Enterostomal Therapy Nursing becomes Nurses Specialized in Wound Ostomy and Continence

You’re a what-now?

When Enterostomal Therapy (ET) started, it was people with ostomies being trained to help other people with ostomies. The word enterostomal means an opening in the digestive system. An Enterostomal Therapist is someone who works with digestive stomas.

Over time, Enterostomal Therapy became a nursing specialty, and expanded to include skin and wound care, and support for people with continence issues. In many ways, this grouping makes sense – continence and ostomy care both deal with urine and stool; skin and continence issues often go hand-in-hand, and skin care around ostomies is a significant part of the specialized knowledge and skills we use. Enterostomal Therapy nurses are also called on to help manage fistulas (openings between the digestive system and the skin, usually), and we have the privilege and challenge of being wound specialists, too (and fistulas and wounds are often neighbours!).

As the role expanded, enterostomal didn’t quite capture it anymore. In the US, our specialty is called WOC Nursing – Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing. The US WOCN® Society trademarked the name, meaning other countries could not use this title.

A name that says it all

Two years ago, the Canadian Association of Enterostomal Therapists (CAET), the professional body that supports ET nurses, held a vote on whether the specialty should change its name. The question was born out of a quest to get better understanding for the unique body of knowledge and skill that our speciality includes. Having this recognition translates the importance of Enterostomal Therapy nurses into access to patients. One barrier to having access for patients was the challenging, and limited, name. The decision was made to change the name of the specialty to Nurse Specialized in Wound, Ostomy and Continence (NSWOC), which includes all three parts of the speciality.

Going forward

The change in name does not change the care you receive. Our specialty practice remains the same. And maybe it will mean more access to care for patients who need it!

At the Ostomy Care and Supply Centre, you will see us change our business cards and brochures, as well as our website, to reflect this change. But Enterostomal Therapy nurse will still be a title used by the World Council of Enterostomal Therapists (WCET), and in other countries around the world. So, use whatever term you are comfortable with; our commitment to care will stay the same!