What To Know About Going To Work With an Ostomy Bag
Posted by Jeanne Lowry on Mar 29th 2023
Going back to work after any surgery can be challenging, but if you recently underwent an ostomy procedure, things will be a bit different for you upon your return. The reason for this has less to do with the surgery and more to do with your new ostomy pouch, but both aspects can affect your routine.
However, this doesn’t mean your job is about to become a lot more difficult. In fact, working with an ostomy bag is very manageable—you just need to know how to adjust your day. With this list of things you need to know before returning to work with an ostomy bag, you’ll be back on the grind in no time.
You’ll Need To Take Things Easy at First
Even though you’ll need to take time off work post-surgery in order to heal, you’ll still want to take things easy upon returning to work. If you work a desk job, your movements will be minimal, and you’ll likely spend most of the day sitting.
However, if you have any rectal surgeries during this time (something that’s common for many ostomy patients), you might have trouble sitting for long periods of time. Finding a good cushion or getting a standing desk should help.
For those with more physically demanding jobs, you might need to be a little more patient about returning to work. Even when you do, you’ll want to keep your bending, lifting, and stretching to a minimum. You could still damage your new stoma if you’re not careful.
The Right Clothing Is Key
Regardless of the type of job you have, you’ll want to make sure you’re wearing the right clothing. Even if you’re open about your ostomy with coworkers, you likely won’t want to show off your pouch to everyone you talk to. Loose-fitting clothing is usually the best for covering your ostomy bag.
If you’re afraid that the pouch might move around too much inside of your loose clothing, especially if you move a lot for your job, you can use a stoma belt. This elastic belt holds the ostomy bag in place.
Stay Hydrated Throughout the Day
It’s important to make sure you stay hydrated while at work. Some people will either forget or drink less as a way to slow down how active their stoma is. Regardless of the reason, a lack of water will cause problems. Your stoma will struggle to function, which will make you much more uncomfortable and could lead to further complications. It’s good to get into the habit of carrying a water bottle with you at all times.
Learn How To Use Your Pouch Properly
At this point, you’ve likely gotten a lot of practice using an ostomy bag. Your doctor showed you the basics, and you’re probably pretty good at emptying it, cleaning it, or throwing it away. However, you have likely only practiced handling your ostomy bag at the hospital or in the privacy of your own home.
Going back to work will likely be the first time you’ll need to take care of your ostomy pouch in public. You may want to find a way to cover the splashing sounds and smells of your ostomy bag discretely. The best option you’ll have is to find a single-person bathroom or one that not many people use. If that’s not possible, there are plenty of emptying techniques that make very little sound and deodorants you can use. If you need to throw a pouch away at work, you can place it in a disposable bag before throwing it away for added privacy.
Be Ready for Anything
Of course, not everything always goes according to plan. An important part of using an ostomy bag is preparing yourself for anything. Having an emergency bag full of all kinds of ostomy supplies will help you rest easy while in the office or on the jobsite.
Fortunately, My Care Supplies has everything you could need for this emergency bag. From extra barrier rings to general urostomy supplies, we have it all, and we can ship it out to you in time for your first day back to work.
Don’t Stress the Noises
One thing you’ve likely noticed by now is that your stoma will sometimes make strange noises throughout the day. While they’re not always common, people with ostomies may worry about what others will think if they these sounds.
It’s best not to worry about this at all. Bodily noises are normal for everyone. A loud stomach growl or unexpected noise can sometimes draw attention, but everyone’s body makes these sounds. Plus, these stoma noises really aren’t that loud.
Learn About Your Rights
Even though most people will have no idea you use an ostomy pouch, management and HR may need to know. You may also choose to be open about your ostomy usage. While instances are extremely rare, those with ostomies might experience discrimination in the workplace.
Whether you feel you missed out on a promotion or you experienced harassment because of your condition, you have legal rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act protecting you. Make sure you familiarize yourself with these rights to ensure that others treat you fairly in the workplace.
Reach Out for Support if Needed
The most important thing to remember when going back to work with an ostomy is that you’re not alone. Managers, workplace friends, and HR representatives will be there for you if you need them. Most people will be very understanding and not treat you any differently for opening up to them about what you’re going through. Having at least one person you can confide in at work can make all the difference.
However, unless your work associate also has or has had an ostomy, they won’t truly understand what you deal with on a daily basis. That’s why it’s crucial to reach out to a support group if needed. There are hundreds of groups for ostomy patients that meet online and in person. Regardless of your needs, you’ll be able to find a group that can help you out. You just have to take the first step to find them.