By Holly M. Hovan, MSN, RN-BC, APRN, CWOCN-AP
A new ostomy can be intimidating and life-changing, but also lifesaving. Many people experience a new degree of independence after ostomy surgery and often become advocates and support people for other people with ostomies. However, the initial post-operative period can be scary. People with new ostomies often have questions and concerns, and they make some lifestyle changes as well. In this blog, I will be discussing some of the most common questions I receive from people with new ostomies as a WOC nurse specialist. I will also be sharing some tips and tricks that people with new ostomies have shared with me throughout my years in WOC nursing. Review the questions and answers provided here so you will be prepared to answer your patients’ questions and help them adjust to their new lifestyle.
Common Questions About Life with an Ostomy
Can my pouch get wet?
Yes. Ostomy pouches can get wet and are able to be patted dry. The tape border or pouch will air dry and doesn’t need to be changed just because it got wet.
Learn more about ostomies in bariatric patients by attending "Managing the Compromised Skin and Fistulas of Bariatric Patients," presented by Susan Gallagher, PhD, RN and Dianne Rudolph, APRN-BC, DNP, CWOCN, available only at WoundCon Summer on July 17th
Should I shower with or without my pouch?
Up to you. Pouches may be worn in the shower or removed on shower days. Many people consider their ostomy pouch as a part of their body, so it is almost always in place. Others prefer to remove the pouch in the shower and cleanse the peristomal skin pouch-free.
Is there anything I can use to conceal my pouch?
Yes. There are many resources on the Internet or that your WOC nurse can provide you with. There are wraps to conceal your pouch that may be for show or more supportive for sports, etc.
Can I swim with an ostomy?
Yes. People with ostomies have the same swimming rights as those without an ostomy. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) contains protections, and the United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) discusses swimming with an ostomy in detail here: https://www.ostomy.org/swimming-pool-discrimination/.
Are there foods I cannot have anymore?
Discuss food preferences with your surgeon, and be sure to obtain guidelines on any specific dietary restrictions before discharge from the hospital after ostomy surgery. Be sure to chew all foods thoroughly, especially raw fruits and vegetables. Ask to meet with a dietitian as needed to go over post-ostomy surgery diet tips or additional changes or additions based on your health needs.
How often should I change my pouch?
Typically, two complete pouch changes are done per week. Sometimes, patient preference is to change the entire pouching system once per week. Twice per week is a standard recommendation. If there is any itching or burning under the skin barrier, or lifting of the barrier, the entire pouching system should be changed. Do not tape the edges.
Tips and Tricks to Make Life with an Ostomy Easier
- Have a routine. Prepare your new pouch before removing the old one.
- Keep an “emergency kit” for emergencies (leaks, etc.).
- Seek support when needed: United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) has a great website with lots of resources. Additionally, consult with a wound, ostomy, continence nurse as needed for pouching difficulties, skin irritation, or recurrent issues.
A new ostomy can allow for a renewed perspective on life for many patients. Patients will have questions, however, so WOC nurses need to be prepared to provide advice and tips for adjusting to a new lifestyle.
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.