An ostomy refers to a surgical opening — a stoma — from an organ to the outside of the body, usually located on the torso. These operations might be intended to be temporary or permanent, and they might involve the small intestine, the large intestine or even the bladder. A wound ostomy nurse or a wound ostomy continence (WOC) nurse is a specially trained nurse who helps the surgeon determine where the ostomy might best be located, provides teaching and instruction to the patient before and after surgery and assists the patient in choosing from among the many types of supplies those that will best fit the patient's lifestyle and needs at time of hospital discharge. Depending upon his or her country of practice, a wound ostomy nurse might have undergone additional training, education, testing and certification.
Prior to surgery, a wound ostomy nurse typically meets the patient and explains his or her role in providing postoperative ostomy wound management and providing the patient and his or her family members with instruction in ostomy wound care. Depending on the facility, the ostomy nurse might examine the patient in conjunction with radiology reports and the surgeon's written plans to mark an area on the torso best suited for a stoma. A wound ostomy nurse makes this decision very carefully, and it is based not only on the type of ostomy planned but also on the patient's frame, weight, age, mobility and lifestyle. Examples of bags and supplies are often shown to the patient at this time. He or she is able to handle the objects and ask questions about their eventual location and use.
After the surgery, the wound ostomy nurse will visit the patient to assess the placement and condition of the stoma. The ability of the patient to provide self-care is also evaluated. If the patient is emotionally or physically incapable of self-care, family members might be required to assist the patient at home after hospital discharge. In the meantime, the nurse will teach the patient and family members about topics such as how to change an ostomy bag or appliance, how often to change the bag, tips for doing so and suggestions about what clothing might best be worn during the healing phase.
Before the patient's discharge from the hospital, the wound ostomy nurse usually requires a minimum of one successful ostomy bag change by either the patient or the patient's caregiver. General referrals or recommendations for ostomy supply companies might be offered, as well as specific recommendations for product types to best meet the patient's needs at home. Wound ostomy nurses usually remain available for telephone consultations with patients and families after they return home.