What is an Ostomy?
An ostomy is a means of diverting urine or stool outside of the body, away from its normal anatomical course. A variety of medical problems require the surgical construction of an ostomy. Some ostomies are temporary and are eventually reversed. In other cases, such as when used to divert urine, they are permanent.
As a community urologist, even after many years of practice, it physically pains me to create an ostomy. I can justify the many good reasons for performing the procedure, however, creating an ostomy always results in a dramatic, life changing event for the patient.
Sadly, following surgery, we used to send ostomy patients home with “the bag” and very limited outpatient support. Fortunately, things have improved for ostomy patients over the years. Nowadays, ostomy patients, commonly referred to as ostomates, have access to specialized nursing resources, local and online support groups, and a variety of new and innovative products to help them manage life with an ostomy.
Wound Ostomy and Continence (WOC) Nurses
The greatest resource that any ostomy patient can have is a certified Wound, Ostomy and Continence (WOC) nurse.
Wound, Ostomy and Continence nurses provide expertise and care for ostomates before surgery, during hospitalization, and for weeks, if not months, postoperatively. Ostomy nurses have a passion helping and teaching as well as compassion for the life altering experiences that ostomy patients are going through. An ostomy nurse can function as an ostomate’s coach, cheerleader, and fan.
In our community, we are fortunate to have wound ostomy continence nurses available via Mercy Visiting Nurses Services (VNS). Mercy VNS earmarks funding from our local United Way to provide in home care for not only new ostomy patients, but also for established ostomates. Mercy VNS services range from helping patients who may be having problems with their stoma or appliance to helping patients manage specific aspects of daily living with an ostomy including swimming, using a public bathroom, and managing the stoma and appliance during sexual activity. Wound ostomy continence nurses also participate and advise our local ostomy support group the Muskegon Ostomy Association.
For ostomy patients outside of our community, the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society™ WOCN® (@WOCNSociety) can assist you in finding certified ostomy nurses in your area.
This week, April 14th thru 20th, we recognize the services WOC nurses provide to millions of patients in honor of Wound, Ostomy and Continence (WOC) Nurse Week.
Ostomy Support Groups
Many patients also find a support group to be extremely helpful – especially during the early days/weeks following ostomy surgery. The United Ostomy Associations of America (@UOAA) can help you identify a nearby support group. I encourage you to talk to your ostomy nurse and fellow ostomates for additional support and resources.
Having an ostomy is definitely life changing, but with the assistance of specialized nursing, support groups, and online resources, it doesn’t have to be life defining.
I would like to thank Laurel Simons, RN, BSN, WOCN for taking time out of her busy day to help educate me about the many resources available to ostomates in our community. More importantly, I would like to thank her for being so passionate about the care of ostomy patients, including my partner Dr. Salisz.