Patricia Marshall, a nurse practitioner with Phoebe Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center, demonstrates some of the materials used by ostomy patients. A new program based at the center is offering education and support to ostomy patients in the area. (Staff Photo: Jennifer Parks)
ALBANY — Southwest Georgia patients who have undergone surgical procedures resulting in the creation of an ostomy now have a place to turn for specialized care.
Dr. Stephen Weiss, nurse practitioner Pat Marshall and nurse Gwen Collins of Phoebe Wound Care and Hyperbaric Center are part of the specialized staff available to help patients before and after colostomy, ileostomy and urostomy procedures.
An ostomy is a result of a procedure in which an opening is created as a way to rid the body of waste matter following a diagnosis of cancer or trauma to the abdominal region. Most ostomies are temporary, but still require a lifestyle change for the patient. A colostomy essentially serves as a replacement for the colon, an ileostomy diverts from the small intestine while an urostomy functions as a way to help the urinary system do its job.
The goal is to provide a two-stage “wrap-around” program with the goal of improving the patients’ overall quality of life. As part of the program, nurses provide inpatient and outpatient services meant to help improve a patient’s independence, ease lifestyle worries and help prevent complications after surgery. Pre-operative patients are offered educational resources on an outpatient basis on what to expect after undergoing a procedure that results in an ostomy, as well as information on supplies and devices, the use of the devices and post-surgical care. The staff can aid patients with the care of their stoma, bowel training, emotional issues and how to handle complications, should they arise.
Those who already have ostomies are offered a similar array of services. The inpatient consults are provided for the Southwest Georgia area as a whole, not just those at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.
“Our goal is to catch them post-operatively and educate them and make sure they have the supplies they need,” said Marshall.
The most common issues that accompany an ostomy are leakage, skin irritation, skin breakdown, peristoma skin infections, cellulitis and abscess — most of which officials say can be more easily avoided with the proper supplies necessary for care and the application of them to the body.
When such complications arose before, there were only so many places for patients to turn for comprehensive help — thereby prompting the establishment of the program.
“There is a great need in Southwest Georgia,” Marshall said. “There was no program, and most patients when they have (complaints or complications) wind up going to their surgeon and oncologist. There are limited resources here. There are physicians here doing surgeries, but there was no support.
“There is a great need. Patients were complaining they had nowhere to go.”
This is a new program, based in the center on North Jefferson Street, that is still in the developmental stages. The hope is to be able to expand it to include stoma marking and selection, to help avoid complications related to placement, and to branch out into other facilities.
“Our overall goal is to improve quality of life,” Marshall said. “They (the patients) have had a change in their body. They will have emotional problems, and (have to adjust to) a change in their body status. (The program helps) adapt to the change, educate them on how to maintain it and not let it impact their everyday activities.
” … It can be managed without any change in their appearance. They can manage it so it doesn’t interfere.”
So far, officials say the program has been getting good feedback. There are roughly 20 patients who have been helped to date with people traveling as far away as Bainbridge, and the program continuing to grow.
“We have quite a few patients we are seeing on a weekly basis,” Marshall said. ” … The patients have been very receptive.”
The youngest patient involved in the program is an 18-year-old who has an ostomy due to a gunshot wound.
“I’m sure we would be able to deal with a toddler if needed,” Marshall said. “If not, we can get the resources in place for them.”
For those who lack the insurance coverage to pay for supplies, there is a service provided, Marshall said, to help patients get connected with the services they need — including wavers, pouches, moldable rings, a measuring guide, belts and skin preparation products.
“This is a needed resource for both new ostomists and those who have had ostomies for a number of years,” said Collins. “They notify us regarding their needs, they visit us and we direct them toward supplies. We follow-up with new ostomists and have them connected with someone post-op. We work with the surgeon and primary care physician, and we’ve gotten pretty positive feedback.
“We do continuous training, so we are all standardized on the information.”
Some of the supplies also include a home kit with video and literature given pre-operatively as well as a separate kit, resembling a carrier bag from the outside, with essential supplies the patient keeps with them.
The kits are generally tailored to the patient’s individual needs.
“If they have an accident (or other emergency), they can have the (essentials kit) with them,” Collins said.
The wound care center can be reached at (229) 312-7600.