Ostomy Awareness and Education in a Virtual World

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By: Holly M. Hovan, MSN, GERO-BC, APRN, CWOCN-AP

Every year, on the first Saturday of October, we celebrate ostomy awareness day. This is a significant day. Ostomies truly are lifesavers for so many people, and it is important that we bring awareness, education, and support to our patients, peers, and community.

Last year, the United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) celebrated the 10th anniversary of National Ostomy Awareness Day (this event began in 2010). More information on this day and virtual events can be found here: https://www.ostomy.org/ostomy-awareness-day/

When it comes to ostomies, ostomy surgery, and lifestyle management, there are two very important surrounding concepts:

  1. Stop stigmas
  2. Spread awareness and education with factual information – reliable, evidenced-based resources (printed, websites, blogs, etc.)

Connecting With Ostomy Patients Through Telemedicine

As I’m sure many of us know, when we search the Internet, we can find information from anywhere and anyone… it is important to know which information is true and which is false. It is also important for us to educate our patients on this. Since the beginnings of the pandemic, much more of our world has gone virtual… this includes medical appointments, education, and shopping.

In a virtual world, it is sometimes difficult to connect with patients and peers, especially without a webcam or capabilities of a smart device. Some of us our doing more telephone or video appointments with our patients, and this limits face-to-face interactions. Without a face-to-face interaction, it is sometimes difficult for us to know our patients, see their needs, and understand them, especially if it is an initial visit.

Depending on the population we work or interact with, it may be difficult to put video visits in place. Some older adults often don’t have as much access to or knowledge of technology, and this makes video visits difficult at times. In addition, morals, values, and attitudes regarding health care are different between generations. Many older adults are used to a face-to-face visit in the doctor’s office, and that is how they understand health care.

When seeing patients through telehealth or video visits, it is important to have props. Educational ostomy belts, samples of pouches, and accessory products are helpful. It is important to be able to demonstrate hands-on ostomy pouch changes and emptying. Additionally, it is very important to provide our patients with information for support groups (those groups that interact with ostomates and are more factual education and health care directed), options for access to resources, and written or printed material. It is important to understand our patients’ learning styles and specific needs to provide education that will meet their needs. Understanding health literacy and cultural aspects is also important before implementing an educational plan.

As much of our world has gone virtual, we must still recognize and acknowledge when a face-to-face appointment or visit is needed. There are some issues that just cannot be handled over the phone or a video visit.

Conclusion

In closing, there are many resources available to our patients and ostomates and for nursing education purposes. It is important to identify which of these resources are factual, stop stigmas, and spread evidenced-based knowledge and awareness. In a virtual world, these concepts are especially important.

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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