From the board room to construction, to long shifts in a hospital, people with living with an ostomy (colostomy, ileostomy, urostomy, ect.) work every job imaginable. Embracing a “new normal” in life after ostomy surgery is key to living an active life, and that daily norm means going back to work.
According to the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons once a person has recovered from surgery your ostomy should not limit your return to work. When you return depends on your individual recovery, ease of pouch management and how physical your job is (due to the increased risk of hernia).
Whether to tell your employer or co-workers is a personal choice depending on your unique work situation, but some feel it comes in handy if you require frequent breaks or other accommodations. Remember your co-workers will likely not realize you have an ostomy unless you tell them. With some preparation you’ll soon be confident in the workplace, and for many, feeling in better health than before surgery.
Here are a few tips from the UOAA Facebook community and Advocacy Network.
- Be Prepared: In the case of a possible leak have a complete change of your ostomy supplies as well as a change of clothes you can bring to the bathroom. “Pack in a backpack, zippered tote, or small duffle bag that you can store in your desk drawer or locker” –Jane Ashley-publishing/author
- Know Your Rights: You have legal rights under the American Disabilities Act prohibiting employment-based discrimination. Workplace complaints to UOAA are rare but it can still occur. “My coworkers all knew, especially of the trials and tribulations pre-op. But still, there was hostility and harassment at times.” Jacque- Retired Government.
- Dispose/Empty Your Pouch Properly: Investigate the best restroom/changing facilities to empty or change your pouch. Consider the use of pouch or ostomy type deodorants. “My purse contains a 1-ounce bottle of Poo-Pourri, a Tide pen, a lubricating deodorant sachet, and baby wipes.” Margie, Academia.
- Find the Best Clothing for Your Job: Consider loose clothing if sitting for long hours or a stoma belt if you have an active job with lots of bending. A skin barrier may be helpful if you perspire on the job. “I wear a hernia belt”- Megan-Nursing
- Don’t Stress Stoma Noise: If your stoma decides to speak up at the next meeting relax, you may be the only one who notices “All bodies make sounds” Penny- Construction
- Hydrate: “Stay on top of your fluid intake. Don’t get distracted and have it result in an ER visit.” Heather Brigstock-Nursing
- Find Support: Know that you are not alone. UOAA has about 300 affiliated support groups around the United States that offeradvice, information and support.
Wish some preparation and patience you’ll soon be confident in the workplace, and for many, feeling in better health than before surgery.