THEN & NOW: A Journey Through the Decades of WOC Nursing

Chapter 1/5: 1950 - 1960's


The term “Enterostomal Therapist (ET)” was coined by Rupert Turnbull, Jr., MD Dr. Turnbull trained Norma Gill, who became the first ET at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, OH! to describe the rehabilitation of ostomy patients.


Enterostomal Therapist (ET) nurses are referred to as Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (WOC) nurses.


The first formal “School of Enterostomal Therapy” opened at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.


There are now 8 WOC Nursing Education Programs (WOCNEPs) Accredited by the WOCN.


The first professional specialty organization, named the North American Association of Enterostomal TherapyThis Association was later known as the International Association for Enterostomal Therapy (IAET) and is now what you know as WOCN!, was established, and held its first annual meeting in Cleveland, Ohio, with 21 attendees!


WOCNext is an educational event for WOC nurses and other healthcare professionals dedicated to providing expert care to patients with wound, ostomy, and incontinence needs. Learn more.

Chapter 2/5: 1970's


IAET Quarterly became the official journal for the WOC care profession.


The Journal of Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing (JWOCN) is the official journal of WOCN and the premier publication for WOC practice and research.


The concept of breaking WOCN into regions was proposed and accepted.


There are currently than 11 official WOCN Chapters across North America.


ET Foundation forms and incorporates.


The WOCN Foundation is a 501(c)(3) corporation created and operated by WOCN to oversee two of our most important pillars: research and educationDonations help! Whether you’re a WOC nurse, patient, physician, or family member of a patient, donating to the WOCN Foundation and the Fund the Future campaign sends an important message: you believe in the value and future of WOC nursing. Visit .


WOC certification was first offered by the Enterostomal Therapy Nursing Certification Board.


WOCN updated our certification review courses in early 2020 to ensure that those interested have the clinical resources they need to prepare for the wound, ostomy and continence certification or recertification exams offered by the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nursing Certification Board (WOCNCB®)The WOCNCB is a not-for-profit professional, international nursing organization certifying over 8,800 registered nurses who are specialists in the field of wound, ostomy, continence and foot care. The WOCN Society and WOCNCB are two separate and distinct entities that work collaboratively to support wound, ostomy and continence nursing practice..

CLICK HERE to access our certification review courses.

Chapter 3/5: 1980's


The scope of practice was officially expanded to include the care of individuals with wounds and urinary and fecal continence disorders. The IAET receives accreditation from ANA to provide and approve continuing education programs.


WOCN provides online and in-person education opportunitiesAll our education is designed to provide evidence-based education that advances the practice and delivery of healthcare to patients with non-healing wounds, ostomies, urinary and fecal incontinence. for relevant, on-the-job instruction based on current best practices. Education includes:

  • WOCNext® Annual Event
  • JWOCN (Journal)
  • WOCTalk Podcast
  • Clinical Tools & Resources
  • Core Curriculum Books
  • Continuing Education Center

RN licensure became required for entry into an ET nursing education program.


The WOC nursing program is known as WOCNEPs and criteria for admission includes:

  • RN with a Baccalaureate Degree or higher
  • One year of RN clinical nursing experience following RN licensure
  • Current clinical nursing experience within 5 years prior to application to a WOCNEP

Chapter 4/5: 1990's


The IAET evolved into the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence Nurses Society, an Association of ET Nurses (WOCN).


WOCN is the largest and most recognized professional nursing communityThrough relevant education, effective advocacy, cutting-edge science, a supportive network, and a patient-centric approach, we enable professional growth for 5,000+ members and aid in improving patient outcomes! dedicated to advancing the practice and delivery of expert healthcare to individuals with wound, ostomy, and continence care needs.


WOCN website and separate discussion communities were created for topics related to professional practice, wounds, ostomies, and continence.


The communities are an extremely valuable, real-time advice tool that’s available as a members-only benefit.

Chapter 5/5: 2000's


WOCN joins the American Nursing Association (ANA) as an organizational affiliate along with 14 other specialty nursing organizations.


The WOC nursing specialty is now recognized by the American Nurses Association.

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