Ostomy care: Nursing a wound and the soul

By Shannon Smith, CWOCN, NP, Riverview Health Wound Care Manager

A surgical procedure typically results in a scar somewhere on the body that slowly fades as it heals. Some people may even show it off as a “battle wound.” But another result of some surgeries that’s not likely talked about is an ostomy. An ostomy is an opening somewhere on the body that’s surgically created to remove waste products. The waste is collected using a pouch that’s attached to the body and it’s emptied as needed.

Although we’re trained to heal patients and get them back to their best physical health, our jobs often doesn’t end there. We often find ourselves nursing a patient’s soul as well, which is often the case with ostomy patients at Riverview Health Wound Care.

Transitioning to a life with an ostomy can be mentally and emotionally difficult, not to mention the physical change you need to adapt to. But just like mending a physical wound, with great care and support, emotional wounds can be healed as those with an ostomy regain a sense of normalcy.

The specialized team I work with at Riverview Health Wound Care understands the importance of providing compassionate care for an overall better recovery. This is no doubt the case when it comes to ostomy care. I’ve personally taken care of ostomy patients for 12 years, and I find it rewarding to help people through a difficult time as they regain confidence and learn to be independent again.

We’re there for them every step of the way. We work with the surgeon prior to the procedure to find the best place for the stoma so the person has the best chance to thrive independently or with minimal assistance post-surgery. We provide education on ostomies for people who’ve undergone colostomies, ileostomies and urostomies and make sure they get all the supplies they need. Since support systems and caregivers play an important role in the recovery process, we make sure all our patients receive information on support groups and we also teach family members how to care for the ostomy.

As we work with our patients, we’re intentional about taking a positive approach by showing them that their ostomy is not in charge of their lives, but rather, they’re in control of it. It’s all about making the new norm fit with their lifestyle, as opposed to the other way around.

Learn more about Riverview Health Wound Care >>