April 10 – 17 is ET Nurses week for 2016! Enterostomal Therapy (ET) nursing is the three-part specialty that deals with ostomy, wound care, and continence issues. In the US, this specialty is called WOC nursing for wound, ostomy, and continence.

In the beginning, enterostomal therapists were not nurses, but people with an ostomy or their caregiver. The knowledge that they had accumulated through experience was shared with other people after ostomy surgery. Over time the role became a nursing responsibility, and later evolved further to include continence and wound care.

Although there are other professions that can be involved in wound care (although in BC wound care is legally the domain of nursing), and there are physicians, physiotherapists and a nursing specialty that focus on continence, Enterostomal Therapy nurses are the only health care discipline with the training and focus on people with an ostomy.

When encountering pouching issues, your ET nurse will know all of the options provided by the numerous manufacturers of pouching systems so that you are not having to learn it all yourself. They will also be able to help you treat problems in a way that will not reduce your pouching system security, and make adjustments in your pouching system or routine for caring for your stoma to make sure you get the best wear time and most dependable seal.

Your ET nurse also takes a holistic approach to your care. Because ET nurses are experienced RNs, they do full assessments to ensure that physical issues that can arise after ostomy surgery are identified early and dealt with before they become serious. Our team of ET nurses have recognized DVTs, pneumonia, infections, bowel obstructions, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalance, to name only a few.

Your ET nurse is also there to support you through the psychological adjustments that occur after ostomy surgery. As each of you knows, after surgery there are a lot of emotions, fears and questions that arise. Learning to manage the ostomy, identifying what is normal and what is cause for concern, and facing the challenges of resuming daily activities are all easier with the specialized care of your ET nurse.

Because we don’t normally talk about bowel or bladder function, it can feel isolating to have ostomy surgery. Your ET nurse is one person you don’t have to feel shy asking about these taboo systems – we want to make sure you have the information you need!

Because some people have their ostomy for many years, and sometimes for life, their need for the ostomy nurse continues as they change and age, their stoma and abdomen change, and technology advances.

If you are having issues or concerns about your ostomy, make an appointment to see your ET nurse. Having an ostomy does not mean tolerating pain, odour or leakage.