Being an ostomy patient myself, the need for care specifically for ostomy concerns post-hospitalization is clear. Ten years ago, I resorted to an online search for my post-surgical care. I have experienced firsthand the confusion, the lack of knowledge, and the lost feeling a patient goes through after heading home with a new stoma. As if going through surgery was not enough, going home with an ostomy often feels like being thrown into the unknown. This is the reason I went into gastrointestinal nursing, and it is the reason I joined 11 Health.
11 Health’s Nursing Program began to develop after the success of the Patient Coach Program, of which I was previously the coordinator of. The Patient Coaches, all current or previous ostomy patients, filled in many of the gaps for patients. Patients wondering “How do I shower with my ostomy?” or “What clothes can I wear with my new stoma?” can call a Patient Coach and have their questions answered. After a successful year of Patient Coaching, it was identified the medical side of a patient’s care was still being uncovered, so the Nursing Program was born.
The Nursing Program consists of nurses and physician’s assistants who are located in the areas where we support patients. 11 Health’s patients continue with their support from the Patient Coaches, but when the needs of the patient escalate beyond the Patient Coach’s scope, the nurse steps in.
Working in the telehealth nursing role for about six months now, I have seen the full circle of help the Patient Coaches and the Nursing Program provides the patient. We have prevented rehospitalization for dehydration concerns, we have resolved peristomal skin irritation with simple interventions, and we have provided comfort to the patients unsure of how to care for their new stoma. They feel supported emotionally and physically, improving their post-surgical experience.
Each Patient Coach I have worked with has mentioned in some form how they wish they had this resource available during the transition to ostomy life, and many patients have mentioned their gratefulness for the support they receive by the nurses in our program. I am eager to see the Nursing Program grow and expand across the country and potentially across the world. Just knowing there is someone to call if there is an ostomy concern is a game-changer in having an ostomy.
Maggie Baldwin is a registered nurse with pediatric gastrointestinal nursing experience as well as patient advocacy experience. She has been working with 11 Health since 2017.