Posts

Barbara Dale, RN, CWOCN, CHHN, COS-C
Director of WOC Services at Quality Home Health
Jeanine Gleba UOAA Advocacy Manager

I am a Wound, Ostomy, Continence (WOC) nurse in a rural home health agency. I have worked in the home health field since 2001. Many times when I visit patients in their homes, they complain about the lack of knowledgeable ostomy nurses in the facility (e.g., hospital) they came from or even from my own agency.  I try to explain to them that ostomy care is specialized and in general nurses don’t get much (if any) training in nursing school for this type of medical condition. I compare this with my own lack of IV education and skills since I rarely do labs or port flushes and have lost many of my previous skills. We can’t all know everything about all aspects of medical care and not every agency has access to an ostomy trained or ostomy certified medical provider. Nonetheless, it is the home health agency’s responsibility when they accept you as a patient to provide you the care you need and deserve. You have a right to quality care.

Are you aware of the patient bill of rights (PBOR) for persons with an ostomy or continent diversion? United Ostomy Associations of America (UOAA) developed the PBOR in 1977 and revised it in 2017. The PBOR is designed so that you can know what to expect and what is reasonable for you to ask for when you receive care. If you haven’t already looked over the PBOR, please take time to familiarize yourself. In addition, if you use ostomy or urological supplies, here is what you should understand and expect when receiving medical care in your home.

Be Prepared

Be prepared in advance to take appropriate steps to ensure you receive quality ostomy care.  As you prepare for discharge to home after your ostomy surgery, ask your case manager to make sure your home health agency has a certified ostomy nurse. This will also be important if you are a person already living with an ostomy with a new medical condition (such as hip surgery or a stroke).  Your home health nurse should re-evaluate your ostomy care. For example, someone with arthritis may have lost dexterity and now needs to switch to a different type of pouching application system or you may have gained or lost some weight over the hospitalization (which can change your abdominal contours and your stoma) and now your current system doesn’t give you 2-5 days wear time anymore.

Change Agencies if Needed

If you are already home and your home health agency does not have a certified ostomy nurse, then request that they consult with one to ensure that you receive the proper optimal care. I often get phone calls or emails from colleagues who work for other agencies asking me ostomy questions or asking if I can come to see their patient. We are all in this together and we all want what is best for the patient, which is YOU! Don’t be afraid to ask for an ostomy nurse!

You may even have to change agencies. It isn’t difficult even though your current agency will likely not want you to change.  You have a right to explain that you must receive your care from a certified ostomy nurse and your current agency, unfortunately, does not provide this type of care. All you have to do is call the agency YOU choose and tell them you want to transfer your care to their agency. Typically the new agency will contact your doctor or ask you to let your doctor know you want to change agencies. The new agency will then inform your current home health agency that they are taking over your care.  

What to do if an Ostomy Nurse is Still Not Available?

If all else fails and for whatever reason you have a home health agency without access to a certified ostomy nurse, you still have resources.  You can:

  • Go to www.wocn.org and look up a patient referral for an ostomy nurse in your area. This content also usually includes contact information for the WOC Nurse in your area.
  • Visit www.ostomy.org for educational resources such as the New Ostomy Patient Guide and UOAA has a dedicated webpage specifically for Ostomy Health Care Resources.
  • Use social media to find others that may be in the same situation as you. There are a multitude of Facebook pages/groups for ostomates with WOC nurses who follow these groups and offer comments or suggestions when specifically asked.

In Conclusion

We cannot say this enough: YOU have a right to quality care and deserve quality care. Know your rights. You deserve to be able to live your life to the fullest with your new or established ostomy.

Patients and medical professionals can work together to improve patient outcomes. If you want to help UOAA drive change and achieve ostomy quality of care improvements for patients while under home care, please print and share these resources with your home health agency: Achieve 5 Star Ostomy Home Health Care and Important Reminders for Home Health Providers Treating People with an Ostomy.

49% of Respondents Report they Received Inadequate Information and Communication From their Provider at the Hospital

By Leslie Riggle Miller, M.A.

My name is Leslie Miller and I am a 25-year cancer survivor and a former ostomate. I had a partial colectomy at age sixteen in 1993 resulting from a cancerous tumor attached to the rectum. I was given a colostomy, for which I had never heard of before I woke up with one! Nine-reconstructive surgeries later, I received a takedown (reversal of colostomy) in 1997. Now, three lives later I am doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma in the Department of Sociology. My primary research area is Medical Sociology.

I am excited to share with you some preliminary results of a very important study on the lives of ostomates. I began this research project in the summer of 2017 called Peoples’ Experiences With Pouches (1.) (P.E.W.P.) Study. I am interested in the difficulties ostomates face in their everyday lives, as well as the level of supportive care they receive in current medical practice. Long-term goals include improving hospital processes and nurse training with respect to ostomy care and instruction.

Background: An important component of our healthcare system is when patients and providers meet and interact together. During this interaction, patients are able to explain their ailments and tell their story, and providers are able to provide care, instruction, and diagnoses. There are positive and negative outcomes for patients based on this interaction, such as patients feeling heard, respected and cared for, but also there can be patient dissatisfaction, lack of trust, and misdiagnoses. Effective communication from providers is not only critical for all patients, but possibly more so for patients who receive a life-changing surgery, such as an ostomy.

The communication from providers when ostomates first receive their appliance is critical. Provider communication not only needs to be effective for ostomates’ ability to go home and take care of their appliance, but also it needs to be efficient given the short turnaround time in release from the hospital. As such, in my study, I examine provider communication and information when ostomates first receive their appliance.

Study Background and Results: Currently, there are 391 ostomates from the U.S. and abroad included in the study. 89% reside in the U.S. with 11% residing outside of the U.S. (predominantly from the United Kingdom and Canada).

The research questions that I have addressed are based on ostomates’ initial experiences at the hospital when they first receive their ostomy. The research question that I will address in this post is, “Do ostomates receive adequate information and communication from providers while at the hospital?” The answer to this question is “no.” I found that almost half (49%) of the ostomates felt that they received inadequate information and communication from their provider at the hospital. Below are the areas of provider care that ostomates reported that they either did not receive or an inadequacy in care that they experienced:

  1. Attitude. The provider said something that hurt the patient’s feelings or acted in a way that dissatisfied the patient, such as the provider was arrogant or rude.
  2. Ostomy Nurse. The patient wanted to see an ostomy-specific nurse sooner than they did or have follow-up appointments with an ostomy nurse but did not get to.
  3. Providers Lacked Knowledge. Patients felt that providers were not educated enough about ostomy care or were lacking in their knowledge on ostomies.
  4. Products. Patients were not told that there were other products on the market that may work better for their type of stoma or situation.
  5. Preoperative Information. Patients did not receive pre-op information or wanted more preparation before surgery.
  6. Fixing Issues. Patients were not told how to fix issues that arose once at home.
  7. Supervise Pouch Change. Patient wanted to be supervised on how to change the pouch or more practice with changing it with an ostomy nurse or more practice changing it, in general, before going home but did not get to.
  8. Wrong Information. Patients were told the wrong information from providers.
  9. Missing Information. Patients were not told all of the information that they needed or wanted on how to care for their ostomy or other options available.
  10. Lacked Support Information. Patient wanted to be told about ostomy support groups or links to support information or meet with a current ostomate, but did not receive this.
  11. Lacked Emotional Support. Patient did not receive any emotional support from their provider and they wanted to.
  12. Questions. Patients had questions that were not answered at the hospital, or they wanted to call to ask questions.
  13. Hurried/Dismissed. Patients felt like the nurse was hurried, or the patient did not receive overall basic care, making them feel as if they were dismissed.

A majority of ostomates felt that they did not receive all of the information that they wanted or needed, with lacking product information as the second highest category for inadequacy.

Additionally, I examined whether provider communication and information were better or worse for ostomates who received their ostomy years ago versus more recently. The years of ostomy surgery ranged from having had surgery in 1953 to 2017. I found that the further back in years the ostomate had their surgery, the more likely they were to report adequate information and communication. This finding leaves us with additional questions, such as whether the quality of hospital provider care has decreased over time? What is driving this decrease in adequate information and communication for ostomates? I plan on determining the answers to these questions in future studies.

Closing Remarks: The main takeaway is that there is much work to be done with regard to ostomy care when people first receive their pouch. We hope our study (and future studies on this topic) will help in this endeavor. Finally, I encourage all of you to be active participants in your medical encounters when you meet with providers. It is important to ask questions and have an open dialog with your provider. The UOAA offers vast resources for new and seasoned ostomates. In particular, the UOAA has a “patient bill of rights” so that ostomates have the tools they need to advocate for their care. Please visit https://www.ostomy.org/bill-of-rights/ to see this great resource. You are welcome to reach out to me if you have any questions

1. Miller, Leslie Riggle and B. Mitchell Peck. 2018. Peoples’ Experiences With Pouches (P.E.W.P.) Study: Examining Whether Ostomates Receive Adequate Information from Hospital Providers. Presented at the Oklahoma Sociological Association Annual Meeting, Norman, Oklahoma, November 2017

Leslie Riggle Miller, M.A. is a former ostomate and a doctoral student at the University of Oklahoma in the Department of Sociology. 

Expect More – Take Control of Your Health Care

Part 1 in Series

By UOAA Advocacy Committee

This first article is about finding your voice as you take the initiative to speak up, or act on your own behalf, to encourage change that will bring improvements in your quality of ostomy care, and ultimately, your quality of life.

We are all unique individuals and regardless of having a medical condition such as an ostomy some people by nature are outgoing while others are more naturally shy and timid. Some people are overly confident while others lack self-esteem. We are who we are; however, when it comes to your health and well-being, if your gut is telling you “this isn’t normal” or something is wrong or you just don’t plain “get it”, don’t be afraid to speak up. There is power in your words. Yes, this can be easier said than done for many, but realize there is no shame in asking for help. It can be a challenge to balance being assertive while not being overly demanding.

Ask yourself the question – do you think you are capable of producing a change? How do you create change in your life? For example, if you are experiencing pain and sores on the skin around your stoma – are you accepting this as normal and trying the best you can to manage it on your own because you don’t want to bother anyone? In contrast, are you someone that would call your doctor, seek resources to find help and not accept this as normal? It is good to try to be self-sufficient but if you are still suffering and in pain then a positive change has not happened. What can you do to strengthen your voice, and be a participant in your self care? The belief that you can make a change is called self-efficacy. It is a little different than being self-confident in that you truly believe a change will happen and you won’t stop seeking help until that change has happened.

Some people also fear that by speaking up and questioning their healthcare providers, that they will find them annoying, stupid, needy or unlikeable. Healthcare professionals are held to high medical standards and they want to help their patients. They understand that this is new to you and that you are trying to understand your medical condition. They also need you to understand your treatment plan, so that it can be a success. There is absolutely no reason to feel embarrassed. Remember, if you do not ask your questions or express your concerns, you remain uninformed and that is a fearful place to be. You want things to get better not stay the same.

FIND YOUR VOICE: 10 Questions To Ask Yourself

When it comes to medical situations, many people become tongue-tied or have difficulty expressing themselves. UOAA recognizes that it is not enough to just tell ostomates to self-advocate, but rather we need to provide you with the tools to do so. Self-advocating can be a positive experience.

Below are 10 questions and simple solutions that will help you find your voice:

1) Are you nervous, anxious or confused about your medical condition?

People who do not feel confident in their understanding of their medical condition feel fearful. Once they are educated about their condition, they are more confident to speak up. The information in this blog post and UOAA’s ostomy information and educational resources can help you gain confidence and if you are just starting your ostomy journey it can give you a sense of control in a time of uncertainty. “Knowledge is power.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon

2) Do you just defer to the expertise of medical professionals or do you participate in decision making?

Many people assume they have no role in their care. They just leave it in the professionals’ hands. In reality, you play a very important role. Medical “lingo” is very new to people – people who don’t understand it do not feel confident in speaking up and feel intimidated by medical professionals. Most people are afraid to say – I don’t understand what you are saying. Make a list of what you do and don’t understand to generate the proper questions to ask.

3) Do you think you are the only one in the world having these issues and concerns?

People who feel alone do not speak up – once they find others such as with a support group – they feel more confident and less isolated and alone. Here you can get a role model or peer to guide you along the way. It’s comforting and insightful to hear from people who share similar experiences. Chinese proverb: “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.”

4) Do you have low self-esteem and sometimes feel that your life doesn’t matter?

People with low self-esteem tend to not speak up. They tend to remain silent or let other people do the speaking for them. When someone has low self-esteem, it is hard to see his/her own worth or recognize that his/her opinion matters. Self-esteem is further affected by a life-altering/body altering illness such as ostomy surgery. Take steps to feel better about yourself or if needed, seek counseling.

5) How can advocating for your healthcare needs (or other things in your life) really change your life in a positive way?

Consider the impact on your life. Make a list of pros and cons for speaking up. If the pros outweigh the cons, it may be worth it to speak up and improve your life in a positive way.

6) Do you have a concern or health issue with your ostomy, but your doctor or nurse pushes it aside and tells you not to worry about it?

Are you the type of person if you are worried about something, but your doctor doesn’t mention it, then you assume it must not be a concern so you remain silent? If you are unsure or disagree and it is affecting your quality of life, then get a second opinion by another expert. Listen to your gut. It’s important for you to feel safe and secure in your own body, and you certainly don’t want the problem to get worse (or it might truly be nothing to worry about!). It always feels better to have your concerns addressed in a way that makes you feel that you have been heard.

7) Do you find yourself rushed or brushed off when you are at an appointment with a medical provider?

We all agree that medical professionals are busy and are often running behind schedule. The good news is that often this occurs because other patients were asking questions during their appointment! They were speaking up! You deserve their time too. Write down your questions before you arrive and be sure to take out your list and go over every single question you have. Remind yourself – this is your visit, this is about YOU, not the doctor. Also, the next time you call to make your appointment tell the office staff that you will need some extra time to discuss all of your concerns and evaluate your situation especially if it is a complicated issue.

8) Do you feel like you are just another ostomy patient in a long assembly line and feel that there is no real care for YOU, a unique and individual person?

If you consistently leave the office feeling worse than when you entered and with unanswered questions, then it is time to consider finding a new provider and seeing someone else who will make you feel comfortable to ask questions and take the time to listen and respond. This holds true even if it’s a referred provider who is supposedly the “best” in the field. It’s important to have a good relationship with your provider. Quality ostomy healthcare is a team effort and communication is critical.

9) Have you ever looked back and kicked yourself for not saying something?

It’s better to speak up, than have regrets later, especially when it might be something as serious as your health and well-being. Your doctor has many other patients and concerns on his/her plate so don’t run the risk that they will remember everything about you or what was discussed at your last visit together. You know your health history. You are the person experiencing the symptoms or whatever the issue is. It is absolutely your place to express your concerns.

10) Do you sometimes draw a blank or choke under pressure and miss out on speaking up?

Keep an ongoing list of your questions and concerns prior to meeting with your medical professional. Practice the conversation that you want to have by role-playing with a family member or friend acting as your doctor or nurse. Practicing will help instill confidence in what you want to say. You can also decrease stress by bringing your questions with you and reading them from your paper. That way you are sure that nothing is forgotten. “Asking for what you need, what you want, and what you’re worth requires practice. So practice self-love and start asking.” ~ AnneMarie Houghtailing

FIND YOUR VOICE: Expect More Examples of when you or your Advocate should speak up!

IF YOU CAN’T FIND YOUR VOICE; BE SURE TO GET AN ADVOCATE

We realize that having major surgery can be overwhelming. Be sure to find someone who can help you along the way. Sometimes you might “lose your voice” especially after surgery, from medications, or just being overwhelmed. Your advocate should be someone close to you, whom you can share your deepest fears and concerns with, and HAS A VOICE, and can speak up for you when you can’t. Your advocate can ask questions for you or simply listen and take detailed notes so you can recall and understand later.

SPEAK UP!

If English is not your primary language, you have a right to an interpreter. All hospitals are now required to have interpreter services either in-person or via web connections provided for you.

In conclusion, we know that ostomy healthcare is not perfect and inconsistent in our country. When it comes to your healthcare, don’t be shy. You must harness the power of your own voice and share your concerns, desires, and opinions; because if you don’t, who will? Remember that you matter! You are important! Self-advocacy isn’t a “one and done” deal. It’s an ongoing process from before you have your surgery thru the ongoing continuum of care of your ostomy or continent diversion.

Speak Up! Ostomy and Continent Diversion Patient Advocacy Resources:

(Note – Although we focus on finding your voice with regards to healthcare, you can use these self-advocacy tips in other areas of your life as well.)