For Patients

What skills will I need to learn to manage my ostomy?

jjjTo successfully manage your ostomy, you will need to learn how and when to empty your pouching system, as well as how to assess and care for the stoma and the peristomal skin for normal parameters. It's also important to know what to do if you see something that is not normal.  

Emptying the ostomy pouch is one of the first skills you will learn after surgery. In the hospital, a nurse will measure amount of stool and help you empty the pouch into a container.  Assisting your nurse with pouch emptying will help you transition to self-management at home. Once you are at home, you will empty the pouch into the toilet, while sitting on the toilet. To prevent the pouch from becoming too heavy and detaching from the skin, the pouch should be emptied when its one-third full.

Watch a Video on Emptying Your Pouch

You will also work with staff nurses and ostomy nurses to learn how to change your ostomy pouching system. If possible, you will have two or three lessons on how to remove and replace the pouching system. While you should understand the steps involved in changing your pouch prior to discharge, you may not have full mastery of the pouch-changing skills right away. We may suggest that a home care nurse make home visits to continue pouch changing lessons.

Watch a Video on Changing Your Pouch

Our nuses will teach you what is normal for the stoma and the peristomal skin (the skin around the stoma) and what deviates from normal.  You will be taught to examine your stoma and skin at every pouch change and instructed on steps to take if you notice anything abnormal. 

Working with an Advance Practice Nurse

While at the University of Chicago Medicine, you will have several visits the certified advanced practice ostomy nurses who will help you to acquire the skills you need to successfully manage your ostomy.

The opportunity to establish a relationship with an advanced practice ostomy nurse is a unique service. At the University of Chicago Medicine, ostomy nurses work with every patient who has a stoma created. Once an ostomy patient is discharged from the hospital, our ostomy nurses will see the patient in our outpatient stoma clinic on an ongoing basis. If you have your surgery at the University of Chicago Medicine, you retain ongoing access to the stoma clinic and our services. We also see patients who underwent ostomy surgery at another hospital. You do not need to have a physician on staff at University of Chicago Medicine to make an appointment to see one of the ostomy nurses.