The Importance of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing

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WOC Nursing

Holly Hovan MSN, RN-BC, APRN, ACNS-BC, CWOCN-AP

As you may have already heard, the World Health Organization (WHO) has designated 2020 as the year of the nurse and midwife. The WHO has informed us that in order to achieve universal health coverage by 2030, we need 9 million more nurses and midwives! This is a huge number. Just think, if 9 million more nurses and midwives are needed, how many more wound, ostomy, and continence (WOC) specialists are going to be needed?

We are patient advocates, the eyes and ears of the provider, the frontline caregiver for each of our patients. Patients rely on us and trust us with their lives. We help to enable independence, promote quality of life, educate, and empower our patients on a daily basis as WOC nurse specialists. Nurses in all specialty areas contribute something unique and very much needed to health care.

WOC patients are vulnerable. Wounds, ostomies, and continence issues often require lifestyle modifications, more frequent doctor appointments than the average person, additional education needs for the patient, and planning. There are many resources for these patients, but patients often do not know about these resources unless they are educated or have a wide support base. WOC nurses are often at the forefront of this education and health promotion.

Ostomies save lives, wounds can often be healed or managed, and continence can be treated or managed with several different interventions to improve quality of life. It is important that our patients understand these concepts and know that resources are available. There was a video shared on YouTube in 2016 called, "You Deserve a WOC Nurse". This video highlights the importance of certified nurses, especially in specialties such as wound, ostomy, and continence care. All nurses are key players in health care, and certified nurses are included in these numbers. Maintaining a broad knowledge base is also important... so, although we chose to specialize, it is important to keep up all nursing skills and evidence-based practices.

I chose WOC nursing because I make a difference in someone's life each and every day... from the smallest to the biggest issues. I work inpatient and outpatient, but the majority of my day is spent inpatient. As many of you have probably experienced, the day we send a patient home from the hospital independent with ostomy care, or able to manage their wound or continence needs at home, is a great day. Giving our patients quality of life, happiness, and an ability to enjoy and take part in their lives again is an amazing feeling. Seeing a wound that has been present for several years heal is a huge milestone. With our knowledge and training in wound, ostomy and/or continence nursing, we are able to positively impact the lives of so many people.

As we proudly come into 2020 celebrating the year of the nurse and the midwife, take a moment to think about how you want to make a difference as a nurse. What is your passion? What things do you like most about nursing? How can you further help others with your knowledge, skills, education, and experience? Is certification right for you? (Review my prior blog on how and why to certify in wound care.)

Thank you for all that you do as nurses! In closing, here is one of my favorite quotes, which always reminds me why it is important to never stop learning:

"Were there none who were discontented with what they have, the world would never reach anything better." — Florence Nightingale

About the Author
Holly is a board-certified gerontological nurse and advanced practice wound, ostomy, and continence nurse coordinator at The Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. She has a passion for education, teaching, and our veterans. Holly has been practicing in WOC nursing for approximately six years. She has much experience with the long-term care population and chronic wounds as well as pressure injuries, diabetic ulcers, venous and arterial wounds, surgical wounds, radiation dermatitis, and wounds requiring advanced wound therapy for healing. Holly enjoys teaching new nurses about wound care and, most importantly, pressure injury prevention. She enjoys working with each patient to come up with an individualized plan of care based on their needs and overall medical situation. She values the importance of taking an interprofessional approach with wound care and prevention overall, and involves each member of the health care team as much as possible. She also values the significance of the support of leadership within her facility and the overall impact of great teamwork for positive outcomes.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.

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