Daily Life

Returning to work after Ostomy Surgery

The thought of returning to work may fill you with anxieties with a feeling that your stoma negatively impact your daily duties; in most cases it should not have much of an impact. This mainly depends on the type of work you do and the movements involved in your daily job.

When will I be ready to return to work?

Returning to work after surgery should not be something that is rushed. A guide will be given by your surgeon, but it is important to remember that Everybody is different and so it your recovery time will vary. The severity of your disease or injury, your recovery time, your age, fitness level and the type of job you do…these can all affect how long it will take you to get back to work.

If possible, don’t rush it. Take your time. Returning to work before you are ready may cause more problems in the long run.

Some points to consider when deciding if you’re ready to work again:

  • Are you able to empty / change your bag without assistance?
  • Do you feel strong enough to finish a day’s work?
  • Are you comfortable about traveling to work?
  • Do you know what to do if your pouch leaks and needs to be replaced in the event of an  emergency?

I have a desk job

If you sit at a desk, working on a computer or doing paperwork, your stoma and pouch shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you’ve had rectal surgery, you may find sitting for long stretches difficult. Find a comfortable chair, or a use a cushion. Any tenderness with the perineal wound usually disappears within a few months. If the discomfort does not improve, talk to your healthcare team.

Bending and stretching

If you have a job with a lot of bending and stretching, two things can help. First, wear a pouch that can be attached to a stoma belt for added security. Second, wear loose-fitting clothing, and avoid constrictive belts and tight trousers.

Highly physical activity

If you’re physically active at work, you may perspire where the pouch is attached to your skin. This can be frustrating because sweaty and oily skin may weaken the adhesive holding your pouch in place. You may need to change your pouch more often. You can also try using a skin barrier that works better with perspiration or consider skin barrier extenders that may help increase your pouch wear time. Your stoma care nurse or your ostomy products supplier can provide recommendations.

If you’re patient, determined, and realistic, you can manage your stoma at work easily. With a positive attitude and a few precautions, you’ll continue with business as usual at your workplace.

Practical tips for getting back to work after ostomy surgery

Here are some pointers that can give you peace of mind in the workplace:

  • Always have a change of supplies with you in your bag. Don’t leave your products in your car – extreme heat or cold could melt them or cause them not to work properly.
  • Keep a change of supplies at your workplace – in your desk drawer or in a locker
  • If possible, return to work gradually. You might feel low on energy during the day, even months after the operation. It may be best to work part-time before going back full-time, if financially feasible.
  • Speak to your manager and HR team about your current situation. In most cases, your management team will be extremely supportive and help your transition back into your normal work routine.

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