If you have health concerns, you know that nurses are the front-line providers who bring an invaluable amount of skill, knowledge, and expertise to patient care. They’re compassionate caregivers who deeply respect patients and listen to their needs.
Amy Landrum, APRN, CWOCN is one of those nurses.
We asked Amy to tell us about how she became a nurse, what her specialty means, and why she cares so much for her patients.
What made you want to be a wound, ostomy, and continence nurse?
When I graduated as a registered nurse (RN), my first job was is home health, seeing patients on long-term care programs. Many of these patients had spinal cord injuries and had been using catheters and bowel ostomies, and many had been dealing with wounds for years.
I wanted to be able to offer these patients evidence-based care and good medical advice, but there wasn’t much support available. Patients often struggled to get answers to their questions about catheters, bladder and bowel management, ostomies, or wounds. Sometimes we’d have to figure out how to make things work with whatever supplies were available, and sometimes that wasn’t much.
I thought my ability to do research might be helpful to patients and their families, and eventually I found the website and journal for the Wound, Ostomy, and Continence (WOC) Nursing Society. I learned so many interesting things that really helped improve my patients’ lives—and I learned that WOC nursing was a career option for me.
So I went back to school for a bachelor’s degree in nursing and WOC certification, and then also a master’s degree so I could become a WOC nurse at the provider level. Today I’m a WOC nurse practitioner, and I see patients as a nurse practitioner in my community.
What’s the difference between a nurse and a WOC nurse?
A WOC nurse is a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree or higher who has completed an approved certification program. The program usually takes about a year to complete and requires clinical rotations in each specialty—wound, ostomy, and continence. After completing the program, the nurse must pass an exam in each specialty, which has to be taken every five years. If we pass and submit evidence of ongoing professional development and training, the certification allows a nurse to help patients manage wounds, ostomies, and continence. We perform specialized treatments and help guide policy and procedures in healthcare settings.
When was the moment you knew you’d found your calling?
For me, nursing is all about providing compassionate care through problem solving. WOC nursing is a slow, thoughtful science. I really enjoy helping a patient heal a chronic wound they thought would never get better or figure out the ideal ostomy product or catheter that helps them regain control.
WOC nurses often care for patients who have experienced a lot of trauma. They’ve survived cancer, spinal cord injury, or chronic disease and have been sent home with another condition or massive lifestyle change to reconcile alongside parenting, relationships, and returning to work.
A WOC nurse can help patients figure out how to make these conditions manageable and support them in navigating their new normal. We can recommend ways to make life easier, answer the most intimate questions, and refer patients to the best sources of information when they’re not sure where to turn for help.
What are some common stigmas you help patients overcome?
One of the most prevalent social and medical stigmas about ostomy patients is that a leaking ostomy bag is the norm. It isn’t! These patients just haven’t been fit for the product that’s best for their body.
Unfortunately, patients are too often discharged from the hospital without the correct supplies and resources. Many patients would benefit from consultation with a stoma expert after surgery. They are a great source of knowledge and support and can help patients choose the right products.
Probably the biggest stigma surrounding catheter use is that there is no place for romantic intimacy. Not true! Everyone should know that medical conditions do not have to be a barrier to having a romantic relationship and feeling good about yourself.
What do you wish more people knew about catheterization and ostomy?
I wish the public understood that bladder and bowel conditions are anything but rare. Many people use catheters and ostomy supplies every day. I’ve seen people with stomas and catheters scuba dive, compete in athletic events, do fashion modeling, and travel around the world. You’ve almost certainly met someone who has one, but you didn’t know it because they have the products and knowledge they need to manage their situation.
How has working with a DME company changed your practice?
I love being a WOC nurse in the durable medical equipment (DME) field because so much of our work focuses on helping patients when they need it most. I particularly enjoy my role with ABC Medical. Our clients have been through a lot, and we’re in a unique position to support them as they get back to living their lives after illness or injury. When it comes to bladder or bowel dysfunction, having the right products can make all the difference, and it’s gratifying to help people find what’s right for them.
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Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For medical advice, please speak with your healthcare provider.