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What is a stoma care nurse?

Having a stoma can be life changing and it takes time to adapt to living with a stoma. Your stoma care nurse will be there to provide a shoulder to lean on throughout your stoma journey, which takes you from before your surgery and onto the road to recovery.

Understanding what a stoma care nurse does and how she/he can help, may relieve any anxieties you might be feeling around your stoma surgery and rehabilitation.

What is a stoma care nurse?

A stoma care nurse specialist is a qualified and experienced senior nurse, whose role is to provide long term support to ostomates who have all types of stomas such as urostomy, ileostomy and colostomy.

They are experts in their field with their role focusing on providing support, advice, and education to you and your family members.

Their role is to help prepare you for stoma surgery, recovery after surgery and adapting to living with your stoma, regaining some normality to ensure you can lead a full life with your stoma.

What does a stoma care nurse do?

A stoma care nurse provides ongoing support and advice to bowel patients who are having stoma surgery. He/she will provide information about upcoming stoma surgery and talk you through each step of the pre-operative (before stoma surgery) and post-operative (after stoma surgery) stage.

You will be given plenty of information in the form of leaflets to take home to read and share with relatives and loved ones.

Before surgery

During the pre-operative stage (before surgery) the nurse will see you either in hospital or in community and decide the best place for whereabouts on your abdomen (stomach) your stoma will be sited. This is a joint decision made between patient and nurse about the most suitable place for your stoma.

You will be shown pictures of stomas, so you know what to expect, as well as being shown stoma products including different pouches.

The nurse will show a stoma bag which will be used after your surgery so that you can become familiar with how it works. If your stoma surgery has been an emergency, you may find that the first time you meet your nurse is after your stoma surgery.

After surgery

The aim of the stoma care nurse after surgery is to facilitate independence and promote self-care for those with a stoma.

She/he will provide practical advice and education on how to care for the stoma and also the surrounding skin, what equipment they will need, how to change the stoma appliance and frequency.

Education for loved ones, family members and carers are also an important part of holistic care for the ostomate, and the nurse will ensure this support offered.

During recovery

Once the ostomate is discharged home, the stoma care nurse will arrange supplies to be sent home with the patient.

These supplies will usually last around 7-10 days during which time you will be visited by the same stoma care nurse team or the community nurse team (this varies from each hospital and community setting) in your own home.

During this visit, the stoma care nurse will assess your stoma, wound sites and your stoma equipment to see how you are feeling and how you are managing your stoma care now that you are home.

The stoma care nurse will keep in close contact with you in the subsequent months to monitor your progress and will also be accessible by telephone for any future follow up appointments or if you experience any issues such as leaks or sore skin.

How the stoma care nurse can help with psychological support

An important part of the nurse’s role is emotional support and well-being for their patient.

Navigating the physical changes after stoma surgery can be overwhelming and coming to terms with how your body has changed and now looks may create a mix of emotions. It may also impact how you see yourself and possibly affect your relationship with your loved one.

Anxiety, depression, body images and low self esteem are a few of the common psychological issues that ostomates might experience. The nurse is there to listen and provide an empathetic ear for your worries and fears – psychological support is so important on a long-term basis.

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