Inside out: Beyond the practicalities of stoma care

Sarah Haughey1

1Clinical Advisor, TG Eakin


It is generally recognised that UK/Ireland based ostomates are fortunate in the level of follow up care they receive, but many still struggle to adapt and don’t seek help.  It is likely in countries where limited follow up care is provided; this struggle is compounded.    With limited resources, healthcare professionals need to deal primarily with the practicalities of living with a stoma and therefore finding time to discuss the emotional impact of stoma surgery can be challenging.   The constraints within stoma care practice are also reflected in research, with significant studies discussing the quality of life issues relating to product limitations but minimal research on the ‘true’ psychological impact.   In an attempt to capture the impact of a stoma on individuals’ quality of life, research was carried out in Ireland.

Advertisements were placed in press and on Facebook in Ireland to recruit ostomates to assist with research.  Anyone interested in participating liaised directly with the Clinical Research Team and upon agreement, received a lifestyle questionnaire.  Over 90 % of all questionnaires sent were completed and returned either by post or electronically.  Participants ranged in age from 18-92 with both recent (<1-year post surgery) and long term (over 30 years’ post-surgery) ostomates responding.  Whilst some respondents describing life since surgery used positive words like: better, healthier, happy and free; the vast majority of respondents (irrespective of reason for surgery) reported some negative feelings.   The most predominant negative words in descending order were: restricted, embarrassing, difficult and inconvenient.

It is the intent of the author to extend this research Internationally to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the real life impact of living with a stoma.  It is hoped research carried out will inform decisions regarding best practice for pre and post-op education and ultimately help ostomates adapt to their new life.



Sarah worked as a senior clinical nurse specialist in stoma care in the Belfast Trust, Northern Ireland for 15 years.She gained extensive experience in complex trauma management as Belfast is home to the Regional Trauma Unit. Sarah has expert knowledge in managing high output stomas as she was a senior member of the Intestinal Failure Team. She has presented results of an audit which examined the effectiveness of patient open days and she was a co author on a set of published stoma care protocols. Sarah collaborated with Queens University to create an online resource for student nurses.