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Share Your Story: How my Own WOC Nurses Inspired my Passion

Posted By Becky Carroll, Monday, January 4, 2016
Updated: Thursday, January 7, 2016

We asked members to share their story about why they are passionate about WOC nursing. WOCN Society member, Heather Brigstock, ADN, RN, shared her incredible journey of how the care from her WOC nurses inspired her to pursue a career in WOC nursing. You can read Heather's story below and if you have a story you'd like to share please email us at share@wocn.org

     On May 2, 2001, I underwent a total proctocolectomy resulting in a permanent ileostomy. I was 22 years old and 4 years into my battle with Crohn’s Disease. My first experience with a WOC nurse was my preoperative appointment for site marking. At the time, I had no idea how lucky I was to get a preoperative visit with a WOC nurse. I didn’t even know what a WOC nurse was. But during those first days of recovery in the hospital, I figured out very quickly that the WOC nurse was my lifeline. I tried to listen and retain everything I was taught in the hospital, but between the pain, nausea and orthostatic hypotension, I still went home feeling overwhelmed. The day I got home, I had a dehiscence of my abdominal incision. It was draining copious amounts of fluid, and was very scary. My home WOC nurse, Zora Hocking, was there right away. She taught my family how to pack my wound and we embarked on a long and slow process of wound healing. I was 95 pounds at 5 feet, 8 inches tall. My WOC nurse stressed the importance of my nutrition in my healing. On top of all of this, I kept having leaks under the wafer of my ileostomy appliance. I felt like I was falling apart. Zora switched me to a different pouching system-the system I still use to this day, because it is the only one I can wear without leaking. Something as simple as making the leaks stop was a huge boost in my confidence level. I could leave the house with confidence for the first time to go to my appointments. Slowly, my abdominal wound healed and I adjusted to life with an ileostomy. I gained some weight, was discharged from home care and returned to work.

     Over the next few years, I went back to school to complete my prerequisites for nursing school and I got pregnant with my first baby. After delivering my baby daughter, I was visited by a WOC nurse, Marsha Connelly, to check in and make sure I was doing well. I had no complications from the pregnancy or delivery, but about six months later my stoma retracted. I started having leaks and my pouch life went from seven days to 12 hours. I didn’t know what to do and there were no outpatient WOC nurses in my area, so I called Zora and asked for help. After she assessed me, she knew I needed to go see a surgeon for revision. The day after the final in my anatomy class, I went in for a revision which turned into a bowel resection as well.  Marsha was my WOC nurse in the hospital and she helped me adjust to this new stoma in a new location. She and Zora were tasked with getting me up and running within two weeks of surgery-my summer chemistry class was starting. Somehow, they did just that. I was able to get to the first day of my chemistry class; I had steri-strips still on my abdomen, but I made it.

     Soon after, I was an official nursing student. The most rewarding experience I had in nursing school was taking care of a new ostomate. My patient was struggling and would not even look at the ostomy or acknowledge that it was there. I asked him if he would like to know what I like about having an ostomy. In that moment, I could see a wall come down in his eyes. “You mean you have an ostomy?” he asked. I nodded and smiled. “But I couldn’t even tell!” he told me. “No, and no one will be able to tell you have an ostomy either” I responded. By the end of that shift, he was emptying his pouch independently. Just knowing that he wasn’t alone was enough. The experience of taking care of a new ostomate lit a fire inside me. I knew that I had found my passion, but I was overwhelmed being a new nurse and any additional education seemed out of reach. When I graduated from nursing school, I had my second baby girl and went to work as a new nurse.

     Several years passed by and I experienced a severe relapse of my Crohn’s disease. On top of this, my stoma was retracting again. By this point, I had two young daughters who were quite proficient in ostomy care. At times, they would wear one of my pouches to “look like Mommy.” Due to the disease and the retracted stoma, I had to undergo another bowel resection and stoma revision. Once again, Zora was by my side, helping me adjust to yet another stoma in yet another location.

     I have now had my ileostomy for almost 15 years. The same WOC nurses have taken care of me that entire time. It is like seeing old friends who have coached me along a very long journey. If I didn’t have the care of amazing WOC nurses, I would never have had my children and I would never have had the confidence to go to school. This August, I will graduate with my Master of Science in Nursing from the University of San Francisco. Immediately after graduation, I will be starting a WOC Nursing Education Program. My area of focus in school has been the long term support of ostomy patients. Without WOC nurses, there would be no long term support for patients like myself. Like the patient I took care of when I was a student years ago, we all have a need to feel understood. WOC nurses are the only people we can turn to when we have a complication. All patients with chronic health needs deserve to have competent care, ostomy patients like myself deserve to have access to a WOC nurse. Nothing less will do.   

Heather Brigstock, ADN, RN

Tags:  Nursing  Ostomy  WOC nurse  WOCN  WOCN Society 

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Coming Up Short: The Need for Nurses

Posted By Lauren Schoener-Gaynor, Monday, October 5, 2015

Nursing School Hub shared its newest infographic explaining the need for nurses with The Society.

Nursing School Hub was formed  to provide useful information and resources to those interested in the field of Nursing. Nursing is a rapidly growing field with many promising opportunities for employment. The Nursing School Hub staff felt it was important to create a site that provides accurate information to help those interested in nursing to make an informed decision about what nursing job suits them and where to go to school.

Over the next decade, it is predicted the U.S. will see a significant shortage of nurses in the healthcare industry. As many nurses retire, their shoes of many of them aren’t being filled. With the need for qualified nurses expanding each year, how can we combat the coming scarcity of well-trained RNs?

The Need for Nurses

Tags:  nurse  nurses  nursing  WOC nurse 

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WTA Program: A Valuable Tool

Posted By Lauren Schoener-Gaynor, Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Written by: Angel Sutton, MSN/Ed, RN, CWCN, CCCN, CFCN

Pressure ulcers can be a challenge to treat and manage in the long-term care setting. Many skilled nursing facilities do not have a wound care specialist, or even a staff member trained in wounds. The lack of certified wound care professionals in these facilities can lead to an increase in the following:

*        Complications from pressure ulcers.

*        Hospitalizations/Re-hospitalizations.

*        Prevalence of amputations.

*        Risk of death.


Life Care Centers of America, Inc., (LCCA) is a long-term care community of over 200 skilled nursing facilities in 28 states from Boston, Massachusetts to Hilo, Hawaii. LCCA is dedicated to providing the most advanced care to the residents and is specializing in the field of wound care to better meet the needs of the resident for both long-term and short-stays. When considering solutions for staff education in relation to wound care, all options available were considered. After analysis, LCCA has chosen to invest in and to adopt the Wound Treatment Associate (WTA) Program to be the platform for wound care training across the country in all of our facilities. The WTA Program is recognized by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society™ (WOCN®) to provide additional wound training and skills to staff that focus on direct care. The Society is shaping the future of nursing in the WOC area, it was a logical choice to ensure that our nurses, and other clinicians, would receive quality education in relation to prevention and treatment of all types of wounds.

Many other factors led to our decision to adopt the WTA Program as our standard education program for wound education. Life Care reviewed several other certification and wound training courses and decided that the WTA Program would best meet our needs since the course is completed online at the center. The course content allows flexibility in the scheduling to allow more associates to be able to participate in the course. The course content is applicable to our setting of long-term care and the course is taken by nurses, therapist, and some of our physicians. We felt that have a multidisciplinary approach to wound care training helped all team members learn the same content and helped with congealing the wound teams. The training course has greatly improved our skill level and confidence from our wound team clinicians by engaging many members of the team more interventions and treatment options have been reviewed and wound healing rates have increased.

LCCA began the WTA Program in July 2014 to provide additional wound training to its associates (which also include allied health clinicians and physicians) and to date has had over 450 participants. We have found the program to be an invaluable tool in equipping our staff.

Complete content presented through the following poster:

Sutton, A, & Greene, R.B. (2015). Advancing skill set for wound care in the long-term care setting WOCN/W.T.A. wound treatment associate program. Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurses Society, San Antonio, Texas.

Tags:  woc nurse  WOCN  WTA  wta program 

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Guest Bloggers Highlight Experience at Home Care Association of Florida (HCAF)

Posted By Lauren Schoener-Gaynor, Tuesday, August 18, 2015

WOCN Society members Debbie Ritter and Sue Kennedy guest blog and highlight their recent experience at the Home Care Association of Florida (HCAF) Conference in Orlando, Florida.

We recently had the opportunity to represent WOCN Society by staffing an exhibit booth at the Home Care Association of Florida (HCAF) Conference in Orlando, Florida. As first-time conference exhibitors it was interesting to be "on the other side of the table," and we were a bit nervous about the role switch.

Although we believed that we were well prepared, we wondered whether our booth would generate enough interest to have people stop, and if so, what their interest level would be.

We were pleasantly surprised to learn that many of the attendees had made the exhibit a priority as their first stop after reading the list of exhibitors. For those who did not plan ahead of time, the WTA and CEC banners generated a high level of interest among the "foot traffic" and many attendees stopped to inquire about the WTA program and how this program would fit into their education strategy.

The level of interest fell mostly into two categories:

a) As a field clinician, how would this program and certification assist me to bring a higher level of care to my patients and enhance my employment opportunities and;

b) As a Branch Manager, DON, or Administrator, how would this program improve our outcomes, boost our referrals and what type of return on investment might we realize.

Overall, the two issues that were most exciting to the attendees were the opportunity for certification which will be offered in the fall through the WOCNCB and the value of the program as compared to other wound certification programs.

It was a great opportunity to explain how the WOCN Society has developed a comprehensive and evidence based program that is applicable across the continuum of health care, and provides standardized education while promoting continuity of patient care. Also, it was encouraging to see the high level of interest from clinicians and managers who recognize the impact of the program as it relates to ICD 10 coding and the changing reimbursement climate among Medicare and other insurers.

 Attached Thumbnails:

Tags:  HCAF  nursing  woc nurse  WOCN 

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WOCN Society Video Tutorials

Posted By Lauren Schoener-Gaynor, Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Are you new to the WOCN® Society? Are you an existing member who has started to navigate the Society’s website and have a few questions on how to use its many tools? We have the solution for both situations!

The WOCN Society has newly updated Website Video Tutorials that teach all members, new and existing, how to use the features on www.wocn.org. From login management to posting in a forum to accessing the Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing, there is a video for everything. By viewing these short, informative tutorials, you will be able to see and utilize the members-only opportunities available online.

To start watching these great videos, click here.

Tutorials are available for these topics:

Tags:  member benefits  members' only forums  membership  WOCN  wocn society 

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