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10 outstanding things WOC Nurses have done for the ostomy community

It's Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurse week!

This week the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurse Society is honoring the work that WOC Nurses do every and every day for patients, their workplaces, and communities. Here are just some of the amazing things they have done (and continue to do) for advocacy, awareness, and ostomates worldwide.

1. WOCN® Society helped pass ostomy supply access laws in New York.

In September 2014, New York Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill (S7893 in the Senate/A10140 in the Assembly) that requires all major commercial medical insurances policies to cover the provision of ostomy supplies. Several WOCN® Society members devoted hard work and effort to ensure this legislation was enacted in the state of New York.

2. They were there again to back Maryland’s ostomy coverage bill in 2015.

In March 2014, the WOCN® Society started working with Metro Maryland Ostomy Association to have legislation introduced in the Maryland General Assembly that would require commercial insurance companies and HMO’s in Maryland to provide coverage for ostomy supplies. WOCN Past President, Jan Colwell, testified before the Maryland State Legislature in support of this legislation, and on April 14, 2015, Governor Larry Hogan (R) signed SB 241 into law which mandates health insurers to provide coverage for ostomy supplies in the state of Maryland.

3. WOC Nurses have inspired ostomates to become nurses.

Heather Brigstock was 22-years-old when she had permanent ileostomy surgery. She credits her own ostomy nurse for inspiring her passion for a career in nursing.

“If I didn’t have the care of amazing ostomy nurses, I would never have had my children and I would never have had the confidence to go to school. In August, 2015 I graduated with a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of San Francisco. Immediately after graduation, I started in a WOC Nursing Education Program. My area of focus has been the long-term support of ostomy patients.” — Heather Brigstock

4. They supported the removal of CDC’s "Tips From Former Smokers" ad.

In April 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented a video ad featuring a woman with colorectal cancer describing her experience living with a colostomy in a negative light. The United Ostomy Associations of America created a petition which encouraged the CDC to remove the ad and correct any misleading information. The WOCN® Society encouraged all of its members to sign and as a result, the CDC updated the video and wrote an apology letter.

5. Many WOC Nurses start local ostomy support groups.

Faith Singleton won the President’s Humanitarian Award at Roper St. Francis. She was recognized for going above and beyond her job description by taking action to ensure ostomy patients who are discharged receive additional support. In August 2013 Faith invited her colleagues to help develop an ostomy support group in Charleston, South Carolina.

6. WOCN® Society assisted CMS on long-term care needs for ostomates.

In August 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a proposed rule to make major changes to improve the care and safety of residents in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. In its proposed rule, CMS identified ostomates as a patient population that requires additional safeguards but offered little guidance to facilities on how best to treat this patient population. The WOCN® Society responded to CMS with suggestions on how to meet the needs of these patients included providing them with access to a Certified WOC Nurse.

7. Two WOC Nurses founded the Run For Resilience Ostomy 5K.

Lara Leininger of UNC Health Care and Angela Richardson of Duke University Health System have a passion for patients and desire to educate people about ostomies. This led them to launch the first annual Ostomy 5k in October 2014.

8. They help people who have no access to ostomy supplies.

Last year, President of Friends of Ostomates Worldwide-USA, Jan Colwell, RN, CWOCN traveled to South Africa to meet with Joseph Muchesa who founded Zimbabwe Ostomates Support Trust. They discussed the need for stoma education and ostomy supplies in Zimbabwe for ostomates who have no access to quality care or appliances.

9. Every year, WOC Nurses volunteer at Youth Rally camp.

Youth Rally is a week-long summer camp for youth living with various congenital birth defects, chronic illness, or various traumas that affect their bowel and bladder systems. Their dedicated team of volunteer WOC Nurses are available to support young campers, and some even have ostomies or other bowel/bladder diversions themselves.

10. WOC Nurses created a free guide for peristomal skin concerns.

Healthy skin around the stoma is key to living comfortably with an ostomy. In the Peristomal Skin Assessment Guide for Consumers, ostomates can use this free, easy to use, online tool that will help identify common skin problems.

If you or a loved one are suffering from a wound that won't heal, facing ostomy surgery, or having problems with incontinence… you deserve a Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nurse! Find a nurse in your area on