Enterostomal Therapy (ET) Nurse

An ET Nurse Helps Care For Patients Who Have Had Ostomy Surgery

Nurse Visiting Patient At Home
Home visits can be a great help to people who are learning to live with an ostomy. ET nurses may make home visits to help patients learn how to change their appliance. Image © Tetra Images / Getty Images

An enterostomal therapy nurse, or ET nurse, is a registered nurse (RN) who has specialized training in treating patients with ostomies (such as an ileostomy, colostomy, or urostomy). Sometimes, especially in Europe, these nurses are called stoma nurses. ET nurses also treat other conditions such as wounds, incontinence, or urostomy. 

What Does An ET Nurse Do?

An ET nurse may treat patients before, during, and after their ostomy surgery.

An ET nurse may be a patient's first and primary point of contact for information regarding their stoma and their ileostomy, colostomy, or urostomy.

Before surgery. At a first meeting, if ostomy surgery is not done on an emergency basis, an ET nurse may help a patient with the placement of the stoma. Taking lifestyle and clothing into consideration, an ET nurse can assist a patient in determining the optimal placement for a stoma, for instance, away from the waist, so that clothing does not interfere with stoma output. 

After Surgery. Once a patient goes home, an ET nurse can assist in many ways. Learning to change an ostomy appliance can take time and practice. An ET nurse can assist with the first few ostomy appliance changes, and teach the patient how to do it themselves at home. An ET nurse can also help troubleshoot a problem, such as leaking, and offer advice on how best to approach the problem, by suggesting a particular technique or a specialized appliance.

ET nurses are often good sources of information about ostomy appliances, and can offer assistance for those who need help in obtaining supplies or affording supplies.

With IBD. For patients who have a stoma as a result of surgery to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), ET nurses can be helpful if there is a question about peristomal skin (skin around the stoma) or stoma output, such as if there is too much, or too little, output.

An ET nurse will be able to suggest some treatments for problems such as a fistula, irritated skin, blockages, or other issues related to an ostomy.

How Much Training Do ET Nurses Have?

ET nurses are often with their patients long-term, especially in cases where a patient needs ongoing help in changing their appliance (such as with disabled, elderly, or low-sighted patients). ET nurses often make house calls, especially after surgery, to help patients with common situations such as surgical pain, and with the transition to understanding their new stoma. Stoma nurses may also help during the actual ostomy surgery, and be part of the surgical team.

All the work that ET nurses do is very specialized, and requires a certain amount of training. ET nurses will have a bachelor's degree, as well as a registered nurse license. At that point, a nurse must complete 50 hours of experience or complete a Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Education Program. The nurse must also pass a certification test given by the Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing Board (WOCN).

Advanced practice certification is also available. ET nurses may also go on to earn a master's degree or a doctorate in nursing.

Some of the certifications given the the WOCN are:

  • CWOCN: Certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse
  • CWON: Certified Wound Ostomy Nurse
  • CWCN: Certified Wound Care Nurse
  • CCCN: Certified Continence Care Nurse
  • COCN: Certified Ostomy Care Nurse
  • CFCN: Certified Foot Care Nurse 

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