After you have sent in your application package, you’re ready to start preparing to take the certified wound care associate exam (CWCA). The first thing you’ll want to know is what is covered on the exam, and what are its structure and format. The American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM) has written a Handbook for Candidates that it is has published on its website. This handbook provides a lot of important information, so make sure you read it thoroughly.
The handbook contains a complete description of how the test is developed as well as all of the topics covered. Here is an overview of that information.
How the Test is Developed
The AAWM has certified wound care associates and certified wound care specialists (the physician-level certification) to develop the questions that appear on the CWCA exam. The question developers are supervised by the AAWM exam chair and the Professional Testing Corporation. The test committee meets two or three times a year to evaluate the questions and their validity. The Professional Testing Corporation performs statistical analysis on the questions to validate their effectiveness.
Test Structure, Format, and Topics
Once the questions are developed, the final version of the exam contains 120 questions. Examinees have three hours to complete the exam. All questions are multiple choice. The CWCA exam covers five primary topic areas. Here is a list of those areas, along with details of what they contain and how many items are associated with each section.
Section 1: Physical Assessment
The AAWM Handbook for Candidates notes that the Physical Assessment section of the exam represents 25 percent of the total exam. The following list of items should give you a good indication of what this section of the exam is all about:
- Anatomy (skin layers, blood cells, collagen, etc.)
- Physiology (phases of healing, wounds in the elderly, contraction, inflammation, etc.)
- Pathophysiology (wound fluid, undermining, tunneling, etc.)
- Understanding diagnostic tests (culturing, use of Doppler, lab values, radiologic examinations, etc.)
- Assessment of skin and wounds (wound characteristics, wound measurement, inflammatory signs, etc.)
- Vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, respiration, etc.)
- Wound types (ischemic, venous, uncommon, etc)
- Factors affecting healing (obesity, age, infection, etc.)
- Medical history
- Assessment of edema (assessing pit, volumetrics, etc.)
Section II: Patient Preparation
This second section of the exam represents 15 percent of the total exam questions and includes the following topics:
- Transfers (chair to bed, chair to chair, etc)
- Patient comfort (positioning, treatment environment)
- Pain issues (pain scales, time outs, etc.)
- Sterile fields
- Clean versus sterile technique
- Disinfecting equipment (agents and techniques)
- Infection control/safety (considerations, precautions, etc.)
- Dressing removal/cleansing wounds
Section III: Treatment
The Treatment section of the CWCA exam is 20 percent of the exam and it covers the following information:
- Compression (bandaging, stockings, etc.)
- Debridement (autolytic, mechanical, surgical, etc.)
- Dressings (classes of dressings, functions, etc.)
- Topicals (ointments, creams, etc.)
- Hydrotherapy (whirlpool, irrigation, etc.)
- Physical agents (ultrasound, infrared, etc.)
- Surgery (grafts, dissection, etc.)
- Pressure management (positioning, prevention, orthotics, etc.)
- Assisting with casting
- Assistive devices
Section IV: Patient/Caregiver Information
The patient/caregiver information section of the CWCA carries the most weight, at 30 percent of the exam. Here are the items this section covers:
- Compression therapy (application, proper home care, etc.)
- Wound cleansing
- Reduction of pressure (use of pressure, proper positioning, etc.)
- Offloading insensate feet (proper use of devices, identifying pressure points)
- Skin care/protection (moisturizers, emollients, etc.)
- Shoe wear
- Rationale for treatment
- Standard precautions
- Reinforcement of smoking cessation
- Psychosocial issues
Section V: Administration
The administration section is the smallest section of the exam. It contains the following topics:
- Discharge planning
- Documentation tools
- Maintenance of patient privacy
- Equipment maintenance
- Wound care team
- Patient care plans
- Photo documentation
- Legal and ethical issues
Benefits of Becoming a Certified Wound Care Associate
There seem to be countless certifications for health care professionals, whether they are doctors, nurses, nurse aids, or others, and determining which certification would benefit you most can be difficult. If you are a registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), nurse practitioner, nurse aid, physician’s assistant or a similar care provider, you may want to consider earning your certified wound care associate designation (CWCA). The CWCA is offered by the American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM), a national interdisciplinary certifying board for health care professionals who are involved in wound care, and there are several benefits to obtaining this certification.
- The Need for Wound Care Specialists
Statistics bear out the fact that people are living longer than in years past. However, as people age their mobility isn’t always as good as it was when they were younger. There is a prevalence of falls among older populations, and this translates into chronic wounds. Doctors also note that the number of patients with diabetes and the number of obese people in the country is also rising, and these patient populations are also prone to falls, accidents, and other situations that lead to chronic wounds. There is definitely a need in the health care community for health care providers who have highly developed wound care skills.
- So What Benefits does Certification Provide?
The health care provider isn’t the only one to receive the benefit of earning the CWCA designation. Because the CWCA professional has in-depth knowledge of wound care, he or she will be able to provide better care to wounded patients. CWCA professionals will also have more confidence in his or her skills as a health care provider and feel more equipped to meet the needs of various patient populations.
Of course there are many professional benefits to gaining the CWCA as well. As a CWCA professional, you may become recognized at your health care facility for being a knowledgeable specialist in wound care. This could lead to many different benefits such as training others or asking to speak on wound care at your facility. When it comes to obtaining a new job, having the CWCA designation on your resume shows employers that you are dedicated and committed to your job, as well as dedicated and committed to gaining knowledge and learning the most up to date techniques and methods of wound care. If you aren’t interested in gaining employment elsewhere, having the designation can also lead to promotions or other advancements within your current organization. Employers view professionals who become certified as future leaders, which means you could be asked to become a supervisor or manager, if you meet other job requirements.
What Kind of Health Care Professional Should Become Certified?
If you are currently working in an emergency room, urgent care facility, nursing home, or similar environment, you will be exposed more often to wounds and so would benefit from obtaining this certification. Pediatric providers would also benefit from this certification. If you already specialize in a practice area that seldom encounters wounds, then this may not be an appropriate designation for you to pursue. However, most health care providers in general settings such as doctor’s offices, nursing homes, urgent care clinics, and hospitals would benefit. Paramedics and other emergency service responders would also benefit from pursuing the CWCA certification, if they meet other eligibility requirements.
To see if you are eligible to apply for the CWCA designation, you can visit the AAWM website, or read the article on this website titled “Eligibility Requirements for the CWCA Certification and How to Become Certified.”
Eligibility Requirements for the CWCA Certification and How to Become Certified
If you’ve decided that becoming a certified wound care associate (CWCA) will be of benefit to you, your next questions will be about eligibility and how to apply. You will be happy to note that there is no higher level education requirement needed to be eligible to take the CWCA exam from the American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM). Here are the two primary eligibility requirements:
- You must have at least three years of clinical wound care experience.
- You must possess a high school diploma.
Clinical experience means hands-on patient care experience, such as being a registered nurse, LPN, nurse aid, nurse manager, physician’s assistant, etc.
How to Become Certified
Like any other professional certification offering, to become a certified wound care associate, you will need to apply for certification, verify your experience, study for an exam, take the exam and pass it. The AAWM website provides a great deal of information about this entire process, including renewal and recertification information. Make sure to do your homework and get all of the information you can about the certification process, and contact the AAWM if you have any questions. Here are more details about how to become certified.
Preparing Your Application Packet
The AAWM has written and published its Handbook for Candidates, which is available on the AAWM website. All examination candidates should read this handbook completely, because it provides a great deal of information that they should know as they go through the certification process. On page 4 of the handbook is the application packet checklist. It gives you an item by item list of all of the documents you need to prepare and submit for your application. You are required to use the checklist, checking each item off as you have it ready, and then submit the checklist with all of the other documents as part of your application packet.
Here are the items you are required to prepare and include in your application packet:
- You must read the AAWM Code of Ethics and sign and include a statement (provided by the AAWM in the Handbook) that says that you have read them and will adhere to them.
- The AAWM asks for you to provide a current resume or CV.
- You are asked to provide a detailed description of three years of clinical wound care experience.
- Copies of all licenses you hold and any board certifications.
- A transcript from the educational institution from which you received your highest degree, whether that’s high school or college. The AAWM requests that the transcript be in the original, sealed envelope from the school.
- A completed application form, which is provided in the Handbook.
- Three letters of recommendation. The AAWM asks that you send them in original, sealed envelopes.
- Testing center application (must be filled out using a pencil), which is also provided in the Handbook.
- Payment for taking the exam (see below).
- The completed checklist.
All of these materials must be sent to the AAWM in one package, not separately. Also, make sure to mail your packet so that it is postmarked before the application deadline. You should plan to start the process at least four or five weeks prior to the deadline to give yourself plenty of time to get all of the materials together. The AAWM offers a discount to applicants who send in their package early (the fee is $300). If your package is postmarked by the deadline (not early), the fee is $350. If your package is postmarked after the deadline, there is an added $50 late fee.
Once you have sent in the application, you will receive confirmation from the AAWM at least six weeks prior to the test date that you have been approved to take the exam at the testing site you chose when you completed the testing center application. Once you’ve taken the exam, the AAWM will notify you of your status (whether you passed the exam or not) six weeks. If you passed you’ll receive your certificate with the notification.
Benefits of Using Practice Tests for the CWCA Exam
When you apply to take the certified wound care associate (CWCA) exam offered by the American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM), make sure to allow plenty of time to study before the exam date, usually at least 90 days before the exam day. Your preparation for the exam should include taking practice exams. You should take at least two different exams and they should be taken at different times during your preparation process. Here is more information about practice tests and why they are beneficial.
What are practice tests like?
The AAWM offers its practice test, which available for you to purchase and take online. Since all practice tests cost money, make sure to research each test you’re considering to make sure it will benefit you. The AAWM practice test costs $75.00. This test contains 50 questions and you have two hours to complete it. You then receive an instant report letting you know your score, as well as how you scored in each of the sections the test covers. It’s important to note, however, that this instant score report does not tell you which questions you missed, only how many you missed in each section. You’ll need to look at each question and find the answers to determine which ones you answered incorrectly. This practice exam obviously doesn’t include all of the material that the much larger, actual exam covers. The sections it does cover include Physical Assessment, Patient Preparation, Treatment, Patient/Caregiver Information, and Administration. The AAWM notes that taking the test does not necessarily indicate how well you will do on the actual exam. It is designed as a tool to let you see your strengths and weaknesses.
Other practice exams are not sanctioned or endorsed by the AAWM. In fact, the AAWM does not endorse any study guide or tool. However, there are other practice tests available that offer more questions and a broader coverage of the exam topics. Some of these are online, and some are not. You will need to do your research to determine which practice exam is a good value and will benefit you most.
Advantages of Practice Tests
The primary benefit you’ll receive by taking practice exams is the feedback you’ll get, letting you know which areas you’re doing well in, and which areas you need to focus on. You should plan to take a practice exam before you begin studying, to provide you with a baseline score that lets you know where you are when it comes to the exam. Then you should plan to take another exam about halfway through your study plan, to let you know how effective your studying is and whether you still have areas that are of concern. Finally, it would be a good idea to take one a few days before the exam to let you know if there are still any sections that you need to work on.
Another advantage you’ll receive from using practice tests is the ability to pace yourself while taking the exam. These tests are usually timed so that you’ll need to adjust your speed to answer all the questions. When the day of the exam comes, you’ll know just how quickly you’ll need to answer each section to get through the entire exam.
You’ll also get the benefit of being exposed to more questions, which can help you as you study. Just the exposure to the material gives you added benefits.
Practice tests can be a great study aid, but make sure you ask other CCWAs which ones worked for them when they took the test. You don’t want to spend additional money on a practice exam that isn’t going to meet your study needs.
Preparing for the CWCA: Study Guides and Materials
No matter how much education and experience you have, you should plan to spend as much time as you can preparing for the certified wound care associate (CWCA) exam offered by the American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM). The exam consists of more than 100 questions that test your basic knowledge and skills when it comes to wound care. Since not every health care provider encounters every situation covered on the exam, there may be some sections that you need to study. Here are some details about available material that can help you prepare.
The AAWM notes on its website that it does not endorse any study guides or other study tools that are available. However, a great way to start studying for the exam is to use the Handbook for Candidates that the AAWM publishes and that is available as a pdf on its website. This handbook provides you with a great deal of information and details about the entire certification process, as well as a lot of detail about what the exam covers. It also contains sample questions that can help you get a very good idea of the exam format.
The AAWM also offers a practice exam. Taking a practice exam is a very good idea to do, and not just once in the study process. It’s a good idea to take it as you start so you understand what areas you need to focus on, and then take it a few more times as you spend time studying so you can see the progress you’re making as well as any topics you still need to study. The AAWM practice test can be purchased and taken online. It includes 50 questions and you’re given two hours to take it. It doesn’t cover every area that the CWCA exam includes, but it does contain material authorized by the AAWM.
Other Study Guides and Material
In addition to the AAWM tools, you should plan to use at least two additional sources of study material. This is so you are exposed to a maximum range of questions and information. The more information you use, the less chance that there will be something on the test you’re not familiar with. There are several study guides, practice exams, and flashcard systems that are available through various educational product and publishing companies on the Internet. You should look at several that are available, and if there are reviews on them, make sure to read them. Study guides give you material you can use, the practice tests help keep you on track with studying, and the flashcard systems help you to memorize terms, equations, lab values, and other items that you will need to know.
Another way you can decide which tools are right for you is to ask other professionals who have taken the exam what study tools they used, and which they found most helpful. Not all study tools will work for every student. Chances are as a healthcare professional you have already developed a system for studying and taken similar exams. You should use tools that you’ve found worked for you in the past.
Also, consider being part of a study group, even if it is an online study group. This ensures that you set aside time during the week to devote to studying. Study groups also count on you to do your share and hold you accountable. If you’re not as self-disciplined as you’d like to be, this is a good way to make sure you prepare to take the exam.
The CWCA Renewal and Recertification Process
The CWCA Renewal and Recertification ProcessOnce you’ve gone to the trouble and expense of earning your certified wound care associate (CWCA) designation from the American Academy of Wound Management (AAWM), you will not want to let it expire. Between the cost of the exam and any study materials you purchased, your investment in this certification could be at least $500 or more. On top of that, your certification may lead to career advancement and other advantages. So make sure you understand that you will need to renew and recertify your CWCA certification on a routine basis in order to maintain your CWCA designation. The AAWM website provides a great deal of information and details about the renewal and recertification process, so make sure to visit the site and obtain this information. Here is an overview about renewal and recertification.
What are the differences between renewal and recertification?
Many certifications only ask that you become recertified (not to renew) after a specific time frame, usually two to three years or sometimes up to five. However, the AAWM asks that its CWCAs renew their certifications on a yearly basis, and then become recertified every ten years. Renewing your CWCA designation means that you will be able to continue to use the CWCA designation and receive all of its benefits. Your certification will expire if you don’t renew. All CWCAs renew their certifications at the same time each year, by the end of January, regardless of when they earned the designation. There is also a renewal fee of $125.00, so you should plan to pay that at that time. As part of the renewal process you will also need to take at least six continuing education classes or units related to wound care and provide verification of the units. This ensures the AAWM that you are keeping up with the latest information and techniques associated with wound care. You should plan to take these classes throughout the year so that you’re not trying to get them all in at the last minute. The AAWM requires that all classes be taken between the date of your last renewal payment and the date on your current renewal form. Before the end of January you will then submit an application, proof of continuing education credits, and the fee to be renewed.
The recertification process
About six months before your ten-year certification period expires (as long as you have renewed your certification each year) you’ll receive recertification information from the AAWM. This gives you several months to prepare for recertification. All CWCAs are required to sit for the CWCA exam again as part of recertification. This means you’ll need to spend time preparing for it, just as you did the first time you took the exam. There are review courses you can take, which might be helpful if it’s been several years since you received a great deal of education in wound care. Otherwise, you should plan to use study guides, practice exams, flashcards, or other means to in preparation. Also, you will need to get all updated material, since the exam will have been updated since you originally took it. The fee for recertification is $300. Just as you did the first time you took the exam, you will be notified by the AAWM within six weeks of your status, whether you passed or need to take the exam again.
The AAWM renewal/recertification process ensures that you are taking continuing education classes on a yearly basis, and makes the recertification process a bit smoother. While maintaining the certification isn’t cheap, having the CWCA designation can provide you with many professional benefits.