Nurse changing a patient's bandages

Step-by-Step Guide to Wound Care

Learn the procedures, steps, risks, and requirements for wound care.

Supplies for wound care

Wound care encompasses every part of the wound management process. It’s a vital component of healthcare and may require special skills. In this area, medical professionals can determine the best treatment to foster healing and continue to assess the patient’s skin. Mastering this skill will lead to a much better experience for healthcare practitioners and their patients.

As you can see, wound care is an essential procedure used for many medical treatments. This fundamental skill is often an exciting prospect for new healthcare professionals.  Most Medical Assistants are trained to administer care for surface-level wounds. In addition, they are often helping other medical providers during various wound-care procedures.

This article provides an in-depth guide on the art and science of wound care, one of the most important healthcare procedures for medical staff.

(Click here to see our full list of the most common Medical Assisting duties and responsibilities).

(Click here to see our full list of the most common nursing duties and responsibilities).

Wound Care Definition

What is Wound Care?

When caring for a patient’s wound there are numerous factors to consider including wound type, wound healing, and proper treatment for wound management. Once a wound is appropriately diagnosed and all elements have been considered, the best treatment options can be determined. Stitches are often included, not to mention bandages and medication.

What is the Purpose of Wound Care?

Wound care helps patients heal faster so that they can resume daily activities. If you think about it, a chronic wound may detract from a person’s quality of life and stop them from doing the things they love. Proper wound care is an essential component of recovery, helps prevent infection, and accelerates the healing process with less scarring.

How Long Does it Take to Administer Wound Care?

Most wounds can be treated in a matter of minutes to under an hour. It greatly depends on the severity of the wound and the type of care it requires. For the patient, minor wounds and cuts typically heal in about five days. Keep in mind that bandaging without the moist barrier will not be as effective and may lengthen this timeframe.

Who Can Perform Wound Care?

Doctors, nurses, EMS workers, and other healthcare professionals can perform wound care. In addition, there are wound care specialists who have received specialized training to treat every kind of wound. There are certified wound care nurses as well. Certain levels of wound care can also be administered by a variety of other healthcare professionals, such as Medical Assistants.

The frequency by which Medical Assistants perform wound care can depend entirely on their location, specialization, and experience level. However, most MAs are trained to administer care for surface-level wounds. In addition, they are allowed to apply topical medication and assist other healthcare providers during debridement procedures (i.e., removing damaged tissue or foreign objects).

Below are some tasks MAs may perform under wound care:

  • Prepare and sanitize materials required for wound care.
  • Remove and appropriately dispose of old wound dressings.
  • Clean the wound using non-toxic antibacterial cleaning agents.
  • Apply topical medication—antibiotic or pain medication ointments—as directed by a physician.
  • Change the wound dressing.

(Click here to learn how to become a Medical Assistant).

Healthcare team gathered around a table

Training Requirements for Wound Care

Requirements for wound care can vary and depend on your location or profession. Aspiring nurses and other healthcare professionals will usually receive this training through their educational programs. If you would like to become a certified wound care nurse, you will likely need to meet the following requirements:

  • Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree.
  • Attend a board-approved certification program.
    • Or gain certification through experience.
  • Pass a wound care certification exam.

Some employers may prefer candidates with experience in healthcare. At Unitek College, we offer a Medical Assisting program that could give you a strong advantage when applying to nursing school or other healthcare positions. Our courses include topics like infection control, surgical technique and assistance, pharmacology, diagnostic imaging, and more.

Wound Care Procedure

With these steps, you can start to learn more about the process of wound care. Of course, like most skills, wound care requires time and practice to get it right. Remember to follow your facility’s rules and ask for help whenever necessary.

Wound Care Steps

Here are some of the general guidelines that healthcare professionals should follow when performing wound care:

  1. Before you address any type of wound, perform an overall assessment of the patient. This includes:
    • History. Go over the patient’s medical, surgical, pharmacological, and social history.
    • Examination. Examine the patient as a whole; then, focus on the wound.
    • Investigations. Ask yourself this question: What blood tests, x-rays, or scans do you require to help treat your patient?
  1. Determine which wound tissue type applies.
  2. Clean and dress the wound. This may include debridement, sutures, bandages, etc.
  3. Instruct the patient on wound care at home, including the importance of cleanliness and proper nutrition.
  4. Schedule a follow-up appointment with the patient.


After the procedure, patients with minor wounds can usually resume their normal activities. The four phases of wound healing range from hemostasis to inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, most wounds are repaired after about three months. The new skin should be around 80 percent as strong as it was before the injury took place.

Necessary Equipment for Wound Care

Typically, the suggested supplies for wound care include but are not limited to the following items:

  • Gauze sponges
  • Non-woven sponges
  • Medical tape
  • Alcohol pads
  • Face masks
  • Bandages and dressings:
  • Suture removal kits
  • Medical gloves
  • Gauze rolls
  • Cotton-tipped applicators
  • Medical drapes
  • Cotton balls

Potential Risks or Complications of Wound Care

Serious wound care complications can include several conditions. If a patient experiences one of the following symptoms, they should contact their doctor immediately.

  • Chills or a fever over 101degrees Fahrenheit
  • Warmth, swelling, redness, or pain at the wound
  • Puss, a bad smell, or more drainage than usual
  • Sudden, excessive bleeding from the wound.
  • A feeling of hardness or fullness around the wound.
  • Any opening of stitches or staples.

The word tips in wooden letter blocks

Pro Tips for Mastering the Art of Wound Care

Here are some pro wound care tips that may assist you in the future:

  • Remember the big three: With proper wound care, you can help prevent infection, accelerate healing, and minimize scarring. Wound care can make a big difference in the life and future of your patient.
  • Ask patients to be their own advocate: It’s important to ensure that you or your patient changes their dressings, notes the wound’s progress, and makes observations of any unusual symptoms (i.e., bleeding or discharge). Generally speaking, wounds should be cleaned once a day with disinfectant for wound care, clean water or saline, and fresh dressings.
  • Keep wounds covered: Tell your patient that it’s vital they keep their wounds covered. In fact, there’s a potentially dangerous myth that wounds heal more quickly if left uncovered. The opposite is true; covering the wound actually speeds up the healing process.
  • Know that debridement isn’t always necessary: If you’re managing a complex or slow-healing wound, keep in mind that there are cases when wound debridement (removal of dead tissue) is not appropriate and symptom control is best. For instance, dry eschar (dead tissue) shouldn’t always be removed—sometimes, it acts as its own dressing.
  • Know when surgical intervention is required: Wounds that normally do not heal without surgical or medical intervention include arterial ulcers, skin cancers and tumors, and wounds resulting from an autoimmune disorder.
  • Instruct your patient on nutrition intake: In order to promote cellular growth, the patient must have an adequate intake of protein, vitamin C, zinc, and iron. While there are other nutrients that play a critical role, these four are the ones considered most vital.
  • Teach your patients first-aid techniques: Some first-aid guidelines can help your patients care for minor cuts or scrapes, including:
    • Wash your hands.
    • Stop the bleeding.
    • Clean the wound.
    • Apply an antibiotic or petroleum jelly.
    • Cover the wound.
    • Change the dressing.
    • Get a tetanus shot.
    • Watch for signs of infection.
  • Check out some great resources: If you are interested in being a part of an exclusive Wound Management chapter, you can consider joining the WOCN Society of Nurses. This is a society where wound care nurses share best practices and gain access to research, journals, and continuing education courses. For other wound care resources, check out the links below!

Why Should Medical Assistants Learn How to Perform Wound Care?

Although most facilities employ nurses and other healthcare professionals, it can be very beneficial for Medical Assistants to learn wound-care skills as allowed per state law. This is because nurses may not always be available in smaller settings or even larger ones like hospitals.

While surface-level wound care isn’t always a job requirement for MAs, it is a valuable skill that can lead to greater opportunities. Therefore, it would be advantageous for MAs or aspiring Medical Assistants to pursue the proper training. Once they are prepared to perform certain wound-care tasks, an MA could become more indispensable to their employer and possibly gain greater responsibilities.

Medical professionals joining hands

Start Your Career in Medical Assisting

The ability to administer surface-level wound care is an important skill that aspiring Medical Assistants should learn for their careers. It’s also an essential medical practice for the recovery process.

Think about it: Wound care promotes healing, helps prevent infection, and lessens scarring. Once a wound is properly diagnosed and all elements have been considered, the best treatment options can be determined for each patient.

If you’re feeling inspired and want to pursue a career in medicine, Unitek College offers various healthcare programs, such as our Medical Assisting program.

Contact us today to learn more about our programs and tuition assistance options. Take the first step toward a rewarding future in healthcare!