progression–especially when measurements are taken by different nurses.

6.   A WOCN or RN should be able to enter, save, and access multiple patients’ data with ease.

WOCNs typically need to give care between the patient’s care from other providers. Patient care should never trump documentation, but it’s difficult to keep up if a charting system will only save notes if signed. A WOCN should be able to get notes and then complete them later.

In many facilities, a WOCN is also in charge of the wound, ostomy, and continence quality improvement. Can they easily see all patients with a wound or ostomy? Can they track interventions across different patients? A robust WOCN wound documentation system helps to prevent chart-digging and manually organizing data.

Improve the efficiency of limited staff with WoundZoom: the HIPAA-compliant digital tool that uploads data straight to your EHR

If your current EHR or wound care management tool can’t:

  • Let you upload pictures quickly and efficiently
  • Take accurate, automatic measurements from a single image
  • Transform assessment data into trend tables
  • Allow staff to chart now and sign later on multiple patients

…then you’re not supporting your WOCNs with gold-standard tools for their documentation of wound care and ostomies.

Celebrate the valuable work your WOCNs do by making their job easier. When the whole team documents efficiently and completely, patients benefit.

Request your 30-minute FREE demo today to discover how WoundZoom can improve your team’s efficiency and care planning.

Meta title: Support Your WOCNs & Improve Your RN Wound Care With One Tool

Meta description: Happy WOCN week! Support your medical team–and improve continuity of care–with an ostomy & wound care management system that’s user-friendly to all nurses.